Exploration and Engineering: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory


Exploration and Engineering: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Quest for Mars Although the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has become synonymous with the United States planetary exploration during the past half century, its most recent focus has been on Mars Beginning in the s and continuing through the Mars Phoenix mission of , JPL led the way in engineering an impressive, rapidly evolving succession of Mars orbiters and landers, including roving robotic vehicles whose successful deployment onto the Martian surface posed some of the most complicated technical problems in space flight historyIn Exploration and Engineering, Erik M Conway reveals how JPL engineers creative technological feats led to major breakthroughs in Mars exploration He takes readers into the heart of the lab s problem solving approach and management structure, where talented scientists grappled with technical challenges while also coping, not always successfully, with funding shortfalls, unrealistic schedules, and managerial turmoilConway, JPL s historian, offers an insider s perspective into the changing goals of Mars exploration, the ways in which sophisticated computer simulations drove the design process, and the remarkable evolution of landing technologies over a thirty year period

  • Hardcover
  • 416 pages
  • Exploration and Engineering: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Quest for Mars
  • Erik M. Conway
  • 03 July 2019
  • 1421416042

About the Author: Erik M. Conway

Erik Conway is a historian of science and technology residing in Pasadena, CA He is currently employed by the California Institute of Technology.



10 thoughts on “Exploration and Engineering: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Quest for Mars

  1. says:

    Space is awesome.As an avid follower of all things NASA, this was the perfect book for me The only thing I was slightly disappointed with was the lack of a complete Curiosity section I would have loved reading about the engineering challenge of the sky crane Still, this is a great book, and a worthy addition to space travel s literature.

  2. says:

    I m always sad when I come to the end of a good book My review is a bit biased perhaps because I worked at JPL for a couple of years not on a Mars project though and I understand the engineering behind the spacecraft However, I do think the book is well worth reading for any space enthusiast or anyone interested in learning what goes on at JPL While the aerospace field is peppered with acronyms and jargon, the author does a good job explaining everything And one thing is very clear it is I m always sad when I come to the end of a good book My review is a bit biased perhaps because I worked at JPL for a couple of years not on a Mars project though and I understand the engineering behind the spacecraft However, I do think the book is well worth reading for any space enthusiast or anyone interested in learning what goes on at JPL While the aerospace field is peppered with acronyms and jargon, the author does a good job explaining everything And one thing is very clear it is not a simple task to land something on Mars I ve worked only with earth orbiting satellites and although those are still complex machines to build and operate they re nothing compared to what s required for interplanetary missions Erik Conway wrote a very thorough description of the Mars projects at JPL from the 90 s into the 2000 s He provides a view of the difficulty trying to balance the goals of scientists, the abilities of engineering, the desires of decision makers at all levels and money Getting to space costs money A lot of money Besides the emphasis on how much things cost, Mr Conway also provides great detail about each of the missions and their instruments But he also manages to impart a human element by describing the work and sometimes emotion of the engineers and scientists as they went about planning, designing, building, testing, and sometimes the frustration they encountered to keep their part of the spacecraft or all of it going forward My only criticism is that I sometimes got confused about which mission or spacecraft or instrument I was reading about Since the book is chronological and missions overlap, midway through discussion of one project, Mr Conway would start a thread about a different one My confusion came about because a mission could consist of multiple orbiters, landers or rovers, and the mission had a name, each part had a name and sometimes the names were similar or too vaguely descriptive to distinguish them And sometimes JPL changed the name A timeline in the appendix that listed all the programs and their parts would have been very beneficial.All in all, a great book It made me nostalgic for my time at JPL, but also appreciative of the efforts of the men and women involved in those missions and hopeful that interplanetary exploration will continue

  3. says:

    I saw Conway give a talk at JPL It was brilliant His knowledge of space history is encyclopedic and the presentation was dynamic So I had to read his book.My astronomical expectations were only slightly disappointed Exploration and Engineering delves deeply into mission details It taught me much of relevance to my work at JPL However, it readslike a textbook than a story Dramatic incidents that should put the reader on the edge of her seat are presented in a matter of fact tone, a I saw Conway give a talk at JPL It was brilliant His knowledge of space history is encyclopedic and the presentation was dynamic So I had to read his book.My astronomical expectations were only slightly disappointed Exploration and Engineering delves deeply into mission details It taught me much of relevance to my work at JPL However, it readslike a textbook than a story Dramatic incidents that should put the reader on the edge of her seat are presented in a matter of fact tone, and Conway is not careful to preserve the element of surprise Flaws in the narrative flow also occasionally make it difficult to tell whether Conway is revisiting an event or moving on Occasionally he even refers in passing to events he has not yet introduced I often found myself slightly confused.I suppose a real enthusiast should prefer Conway s dry style to the sensationalist alternative But the truth is that I really wanted to read a JPL version of The Right Stuff So my three stars should not dissuade anyone looking for a meaty, factual, historical treatise

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