‘red rover: inside the story of robotic space exploration, from genesis to the mars rover curiosity’ by rogers wiens
Wiens did a lot of improvisation as director of ChemCam, one of the 11 scientific instruments on Mars rover Curiosity last summer.
The Red Rover talks about how Wiens runs ChemCam, his efforts to get it selected as the object of the curious task, and what he wants to find out with it.
ChemCam is a laser that evaporates rocks to determine what they are made.
It analyzes the spectrum of the steam produced to show the features of specific atoms and molecules.
This is called LIBS (laser-
Induced Breakdown spectrum
Has been applied on Earth since the 1960 s;
Wiens\'s instrument is the first one to use it on another planet.
Curiosity is $2.
5 billion of the effort and the climax of NASA\'s successful ten-year exploration of Mars after losing two probes in 1999.
The size of a small 2,000 pounds-pound SUV, curiosity is five times the Spirit and Opportunity of the predecessors who landed on Mars in 2004.
Because Curiosity is too heavy, NASA\'s old airbag landing system won\'t work.
Engineers had to come up with a new system, called the Sky Crane, in which the hanging up by the rocket lowered Curiosity to the surface of Mars, the giant parachute slowed the rover first.
The size of curiosity not only gives it a greater range than the previous rover, but also allows it to carry a small mobile lab called SAM (
Sample Analysis on Mars).
SAM consists of a small drill that can penetrate the rock and, despite the limited number of samples, it allows for more detailed analysis than ChemCam.
The fine nature of the Curiosity instrument has somewhat avoided what geologists have been lobbying since the Viking lander first visited Mars in 1975: Sample
Mission to return from Mars to Earth.
After curiosity, such a mission is the logical next step, but NASA\'s support for it is unstable.
The agency\'s unstable support for exploration is often a major theme of the Wiens story.
Wiens spent most of his career at the Department of Energy\'s Los Alamos lab.
He tells about the filing cabinet that got there and found \"it looks like they have a bad case of acne. ” (
They were scarred by laser tests. )
Before starting to study ChemCam, Wiens worked on the Genesis space probe, which was designed to bring samples of the solar wind back to Earth and did so.
However, its parachute did not open and the ship crashed into the desert of Utah.
The accident was the emotional trough of the Wiens story, although he and his colleagues were able to recover some data from the shot-down probe.
\"This is a disaster,\" he wrote . \"
\"A terrible thing happened.
Unfortunately, at this critical moment, he was unable to go beyond the cliché and convey to the reader the full power of the sadness and frustration that he undoubtedly felt.
However, he was a good guide in the process of building a space probe.
Wiens talked about jerry.
Used in the hardware shop to buy a part of the cooking utensils to manipulate the Genesis.
When he had to test the ability of Genesis to withstand the impact of meteoroids, an expensive NASA test facility in Houston was booked, so he took the probe to a local shooting range, shot it up with a rifle.
The detector he used in ChemCam was \"designed for grocery use --store bar-code scanners.
\"Without being sharp and mean, Wiens compares his team\'s willingness to improvise with the deep-rooted mindset of NASA\'s bureaucracy.
He wrote that there is often a \"catch\"
22 This hinders the realization of many new concepts: if it has not been flown before, the risk of the new instrument being selected to fly is too high.
NASA\'s response to the tight budget is to often cancel emergency funds or alternate plans.
As a result, the repair cost is higher when there is a problem.
Sometimes, Wiens finds ways to solve these limitations, such as when he glue parts that should have been \"properly fixed with screws or nuts and bolts.
\"Scientific instruments on Curiosity account for only a fraction of the cost of the task --$75 million (
Although this figure has since risen).
Wiens tells a few stories about the agency\'s response to the budget crunch: \"Most of the big missions I know are immediately in financial trouble.
NASA\'s usual response is to remove the instrument from the payload.
These clearance operations sometimes undermine the scientific return of the mission, while saving only a small amount of cost.
Wiens talked about how the agency often works with foreign governments, not because it makes technical sense, but because NASA officials can use entanglement with foreigners to protect their funds from political intervention.
Byzantine\'s court-style export control regime makes this joint effort more complex, in principle to prevent the proliferation of sensitive technologies outside the United States, but in fact it is only a frustrating obstacle to the work done
His internal account of how things went wrong with NASA is a big advantage of the book.
It enriches the details of how the ChemCam team and the Curiosity rover team can overcome engineering challenges, such as defective lenses and awkward temperature distribution.
But the narrow focus on Wiens\'s personal experience makes the book less useful than Rod Pyle\'s \'Destination Mars, \'a recent best overview of the Mars mission, or Oliver Morton\'s \'Mars mapping \", because it is out of a particular task as a frame device and talks about the Earth itself, it still exists (
It\'s been ten years)
Maybe the best single volume on the red planet.
Soon after Curiosity landed on Mars, his book was over.
This is a problem because even though he has shown us the design of ChemCam and told us what it can do, it hasn\'t done anything by the end of the book.
It can analyze the rocks of Mars, find out if they are part of the river bed or formed by volcanoes, and tell us something about the history of the Earth.
But by the end of the book, the tasks were not completed yet.
It was unfortunate that Wiens\'s story ended prematurely because he was such a compassionate narrator.
But this may be a symptom of his acceptance of the NASA mentality to some extent, in which the mission itself is justified, not based on scientific discovery.
Convince the public and Congress, an expensive sample
It is worthwhile to return to the task, and Wiens and his colleagues must better link their engineering miracle
Precision navigation and precision aerial crane
The result is science.
Bookworld @ bookpost.
Constantine Kaka is a Bernard Schwartz researcher at the New American Foundation and author of Frank e-commerce.
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