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The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership, and High-Stakes Innovation
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The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership, and High-Stakes Innovation

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  540 ratings  ·  80 reviews
From Adam Steltzner, who led the Entry, Descent, and Landing team in landing the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars, comes a profound book about breakthrough innovation in the face of the impossible
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is home to some of history’s most jaw-dropping feats of engineering. When NASA needed to land Curiosity—a 2,000-pound, $2.5 billion rove
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 12th 2016 by Portfolio (first published October 13th 2015)
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Apr 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016, non-fiction
I am clearly not the intended audience for this book. In it, the guy who lead the EDL (Entry, Descent, and Landing) team for Mars Science Laboratory talks about becoming an aerospace engineer, his early career at JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and his eventual role as EDL lead for MSL. I think it's intended to be some sort of "inspirational" story about doing things that seem impossible and facing team challenges, but it didn't come off that way to me.

Maybe I'm jaded. I work in the space indus
Jul 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
My first takeaway from "The Right Kind of Crazy" by Adam Steltzner is this: If you want to achieve a come-to-Jesus moment, you need to un-f***-up whatever is holding you back.

Such is the brash but ultimately likable sentiment of Dr. Steltzner’s book, co-written with William Patrick. When his team successfully landed NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars in 2012, Steltzner oversaw arguably the most revered NASA landing since Apollo 11 reached the surface of the Moon. To understand this incredible engine
Allen Wang
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I fucking love Adam!

This is the story of his life and career, starting from his belated education (he started community college at 21), to the beginning of his career at JPL doing structural analysis (a relatively monotonous engineering job) to leading the entry, descent, landing team for the Curiosity rover.

In my opinion, Adam offers a deeply insightful commentary from the context of building a Mars rover landing system relevant to any undertaking that pushes beyond the bounds of the ordinary t
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Interesting and inspiring story about life and work of a space engineer. He mentions a lot of things which sound unpleasant, complicated or deadly boring. But also there are a lot of things I'd wish to know or experience. This book is a hymn to engineers in some way :)
Jul 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, science
Here you will find just how sexy a martian rover can be.
Ali Sattari
Sep 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very good narration of team work in a highly, if not the most, innovative environment.
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As someone who is genuinely interested in the cutting edge accomplishments made by those in the space industry I was entertained from begining to end. Adam explained everything in such a way that you don't need to be a rocket scientist to grasp the concepts. In a way this was a book about one man's journey to be the best at what humanity has to offer in terms of exploration and the last remaining frontier. Adam gets into the nuts and bolts of space travel all the while maintaining a demeanor of ...more
Feb 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Like many, I was enthralled by the Curiosity rover landing in 2012. Steltzner was one of the leaders of the team that made the rover landing possible. In this book, he shares his career at the JPL, and details everything that went into safely landing a car-sized vehicle 34 million miles away. For me, this was two kinds of books. The first kind of book was a nonfiction account. Steltzner reduced complex scientific problems into something more easily digestible. He detailed the many problems they ...more
Pablo Lobo
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, space
Before the Iraq War, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously spoke of the different bins into which all states of knowledge can be cast. [...] The final set, and perhaps the most important, is the unknown unknowns, the things you don’t even know that you don’t know. Intuition, which taps lightly into the irrational and, I believe, integrates a larger set of the rational than is available to our conscious mind, is a way of bringing in the unknown unknowns and of creating a broader model. S ...more
Steve Peifer
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's ironic that this book makes the best case for a liberal arts education because it is about what an engineer does. It is about the Curiosity rover on Mars, but it is really about what an engineer does and how they solve problems. If it sounds dry, what until you get to the chapter about how they solved the parachute issue. It's absolutely riveting.

How to frame the question, how to encourage a collaborative environment and how to work well with others are way beyond the science and math param
Nov 11, 2017 rated it liked it
This book's entertaining, and deals with subject matter (unmanned planetary explorers) that interests me a good bit. So why just 3 stars vs. 4 or even 5? I just found the style off-putting, reading more like one of those awful "business leadership" books you always see in airport bookstores than a story crafted by an engineer trying to communicate the joy they find in their work. Steltzner led the invention and development of the "sky crane" descent/landing technology for the Mars Pathfinder, a ...more
Dec 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I think this book is more about High-Stakes Innovation and the author's personal career-story than Teamwork and Leadership. After reading half of the book, I decided the content was not what I was expecting from the title. The unique engineering situation at JPL is interesting. However, I am not so much into rocket science and engineering, so a lot of times I got a little bit lost when there was too much technical details. But then, if those technical aspects were talked about in a too sentiment ...more
Alexander Belotserkovskiy
As already noted by reviewers, it is not clear what this book is about.
You will not learn nothing new about teamwork, leadership or innovation.
You will not see the consistent story.
Some of the episodes are unnecessarily stretched, some are included for unknown reason (other reviewers noted stories about his private life which could be interesting if the value would be more clear), some are short and repeat itself.

And i did not see the most important one - i did not see anything crazy.

What i l
Sherie Beth
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: astro-space
A page-turner to the end! There were some conflicting opinions on this book and I think it comes from going into it with the wrong impression. If you're looking for a book just about leadership or a book just about the engineering challenges of the Mars missions, this may not be the right one for you. Instead, it's a fascinating story that blends both things. There author's passion and enthusiasm for the work he does and the people he does it with is evident throughout. A highly recommended read ...more
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
The author details his work at JPL, and his work on the Mars lander along with other projects. It's a interesting take on how he used the team management concepts he highlights during the development several projects.

While the author gives several suggestions on the important concepts it is not completely clear on how these concepts can be applied in all setting.

I enjoyed it but might need a second read to appreciate it.
Feb 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Provides a few useful tips about building and leading successful teams, but it's mostly about the author's experiences work on Mars rover technologies (which was quiet frankly more interesting than the leadership info provided). It was a bit of coincidence that I was reading this just as the Opportunity Rover mission was declared compete by NASA/JPL (the author was part of the team that designed the entry system for the rover).
Brian Miracle
Dec 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, technology
Part memoir, part leadership book. Adam Steltzner was the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) phase lead and development manager for the EDL (Entry, Descent, and Landing) phase for the Mars Curiosity Rover. The book describes the technical challenges faced on that and other missions that Steltzner was involved with. He also describes how he and his team responded to those challenges, as well as his growth as a technical leader and his successes and failures as a leader.
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is really great, but the titles must be give a highly expectation of the story that mostly about teamwork, leadership and not the toward the science of how they work as engineer. But in fact its have some great aspect that we can learn but most of the story is really uncommon especially for me who are not understand anything about engineer and physics that involve behind them. But i can enjoy the story, but cant really relate to it somehow
Darcy Fox
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I had the privilege of hearing Mr. Steltzner speak at a Simulation conference. He was captivating and obviously very passionate about life. I think that energy shone through in his book. I did enjoy the book but to really understand it and appreciate it the full scope of the book, you need an engineering background at the least.
Apr 07, 2018 rated it liked it
This would be a great book for someone who's a NASA geek as they would likely enjoy the technical tidbits. For me, it was still interesting to read about the author's career path, hardships and determinants for success. I heard him speak once and thought he was quite reflective on these concepts as well.
Raymond Goss
Aug 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Good stories about NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory projects. The author mentioned how the the team dealt with failures and successes, worked through testing and verification of systems. In general, I thought the the information and processes discussed were interesting and insightful. I got a little tired of the book though.
More noteworthy for its inside look at some of the biggest space exploration missions of the last two decades than for its leadership lessons. The author does try to present his leadership philosophy, but it’s surprisingly nebulous and “new-agey” for an engineer. This will be of most interest to space enthusiasts.
Aug 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
Did not finish. This book is all about the engineering teams that landed a rover on mars and told from the perspective of one of the lead engineers. Although he made a valiant effort to dumb down the science, I was too bored to go on. I’m sure there is some major learning to glean from this book, but I couldn’t get there.
Louis Olds
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am bias here due to my obsession with Mars and the success NASA has had exploring the red planet. This book is a great look into one of the major players on these types of projects and how he approaches critical decisions with billions of dollars in the balance and no plan B.
Jun 26, 2017 rated it liked it
We met Dr Steltzner at the kickoff of the "Discover Space!" summer program at our local library. He was an enthralling speaker, and his book is just as fascinating.
Trevor Christy
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was fantastic. Whether you're an engineer, someone who loves space, or someone who just likes thinking outside the box this book will have something for you.
Nasir Ali
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good Inspiring reading on leadership under duress. Provided good insight on JPL and NASA culture and the type of leadership , teamwork and grit it take to accomplish these projects.
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good biographical account mixed in with an insider's view of this mission. The right amounts of humor, leadership lessons and storytelling.
May 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
Michael Reibel Boesen
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read in one sitting at a vacation. Fun insight into a very complex mission. Made me miss JPL terribly :'(
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