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Martian Summer: Robot Arms, Cowboy Spacemen, and My 90 Days with the Phoenix Mars Mission

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  101 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Spend a summer exploring the Martian arctic—something that has taken nearly the entirety of human knowledge to achieve

There’s never been a better time to be an armchair astronaut. Forget this planet. The economy is terrible, global warming inevitable, and there are at least eight major wars happening right now. That’s why Kessler left home and moved to Mars. Well, not all
ebook, 333 pages
Published April 12th 2011 by Pegasus Books (first published March 22nd 2011)
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(showing 1-30)
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This was a great idea that kind of feels like it was wasted.

The topic is fascinating--a writer tags along with the team running the 2008 Phoenix mission to Mars, attending the science sessions, watching the engineers, getting horrible time lag along with everyone else. It's a chance to get inside a world that's usually closed-door, and it's insight into what's probably going on right now with the Curiosity lander team. The scientists and engineers are fascinating, dedicated people trying to do c
Andrew Kessler
Mar 07, 2011 Andrew Kessler rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
This review might be biased.
Patrick Justo
Jul 21, 2014 Patrick Justo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
My three star ranking breaks down this way:

- One star for coming up with the idea of embedding himself in the Mars Phoenix science team for the entirety of the 90 day mission and making it happen.

- One star for sticking it out through more than 90 grueling days of living on Mars time -- sleep deprivation, hardly ever seeing the sun, being treated like an outsider by the real Phoenix science team.

- One star for actually sitting down and writing a 330 page book.

- Minus one star for taking on the
Apr 22, 2011 Julia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Wow. If you have even a teeny bit of curiosity about how the hell your fellow Earthlings are able to get science robots to Mars & then spend months remotely communicating with them, you will love this book. Kessler spends 90 days in Mission Control getting the fly on the wall perspective on the Phoenix Mars mission. From the beginning he admits that he knows as little about science as the rest of us, probably liberal arts majors, which means he'll spend paragraphs breaking down complicated s
May 08, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable and engrossing non-fiction account of the 2008 Mars Phoenix Lander mission, a lander type spacecraft and the first robotic laboratory send to the polar regions of Mars, which dug into and investigated the Martian soil:

Told from the perspective of a non-scientist/space enthusiast with access to the mission control (almost in the "gonzo journalist" school of journalism, but smarter and less egotistical), Kessler does a very good job of explai
Jun 13, 2011 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physics
Once I got past my palpable jealousy of the author's opportunity to document a mission like this, I really enjoyed the book!

Reading a few papers and articles that come out of a mission doesn't really communicate just how politically and technically complicated space exploration is. Martian Summer does a great job demonstrating the brittle nature of such a feat, which makes any science gleaned from the mission that much more impressive and inspirational.

Though I would have enjoyed a few more tech
Chris Aylott
Journalist and self-professed space fanboy Kessler embeds himself in the Phoenix Mars Mission for three months, detailing his trials and tribulations as he observes scientists at work.

The stuff Kessler writes about himself is dull, and I would have preferred more of a fly on the wall approach. However, the scientists he writes about are much more interesting. These are smart but flawed people, doing the best they can to solve difficult problems in short periods of time. In many ways, they're ju
Chuck Weiss
Once you get past the self-congratulatory "Wired Magazine" method of writing the author chose to pen his book, the contents of this freshman work are quite good. Learned a lot about the business and politics of unmanned spaceflight, and there was enough information about hardware systems to keep me interested to the last page. Overall a very good read, although I might have liked to hear a little more of the actual design and construction and the results of the post-landing research.
Jeff Hoppa
Love the author and his one-book bookshop idea. And loved the story, but Kessler isn't the most engaging storyteller I've ever encountered. If you love this topic, read it. If you're on the fence, there are other, better books about Mars exploration (see Andrew Chaikin).
The author is too cutesy. I may not finish this one.
This review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.5 of 5

What a fantastic concept!  Convince NASA/JPL to allow an average joe to sit in on the Phoenix Mars Mission; hanging out with all the brilliant minds (it is, after all, rocket science) and living on 'Mars time' just to be able to go home and write a book about it.  Kudos to NASA/JPL for agreeing to it and for letting the visitor in on as many meetings as he apparently did attend.  Shame on NASA/JPL for apparently not vetti
Apr 16, 2011 Jake rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
For me, there is a sentimental connection to the Phoenix Mars Mission. Along with many others, my name is preserved in a special data disc mounted on the outside of the lander. Phoenix now rests silent on the surface of the red planet. The disc awaits recovery by future Martian explorers.

Martian Summer focuses as much on human drama as it does on science. Many personal stories lie behind the mission, which rocketed a robotic lander all the way to Mars’s polar landscape. To his credit, author And
Jul 08, 2014 Kendra rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, space
I must admit that out of all of the books I read this summer, this was the one that least impressed me. I wasn't certain, until the book's very conclusion, what Kessler's intent actually was––what he wanted the book to do. I was equally uncertain as to why I struggled so much to read the book, until I read that closing chapter and learned that mission director had envisioned the book turning out one way (biographical) and Kessler had envisioned it another (as a kind of report from the field). Th ...more
Dec 17, 2011 Mellen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Andrew Kessler is a writer who gets to spend the summer of 2008 at mission control for the Phoenix Mars mission, an unmanned mission to evaluate the existence of water on Mars. It took me a couple of tries to get into this book before I understood the author's sense of humor and his intention to get regular people (as opposed to space nerds) interested in space exploration.

While there is some technical jargon, the author makes a huge effort to make it understandable color and detail against the
Aug 08, 2011 SwensonBooks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mars is far. Kessler's ability to make astrophysics comprehensible to an eighth grade girl and get her to giggle is the geek appeal. Spending a summer inside mission control in Tucson brings home the fact that Mars is truly distant.

A sol is a Martian day. It's a couple hours and some minutes longer than a day on Earth. Hence the plot of sleep deprivation and science stirred together and shaken. Kessler's own experiences with time-shifting and its physiological, emotional and professional impact
Aug 16, 2011 Jaylia3 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So far no one has had a chance to walk around on Mars, but the scientists and engineers involved with the Phoenix Mars Lander mission lived as if they were there on the red planet during the summer of 2008, and Martian Summer takes its reader along for the ride. Since the length of Martian day is 37 minutes longer than an Earth day special watches were commissioned—it would be great to have one of those Mars adapted timepieces—and blackout curtains were deployed to keep everyone at the warehouse ...more
Apr 24, 2013 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since I'm working on the next version of this same spacecraft (InSight is a reflight of Phoenix, but with a new science payload to a new part of the planet), I'm particularly interested in these stories. I've read the other books about Mars Pathfinder, the Spirit/Opportunity rovers, and will gladly read the Curiosity book whenever it comes out.

This one was different, though. The other books were written about the development and execution of those challenging spacecraft. This one starts the stor
Jean Poulos
Kessler is the co-producer of a Discovery Channel feature on the quest for life on Mars. He was chosen to chronicle the 2008 Phoenix Lander’s ninety days around the red plant’s North Pole, with daily access to the earth-side scientist running the experiments. The mission was to search for evidence of water and organic chemistry, two pre-requisites for determining whether life exists on Mars. The Mission head Peter Smith thought a popular account of the discoveries and the scientist behind them w ...more
Nov 23, 2016 Hen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even with the too breezy, self-centered writing style (which detracted from the book) this almost-insiders account of how a robot scientific spacecraft on Mars is managed will come as a stark reminder to SF fans of the vast distance between stories unfolding in fantastic future worlds and the hard work, long hours, high risk, detailed and difficult interpersonal relationships required to make even the most meager progress towards understanding, much less inhabiting, those worlds. I read this as ...more
Patrick Ritchie
I'm a huge fan of Mars exploration and the NASA Mars program and really wanted to love this book, but at the end of the day I just couldn't.

There's lots of good stuff in this book, you get a look inside mission control on a real Mars mission, meet some really cool scientists & engineers and learn about an amazing spacecraft.

That being said, the delivery really didn't work for me. I wanted to know more about the mission and the people working on it and less about the daily minutiae of the aut
I alternate between rating this book a C+ or a B-. There were several sections where my interest level really waned. I also thought Mr. Kessler's criticisms of NASA, while worthy of consideration, were misplaced and over-the-top. NASA's budgetary struggles are, at their core, caused by members of Congress and the White House, not by NASA itself. Overall I enjoyed reading this book and if you have an interest in spaceflight, science, technology, etc I recommend it.
Mike  Davis
Jun 19, 2011 Mike Davis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
A gift from my daughter, this eBook was an interesting insider's view of the Phoenix Mars mission and the attendant ongoing problems that were encountered and solved during the project. Usually journalists are not allowed access to problem solving meetings and inside discussions, but Kessler was an exception. It is well written and exposes the huge complexity and frustrations of space exploration in layman's terms and puts human faces on the key personnel in this mission.
Kirsten *Make Margaret Atwood Fiction Again!"
Very entertaining and easily understood read. I originally picked it up thinking it was of a different Mars Rover team, but it still was very engaging. It's a great entree into the world of space scientists and remote exploration. Shows you how political some scientists can get and how hard it is to corral them. I highly recommend it if you like the space program!
Audacia Ray
I really loved the whole robots-on-Mars part of the book, which was a lot of it. Though I understood the purpose of the humorous writing style (this is some heavy, confusing shit), I wasn't too into it. I guess I'm just kind of a nerd. I take my Mars science and acronyms seriously.
Zak Binder
Very interesting, but a bit of a wasted effort. I wanted more science and more about the scientists.
Apr 17, 2012 Bejon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other
A fun, light and geeky read for NASA / space nuts.
Not sure why I even finished it. I kept thinking it would get better, I just needed to get past this boring part, but it never did.
Thomas McGuire
Aug 05, 2011 Thomas McGuire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining inside look, though I tend to prefer titles with less of the author injected into it.
Exactly the sort of thing I like to read, but something about the author's "look at me" tone was very off-putting.
Robert Hall
Robert Hall rated it it was amazing
Dec 29, 2013
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