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In , Squyres and his team founded Athena, a sort of Pathfinder on steroids. To Squyres, this was good news, since the only way to confirm such a possibility was to send an agile rover to Mars, and their Athena was certainly that.

Roving Mars

After significant recasting work, Squyres got Athena into the queue as a Mars mission. Needless to say, life got even more complicated as two Mars missions ended in failure in , and NASA was forced to reconfigure its approach to Mars. For Squyres, after so many years of ups and downs, this was truly a dream come true.

Squyres, as the principal investigator for MER, oversaw everything related to the science mission. He was also part of the incredibly nerve-wracking payload-launch vehicle integration, in-flight monitoring, and navigation and descent. We see through his eyes the horror of mysterious glitches that required investigative measures that would make the FBI proud, and the potential nightmare unfolding as parachute tests failed one after another just days before delivery.

Squyres does convey his admiration for the rovers as they take shape, and by the summer of one immediately appreciates his bittersweet feelings as each depart Earth never to be seen again. Would they make it? Did we do everything right? For Squyres, watching the rovers head into space was both a relief and the beginning of a new adventure the whole world would share with him. Spirit and Opportunity arrived on Mars less than a year later, both bouncing around on the surface within their balloon capsules.

Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet, Hardcover by Steve Squyres

Every single complicated maneuver took place without a hitch, and Squyres does convey the sense that everyone affiliated with the MER program was pleasantly surprised by the flawless mission profiles. Gusev was supposed to reveal evidence of water almost immediately, since orbital images of the crater clearly showed that it was filled with some sort of fluid billions of years ago.

Instead, the crater was littered with basaltic boulders reminiscent of the Viking landing sites.


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A deep crater could reveal the sediment below, but such a crater near the landing site, called Bonneville, was a disappointment—it literally looked like a giant, featureless bowl. Spirit headed for the hills some three kilometers south of the landing site, and finally the little rover found evidence of water by discovering various salts, though sedimentary rocks have yet to be found.

As this review was published, Spirit is on top of Husband Hill looking around at the landscape below, soaking in the big picture. Although the three planned missions differ in their funding and motivation, they all draw on one or more ideas from a book first published in and revised in , The Case for Mars. This meticulous and plausible outline of the way we could settle the planet was written by aerospace engineer and founder of the Mars Society Robert Zubrin. His work attracted huge interest when first published and continues to capture the imagination in its most recent revision.

The enthusiasm lives on with the visionary Mission to Mars by moon-walker and passionate space advocate Aldrin.

Books: Missions to Mars

Aldrin supports robotic missions as prudent preparatory steps to human settlement on Mars. Regular space travel to Mars would be too expensive with Apollo-style modular expendable components, he says. He favours instead a mostly gravity-powered spaceship, cycling permanently between Earth and Mars. Aldrin says the enterprise should be led by the United States, although he sees co-operation, rather than competition, with China, Europe, Russia, India and Japan as the way forward. Another new book realistically portrays what it takes to get a scientific laboratory roving its way across Mars.

Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet

It covers his rollercoaster involvement in robotic space exploration, from his initiation in on the NASA Genesis probe project to the joyous moment when Curiosity got to work early this year. If this piques your curiosity then the earlier Roving Mars: Spirit, opportunity, and the exploration of the red planet is well worth tracking down. The veteran rover, Opportunity, is surprising us still with its discoveries, more than nine years after the completion of its day primary mission. It is also worth revisiting a book from to consider what we might do when we get to Mars.

But most of what we call 'exploration' today is not. This mission, however, will be exploration in the true sense -- sending robotic surrogates for human explorers into an unknown environment on a voyage of scientific discovery. The key is not just to follow the robots, but to follow the intense and passionate people who conceived and built them.

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Roving Mars Exploration of the Red Planet with Steven Squyres

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