In the course of our enduring quest for knowledge about ourselves and our universe, we haven't found answers to one of our most fundamental questions: Does life exist anywhere else in the universe? Ten years and billions of dollars in the making, the Mars rover Curiosity is poised to answer this all-important question.
Here, Rob Manning, the project's chief engineer, tells of bringing the groundbreaking spacecraft to life. Manning and his team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, tasked with designing a lander many times larger and more complex than any before, faced technical setbacks, fights over inadequate resources, and the challenges of leading an army of brilliant, passionate, and often frustrated experts.
Manning's fascinating personal account - which includes information from his exclusive interviews with leading Curiosity scientists - is packed with tales of revolutionary feats of science, technology, and engineering. Listeners experience firsthand the disappointment at encountering persistent technical problems, the agony of near defeat, the sense of victory at finding innovative solutions to these problems, the sheer terror of staking careers and reputations on a lander that couldn't be tested on Earth, and the rush of triumph at its successful touchdown on Mars on August 5, 2012. This is the story of persistence, dedication, and unrelenting curiosity.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.
©2014 Rob Manning, William L. Simon (P)2014 Blackstone Audio
"A fascinating insight"
I've been interested in space exploration since I saw the first moon landing at the age of about seven. I'm fascinated by the technical challenges, and the nuts and bolts of making a mission like this happen. I will be keeping this book and re-listening, for certain.
Careful but dull. Everything is pronounced correctly, the pacing works well for me, and there are no major flaws that I can detect. Occasionally he places the emphasis strangely in a sentence - or at least, differently to how I would read it. But my main complaint is that for a topic that excites me, it's a very flat emotionless presentation. This is a story of how an amazing event was planned and achieved; the reading should be as interesting as the material.
Absolutely. I wanted to stay up all night listening to it.
Perhaps I am a little biased in my expectations, having heard an interview with Bob Manning before I bought the book. I would have loved to have heard it read by him.
Good chronological overview. Right amount of technical info for a "non-technical" person like myself. Wasn't quite as inspiring as other space related audibles I have listened to, but seems to be intended to be more factual.
"Gets bogged down with budget issues"
Overall this is not a bad listen, but if you're hoping for lots of specifics on the science end of putting together the MSL/Curiosity mission, this will leave you asking for more. The problem is that because the writer was the project manager, the book spends lots of time on the politics of NASA budgeting. huge parts of the book are about budget shortfalls, obtaining extra funds for the project, and meetings about budgeting issues. If you're a big fan of bureaucratic processes within NASA, then this is the book for you!
That being said, there was good information on the building of Curiosity as well as the mechanics of landing Curiosity on Mars, and the surprising amount of just plain "luck" that is part of this type of project.
I think any space-enthusiast would enjoy this, it's technical enough while remaining understandable and covers many topics and other projects besides just MSL. My only real complaint would be that I personally don't like the narrator, not that interesting reading voice nor particularly enthusiastic. But this is fortunately not the kind of story that relies on such things to be worth listening to!
"Making Curiosity Happen"
Millions of Americans as well as people around the world have followed the adventures and the fascinating findings of the the Mars Rover Curiosity. For the scientists and engineers working on the project, much of the excitement, adventure, and stress came before arrival on Mars, and even well before take-off for Mars.
It was the largest rover ever sent to Mars. It carried an unprecedented number of scientific instruments. Its size and weight required a whole new landing method. Whole new methods, techniques, software had to be created--and every penny of cost had to be justified every step of the way, as other projects and scientists competed for their share of the underfunded NASA budget.
Rob Manning was Curiosity's chief engineer, and this is his account of how Curiosity got from "neat idea" to its "space crane" touchdown on Mars and the start of its exploration of the planet. Along the way, the earlier rovers, Pathfinder, Spirit, and Opportunity, provided vital information on how to proceed and what they would face. Yet they were also obstacles to overcome, as the Curiosity team was challenged to explain why their rover was so much more expensive than the (cheaper, smaller, less scientifically capable) rovers. They solve major technological challenges while fighting attempts to divert their funding to exploration of the outer planets.
It's a great story, well-told, full of its own variety of chills and thrills. And it's all true.
I bought this book.
This was a very interesting audio book for both its space exploration adventure, but also the behind the scenes story. I'm a space nerd, so was fairly certain I'd enjoy the title from that point of view. However I enjoyed it equally for the perspective on how the project was managed and how issues were dealt with.
The narration was also great. A good dose of energy that I thought suited the content well.
Highly recommended! Especially if you liked 'The Martian' and would like something similar, but non-fiction.
Curiosity is a mechanical, one-eyed, six wheeled, antenna-tailed super dog. It can stiff the air, drill rocks, analyze elemental particles, roam a countryside (at a snail’s pace 300 feet per hour), and talk to humans. Its language is in 1s and 0s. It speaks to Earth from Mars across 49 million miles of space with a message that continues to amaze and encourage human exploration of the universe.
Robert Manning, in collaboration with William Simon (Manning’s ghost writer), reflects on the technological feat of creating and delivering a robotic laboratory to the fourth rock from the sun. Manning heads a team of NASA scientists and engineers to design the latest land rover, called Curiosity, to explore Mars.
“Mars Rover Curiosity” is a tribute to NASA and its organizational skill in achieving a land mark in extraterrestrial exploration. In listening to Manning’s story, one feels humans are on the edge of a continent in the 15th century, planning to sail to an unexplored place to find answers about what there is beyond imagination. NASA’s contribution to science and a possible future for humanity seems inferred by Manning’s story; particularly in light of current scientific evidence for Earth’s global warming.
"Good, But Something's Missing"
If you are going to buy this book, you need to understand that it focuses on the struggle to build the Curiosity rover and science package and getting it to Mars. Only the last 30 minutes or so focus on what has been learned by the rover on Mars. So if you are looking for information regarding the geologic history of Mars or what the rover has found, you will find a relatively small amount of information here, although there is some.
The book is nevertheless very interesting. The book explains in great detail the challenges of landing anything on Mars in one piece, and why Curiosity was a very different proposition than, for example, the much smaller Spirit and Opportunity rovers. The book also covers the many political challenges in securing funding. One can only marvel at the ingenuity of the scientists as they are confronted with one challenge after another.
It would be nice if there were a sequel about what the rover has found.
Bronson Pinchot's narration, as always, is excellent.
The book was well written and the story kept me engaged throughout. Working on interplanetary missions is a dream come true and its so cool to get a view in to the inner workings at Nasa. Hope more authors come up with stories about their missions.
"Complexity conquered at great expense"
The Curiosity rover was incredibly ambitious. Consequently, it was incredibly risky and from a budgetary perspective perhaps a failure: it cost too much and it took too long to manufacture. The space industry is plagued by the conflicting desires to be innovative, state of the art, and consistently successful in the production of distinct missions/spacecraft launched only once or twice. Thus, every contingency must be thought of, tested for, and troubleshot while operating at least partially novel systems.
Nevertheless, much is conserved between missions. This is why Opportunity and Spirit were cheap - their landing method was largely derivative of pathfinders. The curiosity rover required a new landing method (a la 7 minutes of terror), a more precise landing (accomplished via aerobraking), and a much greater variety of state of the art instruments. This was predictably hard, expensive, and time consuming - and thus predictably coincided with management pulling its hair out at the thought of failure, cost overruns preventing other missions from launching, and and the uncompromising deadlines of celestial transit windows (the planets align optimally only once every 2 years). A single error in a complex, mass impoverished (and thus back up limited), system can ruin the whole mission.
This is primarily what the book is about. And, unfortunately, to land people they will need to invent a new landing method yet again, probably using retrorockets. Hopefully spaceX will implement that system with its 2018 mission.
I really enjoyed this one. I read a lot about Curiosity and I also attended seminars with speakers that work on it. And still, I've learned so much from this book that it makes me happy that I lived to see this great achievement.
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