A space enthusiast goes inside mission control with a motley crew of rocket scientists in this “fascinating journey of discovery peppered with humor” (Publishers Weekly).
The Phoenix Mars mission was the first man-made probe ever sent to the Martian arctic. Its purpose was to find out how climate change could turn a warm, wet planet (read: Earth) into a cold, barren desert (read: Mars). Along the way, Phoenix discovered a giant frozen ocean trapped beneath the north pole of Mars, exotic food for aliens, and liquid water, and laid the foundation for NASA’s current exploration of Mars using the Curiosity rover.
This is not science fiction. It’s fact. And for the luckiest fanboy in fandom, it was the best vacation ever. Andrew Kessler spent the summer of 2008 in NASA’s mission control with one hundred thirty of the world’s best planetary scientists and engineers as they carried out this ambitious operation. He came back with a story of human drama about modern-day pioneers battling NASA politics, temperamental robots, and the bizarre world of daily life in mission control.
Readers will thrill to this slightly offbeat firsthand account of scientific determination and stubborn intellect. Kessler, producer of a Discovery Channel documentary on Mars and the self-professed winner of "the space-nerd lottery," was allowed to shadow the 2009 Phoenix Mars Lander mission, which would make the groundbreaking discovery of water and ice on Mars. A product of NASA's 1990s "faster, cheaper, better" mantra, Phoenix had none of the space program's usual bells and whistles, with a recycled lander and a mission control with a decided "church basement aesthetic." But there was free ice cream. Offered this unique opportunity, Kessler felt some self-doubt and had trouble adjusting to a work schedule set by the long Mars days. But along with his own witty personality, he captures the lively scientists behind the project, from Peter Smith, "world's greatest Martian Photographer," to Matt Robinson, a robot arm expert. Kessler also captures the frustrations and triumphs of a project in which a 15-minute communications lag between Mars and Earth meant anything could go wrong. This behind-the-scenes look delivers a fascinating journey of discovery peppered with humor.