Mellen's Reviews > Martian Summer: Robot Arms, Cowboy Spacemen, and My 90 Days with the Phoenix Mars Mission

Martian Summer by Andrew Kessler
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's review
Dec 22, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: readingmyunreadbooks
Read from December 17 to 21, 2011

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 larger picture of incredibly smart people working insanely long hours doing impossibly detailed work with ridiculously limited resources while continuously jet lagged.

While some reviews here objected to the author injecting his personality and humorous observations into the story, I found it charming and delightful. The author serves as an entertaining guide to a nearly impenetrable process. In revealing his own insecurities and odd experiences, he gives a feeling of what the scientists and engineers participating in the mission may also be experiencing. He boldly sticks with the team while they live on Martian Time (24 hr and 38 min day) and attempt to communicate with the outside world which is on local Tuscan time, Nasa time, or the news cycle, all of which affect the team. This book showed me how despite interference from NASA, intellectual disagreements, lack of sleep, and equipment failures the team keeps going because of surreally complicated project management processes, intense passion, a quirky sense of humor, and a lot of ice cream.

2012 #7

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