Red Rover: Inside the Story of Robotic Space Exploration, from Genesis to the Mars Rover Curiosity

Hardcover | August 11, 2015

byRoger Wiens

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In its eerie likeness to Earth, Mars has long captured our imaginations—both 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 Curiosity—a one-ton, Jeep-sized nuclear-powered space laboratory—which 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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From the Publisher

In its eerie likeness to Earth, Mars has long captured our imaginations—both 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 Curiosity—a on...

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.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.9 inPublished:August 11, 2015Publisher:Basic BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0465055982

ISBN - 13:9780465055982

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Washington Post“[Wiens] is a good guide through the process of building a space probe.... His inside narration of how things go wrong at NASA is the great strength of this book. It is rich with details of how both the ChemCam team in particular and the Curiosity rover in general overcame engineering challenges such as faulty lenses and awkward temperature distributions.”BBC Sky At Night“This engaging new book by Roger Wiens whose team built Curiosity’s ChemCam instrument, gives a unique insider’s view… Wiens’s accessible and conversational writing is a major strength of Red Rover, providing a thoroughly human perspective on a complex technological subject.”Booklist“An engaging history of robotic space exploration.... A remarkable memoir and testament to the ingenuity of the space program’s many scientists who build the tools needed to explore our solar system.”Scientific American“Wiens offers a backstage tour of the delights and disappointments of working on missions."Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly“Wiens’s writing is clear and engaging.... A unique contribution.... This book reinforces a vision of outer space as emblematic of technological progress, but also nicely encapsulates the external, messy factors that influence, hinder, and help the development of a robotic explorer.”Publishers Weekly“This entertaining insider account of Wiens’s work on two groundbreaking robotic space explorers — the Genesis and Curiosity Rover — captures 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.”Kirkus Reviews“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.”