Sojourner: An Insider's View of the Mars Pathfinder Mission

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9780425191996: Sojourner: An Insider's View of the Mars Pathfinder Mission

Andrew Mishkin, a senior systems engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a leader of NASA's robotic program, brings us this insider's look at the Mars Pathfinder probe that electrified the world's imagination.

One hundred twenty-two million miles away from her controllers, a sophisticated robot smaller than a microwave oven did what had never been done before-explored the rocky, red terrain of Mars. Then, six-wheeled Sojourner beamed spectacular pictures of her one-of-a-kind mission back to Earth. And millions of people were captivated.

Now, with the touch of an expert thriller writer, Sojourner operations team leader Andrew Mishkin tells the inside, human story of the Mars Pathfinder mission's feverish efforts to build a self-guided, offroading robot to explore the surface of the Red Planet. With witty, compelling anecdotes, he describes the clash of temperamental geniuses, the invention of a new work ethic, the turf wars, the chewing-gum solutions to high-tech problems, the controlled chaos behind the strangely beautiful creation of an artificial intelligence-and the exhilaration of inaugurating the next great age of space exploration

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About the Author:

Andrew Mishkin has been a key player in NASA's robotic program for the past 15 years. He joined the Sojourner rover team at its formation, eventually leading the rover operations team and commanding the rover during its exploration of Mars. In 1997 he received the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal.

From Publishers Weekly:

Millions of viewers watched in fascination in July 1997 as the Mars "rover" Sojourner (named after Sojourner Truth) maneuvered around the Red Planet's surface like an interplanetary dune buggy, sending back pictures of rocks and boulders that were given whimsical names by mission scientists (e.g., Yogi, Scooby-Doo). Mishkin, senior systems engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where the rover was developed, chronicles the years of trial and error to create a vehicle that would be the right size for the Pathfinder lander and could withstand the temperature extremes on the Martian surface while maneuvering around rocks without getting stuck or driving over the edge of an abyss. It takes 40 minutes for a signal to travel from Mars to Earth and back, so JPL scientists had to make the rover's navigational systems as self-sufficient as possible. The author details how software and hardware teams often clashed over the best ways to solve the problems they encountered during development. Mishkin himself discovered a potentially fatal error shortly before launch: a wrong parameter in the computer clock would have woken Sojourner in the middle of the night instead of in the morning, but the robot needed sunlight to function. Mishkin's detailed history undoubtedly will interest engineers and dedicated science techies, but readers looking for an account of Sojourner's accomplishments on Mars will be disappointed-the rover's 80 days of exploration are given one quick chapter. Nevertheless, Mishkin has written a valuable chronicle of one of NASA's only mission in the past decade to have captured the public's imagination. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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