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The Design and Engineering of Curiosity: How the Mars Rover Performs Its Job

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This book describes the most complex machine ever sent to another planet: Curiosity. It is a one-ton robot with two brains, seventeen cameras, six wheels, nuclear power, and a laser beam on its head. No one human understands how all of its systems and instruments work. This essential reference to the Curiosity mission explains the engineering behind every system on the rov This book describes the most complex machine ever sent to another planet: Curiosity. It is a one-ton robot with two brains, seventeen cameras, six wheels, nuclear power, and a laser beam on its head. No one human understands how all of its systems and instruments work. This essential reference to the Curiosity mission explains the engineering behind every system on the rover, from its rocket-powered jetpack to its radioisotope thermoelectric generator to its fiendishly complex sample handling system. Its lavishly illustrated text explains how all the instruments work -- its cameras, spectrometers, sample-cooking oven, and weather station -- and describes the instruments' abilities and limitations. It tells you how the systems have functioned on Mars, and how scientists and engineers have worked around problems developed on a faraway planet: holey wheels and broken focus lasers. And it explains the grueling mission operations schedule that keeps the rover working day in and day out.


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This book describes the most complex machine ever sent to another planet: Curiosity. It is a one-ton robot with two brains, seventeen cameras, six wheels, nuclear power, and a laser beam on its head. No one human understands how all of its systems and instruments work. This essential reference to the Curiosity mission explains the engineering behind every system on the rov This book describes the most complex machine ever sent to another planet: Curiosity. It is a one-ton robot with two brains, seventeen cameras, six wheels, nuclear power, and a laser beam on its head. No one human understands how all of its systems and instruments work. This essential reference to the Curiosity mission explains the engineering behind every system on the rover, from its rocket-powered jetpack to its radioisotope thermoelectric generator to its fiendishly complex sample handling system. Its lavishly illustrated text explains how all the instruments work -- its cameras, spectrometers, sample-cooking oven, and weather station -- and describes the instruments' abilities and limitations. It tells you how the systems have functioned on Mars, and how scientists and engineers have worked around problems developed on a faraway planet: holey wheels and broken focus lasers. And it explains the grueling mission operations schedule that keeps the rover working day in and day out.

30 review for The Design and Engineering of Curiosity: How the Mars Rover Performs Its Job

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul Klinger

    A great overview of all the (many!) systems that make up Curiosity, their design, history, and quirks. No fluff, just as many details as can be fit into a reasonably sized book; synthesising all the available public material & private interviews with many of the engineers and scientists involved in the design of the rover and its experiments. Most astonishing for me is that the book is extremely readable. I didn't expect to read it from cover to cover, but that's exactly what I did, within two da A great overview of all the (many!) systems that make up Curiosity, their design, history, and quirks. No fluff, just as many details as can be fit into a reasonably sized book; synthesising all the available public material & private interviews with many of the engineers and scientists involved in the design of the rover and its experiments. Most astonishing for me is that the book is extremely readable. I didn't expect to read it from cover to cover, but that's exactly what I did, within two days. It was hard to put down! Strongly recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in space exploration or big science/engineering projects in general (the stories about how the team worked around various issues that cropped up after landing are particularly fascinating). I'm looking forward to the sequel; after learning about all the instruments I can't wait to find out what they can tell us about Mars.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael Busch

    The Curiosity rover, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, is an incredibly complex robotic geochemist that has been studying Mars since landing in 2012. Thousands of people have worked on the project over the last 13+ years, building and testing 10 different science instruments and integrating them with the rover's computers, its nuclear power supply, communications system, and everything else needed for the rover to work. Emily Lakdawalla has been observing the Curiosity project and interview The Curiosity rover, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, is an incredibly complex robotic geochemist that has been studying Mars since landing in 2012. Thousands of people have worked on the project over the last 13+ years, building and testing 10 different science instruments and integrating them with the rover's computers, its nuclear power supply, communications system, and everything else needed for the rover to work. Emily Lakdawalla has been observing the Curiosity project and interviewing members of its science & engineering teams from nearly the beginning. Here she has distilled her reporting and hundreds of disparate documents about Curiosity into a comprehensive and accessible overview of everything about the rover. Anyone who isn't familiar with the rover already should be able to learn anything they want to know from this book, and even people who have worked with Curiosity for years have learned things from it. My only disappointment with the book is that some of the pictures in the printed version don't have as much contrast as when they appear on a screen in the electronic version. This makes the finer details, such as the incredible precision of the sampling points of Curiosity's rock-vaporizing laser ChemCam, harder to appreciate. I expect that many readers of the book will be left wanting to know more about what Curiosity has done on Mars, as well as how it does it. For that, Emily is working on a sequel. I look forward to reading it too.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mike Lawson

    This book was quite good! It was very thorough, and I am looking forward to her second book

  4. 4 out of 5

    Leo Vanderdonckt

    An adventure for engineers and science folks.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Hackney

    This would be 5 stars except for the miserable Kindle version lack of formatting. Good content. Especially interesting are the back stories of the various science packages including many compromises and changes driven by organizational politics, inter-fiefdom rivalries, etc. While it's easy to think that spacecraft and inter-planetary robots are as fully-dialed as anything man has ever designed and constructed, the reality is that they are as much a combination of compromised designs and poor exe This would be 5 stars except for the miserable Kindle version lack of formatting. Good content. Especially interesting are the back stories of the various science packages including many compromises and changes driven by organizational politics, inter-fiefdom rivalries, etc. While it's easy to think that spacecraft and inter-planetary robots are as fully-dialed as anything man has ever designed and constructed, the reality is that they are as much a combination of compromised designs and poor executive leadership decisions as anything else. Buyer beware: The Kindle version lacks any and all formatting for tables, so much valuable information is lost.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    If you want to know about the inner workings of the Curiosity rover let this be your guidebook. I'm not sure of the intended audience for this book. In my opinion it was a bit dry (think tables of values for various sensors), but that is because I was expecting something different. I was interested enough to read it cover to cover. This book meticulously documents the various onboard systems and discusses the challenges faced by the rover on Mars and how they were overcome (from another planet).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    It’s a remarkable book, even though it’s not quite the book that I expected. The first few chapters describes the general design and mission of the rover – how it came to be defined and the hiccups along the way. This is really fascinating, at least, if like me, you’re not familiar with how big science missions are planned. The way that issues with one piece of the rover is cascading down the planning line putting the whole project at risk is really interesting. We get to meet the scientists behi It’s a remarkable book, even though it’s not quite the book that I expected. The first few chapters describes the general design and mission of the rover – how it came to be defined and the hiccups along the way. This is really fascinating, at least, if like me, you’re not familiar with how big science missions are planned. The way that issues with one piece of the rover is cascading down the planning line putting the whole project at risk is really interesting. We get to meet the scientists behind the mission planning and the struggle to meet deadlines and budgets (Ok, that does sound like a thrill ride, doesn't it) to eventually send the rover to Mars. This is starts out as a great story about a fantastic instrument… but then… the book turns into an instruction manual. If you want to know the tubing layout of the gas chromatograph or all the times the dust removal tool was used to brush a surface sample, then this part is for you. While there are many interesting details hidden also in this part of the book, I feel that it looses its momentum and becomes more of… well, actually what it says on the cover – but in a quite literal sense. The chapters on each part of the rover’s science package are shock full of information, but this half of the book pays a price in readability. I still do recommend the book, both for the readers who have a more general interest in Curiosity who will find the first chapters more interesting, and for the ones who delight in every detail, in which case Lakdawalla is an excellent guide through the intricacies of this amazing science tool. As a post scriptum: If you decide to get the e-book, definitely go for the pdf version. The many large tables really don’t go well with the epub-format.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rajendra Dave

    Amazing engineering and operation details related to this very complex spacecraft. It not only documents its achievements, but also the anomalies and failures sustained during the mission, including the management ones. In addition to the meticulousness of the author, it also speaks volumes about open culture of NASA/JPL. One wishes every space agency has that kind of openness. While the book cannot be faulted on its content, its style does not endear it to a lay person. It is too dry and the fo Amazing engineering and operation details related to this very complex spacecraft. It not only documents its achievements, but also the anomalies and failures sustained during the mission, including the management ones. In addition to the meticulousness of the author, it also speaks volumes about open culture of NASA/JPL. One wishes every space agency has that kind of openness. While the book cannot be faulted on its content, its style does not endear it to a lay person. It is too dry and the format is too straight-jacketed, especially for the description of subsystems and scientific instruments. In summary, a must read for anyone interested and familiar with space technology and science

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jethro Kuan

    Detailed account of everything to do with Curiosity, from history, to how it works, to anomalies detected and how they were handled. A very technical read -- still don't quite grok a lot of the engineering work, but I sincerely doubt if there's a way to further simplify the complexity that is Curiosity.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tim Kordas

    The early chapters have a bunch of interesting material on the various setbacks (schedule, funding, etc) that the project hit before launch. Then moves onto detailed breakdown of the flight/landing, surface operations, and various onboard instruments. The feats of engineering something to land in a 15 minute window in a 10x20km ellipse on another planet is just astonishing. Highly recommended.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Luz Maria

    This book gives us a great overview of an engineering feat done by thousand of people over decades. The language it uses is technical enough to keep me engage and at the same time it narrates anecdotes and stories of the team give me an insight of the amazing work and challenges they had.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Outstanding

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gene

    Well written and full of information. Almost more than you might want to know, but not more than you should know. Not terribly technical.

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Syzdek

    A fantastic and detailed review of all the engineering systems of a robotic scientist, powered by plutonium, that is roving around Mars. An outstanding book about an amazingly complex machine.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Twomey

  17. 4 out of 5

    Albi

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paolo

  19. 5 out of 5

    Luke Harris

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kat Powell

  22. 5 out of 5

    Zachary

  23. 5 out of 5

    Richard Buller

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cagri Kilic

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rugged Llama

  26. 5 out of 5

    Peter White

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shahamin

  28. 5 out of 5

    Saul Hymes

  29. 5 out of 5

    Peter

  30. 4 out of 5

    Randy DePasquale

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