In its eerie likeness to Earth, Mars has long captured our imaginationsboth as a destination for humankind and as a possible home to extraterrestrial life. It is our twenty-first century New World; its explorers robots, shipped 350 million miles from Earth to uncover the distant planet’s secrets.
Its most recent scout is Curiositya one-ton, Jeep-sized nuclear-powered space laboratorywhich is now roving the Martian surface to determine whether the red planet has ever been physically capable of supporting life. In Red Rover, geochemist Roger Wiens, the principal investigator for the ChemCam laser instrument on the rover and veteran of numerous robotic NASA missions, tells the unlikely story of his involvement in sending sophisticated hardware into space, culminating in the Curiosity rover's amazing journey to Mars.
In so doing, Wiens paints the portrait of one of the most exciting scientific stories of our time: the new era of robotic space exploration. Starting with NASA’s introduction of the Discovery Program in 1992, scrappier, more nimble missions became the order of the day, as manned missions were confined to Earth orbit, and behemoth projects went extinct. This strategic shift presented huge scientific opportunities, but tight budgets meant that success depended more than ever on creative engineering and human ingenuity. Beginning with the Genesis mission that launched his career, Wiens describes the competitive, DIY spirit of these robotic enterprises, from conception to construction, from launch to heart-stopping crashes and smooth landings.
An inspiring account of the real-life challenges of space exploration, Red Rover vividly narrates what goes into answering the question: is there life elsewhere in the universe?
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About the Author
Roger Wiens (pronounced "Weens") is the principal investigator for the ChemCam instrument on the Curiosity rover and a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Wiens has worked at Caltech and the University of California and was in charge of building three instruments for NASA's Genesis mission. He lives in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Table of Contents
Part I Genesis 1
Chapter 1 From Minnesota to the Moon 3
Chapter 2 The Dawn of an Era 13
Chapter 3 Mission Selection 23
Chapter 4 Making Genesis 33
Chapter 5 Beyond the Moon and Back 41
Chapter 6 Impact 51
Chapter 7 Vindication 61
Part II Path to Mars 67
Chapter 8 Lasers and Rovers 69
Chapter 9 Fire! 77
Chapter 10 To Mars and Back … Almost 85
Chapter 11 The French Connection 95
Chapter 12 Ticket to Mars 105
Chapter 13 New-Instrument Struggles 111
Chapter 14 Canceled 125
Chapter 15 Soldiering On 137
Chapter 16 Rover Motors 143
Chapter 17 Finishing ChemCam 151
Chapter 18 On the Rover 159
Part III Curiosity 165
Chapter 19 Coming Together 167
Chapter 20 Where on Mars? 177
Chapter 21 Back to the Cape 185
Chapter 22 Seven Minutes of Terror 191
Chapter 23 Landing on Mars 201
Further Reading 217
What People are Saying About This
“This entertaining insider account of Wiens’s work on two groundbreaking robotic space explorersthe Genesis and Curiosity Rovercaptures all the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of modern space science . . . Wiens brings his work to life, candidly addressing the inevitable technological and bureaucratic obstacles and failures that compose the frustrating prelude to scientific victory.”
“The author provides fascinating insight into the struggle to solve scientific problems despite technical constraints and equipment failures .A winning memoir of great achievement.”
Steve Squyres, Professor of Astronomy, Cornell University, and author of Roving Mars
“We live in a new golden age of exploration, as robotic spacecraft fan out across the solar system, extending the human experience to other planets. With Red Rover, Roger Wiens provides a delightful, candid, and highly personal insider’s view of this great endeavor.”
Jim Bell, Professor of Planetary Science, Arizona State University, President of the Planetary Society, and author of Postcards from Mars
“Roger Wiens has crafted a delightful and very personal history of planetary exploration that takes us from his boyhood fascination with the Apollo Moon missions to his leading role as a key scientist on the latest Mars rover. His journey from a small prairie town to the laser labs of Los Alamos reminds us that passion, imagination, and perseverance are what propel us to explore the frontiers of space.”
John L. Phillips, retired NASA astronaut, and former NASA Chair Professor, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School
“Red Rover offers an enticing personal look at the exaltations and disappointments of unmanned space exploration. Roger Wiens vividly portrays the genius and perseverance of the dedicated scientists and engineers who have made robotic exploration of the solar system a reality.”
Laurie Leshin, Dean, School of Science, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
“In Red Rover, Roger Wiens gets you up close and personal with the highs and lows, the triumphs and disappointments that come with pushing the scientific envelope, and the great persistence required to succeed. A great read for anyone interested in exploring the frontiers of space.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoy learning and reading about space, but reading this book has me actively seeking out more books on space exploration. I thought I kind of understood what it takes to get equipment to space, but this book gave me helped me understand just how much harder it is than I ever imagined. Roger Wiens takes the reader through his experiences trying to explore space. Ultimately you get to follow his experiences as he explores Mars through an instrument he helped design. It took decades from concept to functioning on another planet. Wiens makes space exploration interesting. Not knowing a lot about the topic I was still fascinated. He breaks down concepts and jargon in a way that is easy to understand with out patronizing. At the end he recommends other books on the topic. I am on my second book on that list now. They too have been great reads. I highly recommend this book.