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.