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Publisher's Summary

In the course of our enduring quest for knowledge about ourselves and our universe, we haven't found answers to one of our most fundamental questions: Does life exist anywhere else in the universe? Ten years and billions of dollars in the making, the Mars rover Curiosity is poised to answer this all-important question.

Here, Rob Manning, the project's chief engineer, tells of bringing the groundbreaking spacecraft to life. Manning and his team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, tasked with designing a lander many times larger and more complex than any before, faced technical setbacks, fights over inadequate resources, and the challenges of leading an army of brilliant, passionate, and often frustrated experts.

Manning's fascinating personal account - which includes information from his exclusive interviews with leading Curiosity scientists - is packed with tales of revolutionary feats of science, technology, and engineering. Listeners experience firsthand the disappointment at encountering persistent technical problems, the agony of near defeat, the sense of victory at finding innovative solutions to these problems, the sheer terror of staking careers and reputations on a lander that couldn't be tested on Earth, and the rush of triumph at its successful touchdown on Mars on August 5, 2012. This is the story of persistence, dedication, and unrelenting curiosity.

©2014 Rob Manning, William L. Simon (P)2014 Blackstone Audio

What listeners say about Mars Rover Curiosity

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A fascinating insight

Would you listen to Mars Rover Curiosity again? Why?

I've been interested in space exploration since I saw the first moon landing at the age of about seven. I'm fascinated by the technical challenges, and the nuts and bolts of making a mission like this happen. I will be keeping this book and re-listening, for certain.

What three words best describe Bronson Pinchot’s performance?

Careful but dull. Everything is pronounced correctly, the pacing works well for me, and there are no major flaws that I can detect. Occasionally he places the emphasis strangely in a sentence - or at least, differently to how I would read it. But my main complaint is that for a topic that excites me, it's a very flat emotionless presentation. This is a story of how an amazing event was planned and achieved; the reading should be as interesting as the material.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Absolutely. I wanted to stay up all night listening to it.

Any additional comments?

Perhaps I am a little biased in my expectations, having heard an interview with Bob Manning before I bought the book. I would have loved to have heard it read by him.

15 people found this helpful

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Gets bogged down with budget issues

Overall this is not a bad listen, but if you're hoping for lots of specifics on the science end of putting together the MSL/Curiosity mission, this will leave you asking for more. The problem is that because the writer was the project manager, the book spends lots of time on the politics of NASA budgeting. huge parts of the book are about budget shortfalls, obtaining extra funds for the project, and meetings about budgeting issues. If you're a big fan of bureaucratic processes within NASA, then this is the book for you!
That being said, there was good information on the building of Curiosity as well as the mechanics of landing Curiosity on Mars, and the surprising amount of just plain "luck" that is part of this type of project.

32 people found this helpful

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Good overview

Good chronological overview. Right amount of technical info for a "non-technical" person like myself. Wasn't quite as inspiring as other space related audibles I have listened to, but seems to be intended to be more factual.

12 people found this helpful

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Very interesting!

I think any space-enthusiast would enjoy this, it's technical enough while remaining understandable and covers many topics and other projects besides just MSL. My only real complaint would be that I personally don't like the narrator, not that interesting reading voice nor particularly enthusiastic. But this is fortunately not the kind of story that relies on such things to be worth listening to!

9 people found this helpful

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Thoroughly enjoyed!

This was a very interesting audio book for both its space exploration adventure, but also the behind the scenes story. I'm a space nerd, so was fairly certain I'd enjoy the title from that point of view. However I enjoyed it equally for the perspective on how the project was managed and how issues were dealt with.

The narration was also great. A good dose of energy that I thought suited the content well.

Highly recommended! Especially if you liked 'The Martian' and would like something similar, but non-fiction.

2 people found this helpful

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Making Curiosity Happen

Millions of Americans as well as people around the world have followed the adventures and the fascinating findings of the the Mars Rover Curiosity. For the scientists and engineers working on the project, much of the excitement, adventure, and stress came before arrival on Mars, and even well before take-off for Mars.

It was the largest rover ever sent to Mars. It carried an unprecedented number of scientific instruments. Its size and weight required a whole new landing method. Whole new methods, techniques, software had to be created--and every penny of cost had to be justified every step of the way, as other projects and scientists competed for their share of the underfunded NASA budget.

Rob Manning was Curiosity's chief engineer, and this is his account of how Curiosity got from "neat idea" to its "space crane" touchdown on Mars and the start of its exploration of the planet. Along the way, the earlier rovers, Pathfinder, Spirit, and Opportunity, provided vital information on how to proceed and what they would face. Yet they were also obstacles to overcome, as the Curiosity team was challenged to explain why their rover was so much more expensive than the (cheaper, smaller, less scientifically capable) rovers. They solve major technological challenges while fighting attempts to divert their funding to exploration of the outer planets.

It's a great story, well-told, full of its own variety of chills and thrills. And it's all true.

Recommended.

I bought this book.

1 person found this helpful

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CURIOSITY

Curiosity is a mechanical, one-eyed, six wheeled, antenna-tailed super dog. It can stiff the air, drill rocks, analyze elemental particles, roam a countryside (at a snail’s pace 300 feet per hour), and talk to humans. Its language is in 1s and 0s. It speaks to Earth from Mars across 49 million miles of space with a message that continues to amaze and encourage human exploration of the universe.

Robert Manning, in collaboration with William Simon (Manning’s ghost writer), reflects on the technological feat of creating and delivering a robotic laboratory to the fourth rock from the sun. Manning heads a team of NASA scientists and engineers to design the latest land rover, called Curiosity, to explore Mars.

“Mars Rover Curiosity” is a tribute to NASA and its organizational skill in achieving a land mark in extraterrestrial exploration. In listening to Manning’s story, one feels humans are on the edge of a continent in the 15th century, planning to sail to an unexplored place to find answers about what there is beyond imagination. NASA’s contribution to science and a possible future for humanity seems inferred by Manning’s story; particularly in light of current scientific evidence for Earth’s global warming.

2 people found this helpful

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Interesting and enlightening book

Interesting and enlightening book. I learned a lot about the Mars exploration program.

It also has lots of interesting observations for big projects.

I found their observations on software and testing to be very compelling.

The use of dual measurements (miles and kilometers, etc.) is useful in print, but I listened to this in audio and that was very annoying.

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I have but one gripe...

and it's not even a gripe, really. The material is fascinating, it's very accessible to the layman, and Manning's personality shines through. It was a pleasant surprise to hear that Bronson Pinchot was doing the reading, but I found his voice so soothing that I had to set up tasks for myself whilst I listened. Otherwise, I'm afraid I'd have fallen into a pleasant slumber. Which causes this insomniac to ask: Mr. Pinchot, would you please come over to my house and read me stories at bedtime?

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Fascinating!

I had only imagined the complexity of a project like the Curiosity Rover and its science lab. And listening to this book only got me more excited about such projects. As project manager and a software engineer I admire the genius and hard work pf all the people who made this possible.

Thank you.

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  • Wakeman
  • 05-04-18

Building a rover under the bureaucracy of NASA

An interesting book, as much for the design & building processes of the rover, as for its portrayal of the inner workings of the NASA bureaucracy. The delivery is a little dry and occasionally flat, but the subject carries you through those moments. The fact that there is someone whose job is to consider contamination of other planets by earthly bacteria & who has to sign off on the project gives you just a flavour. I thought that the last few chapters, involving the landing, felt a little rushed, especially given the long build-up.

3 people found this helpful

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  • mr Peter Mo
  • 01-07-15

amazing

I really enjoyed this one. I read a lot about Curiosity and I also attended seminars with speakers that work on it. And still, I've learned so much from this book that it makes me happy that I lived to see this great achievement.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Christopher Larham
  • 08-21-19

Compelling Listening Material

I found this to be compelling listening material and was sad when it came to an end. The authors and narrator take you on a real journey, charting the ups and downs of life behind the scenes in the Mars Space Laboratory mission. I have listened to several chapters multiple times, and I was especially interested in the overview of the software that helps Curiosity to complete its everyday tasks (over three million lines of C-language programming code).

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-11-18

a great insight into the curiosity rover.

Listen to on and off for a week but could have completed it quicker. I never realised how much skill and innovation went in to getting curiosity on Mars.

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  • Bob Upndown
  • 02-02-18

A very good account of recent Mars missions.

Overall a good listen. Many fascinating moments with a few odd dry spots. Pleased I purchased it. Would be nice to have had an updated more on it's scientific findings but people move on I guess.

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  • PaulC6230
  • 07-22-17

Brilliant Inside Account

I loved this inside account of the journey of Curiosity from the concept to the end roving towards Mount Sharp.

The level of details in this is astounding which isn’t too complicated for the ordinary listener to comprehend. I loved hearing how hurdles were thrown at them and how the tiger team as they call them overcame these obstacles which led to another set of obstacles.

One part had my mouth open which was this exert from the book “ If a redesign or a bug fix required replacing a chip—which at times happened as often as twice a month—the cost of each replacement chip ran around $30,000 “


No wonder then the cost of this amazing machine was $2billion but in my eyes ( a keen space geek ) it’s worth every dollar spent. Here’s hoping Perseverance finds out even more about Mars.

The narration by Bronson Pinchot was superbly done and made listened to this such a pleasure. Highly recommend if you’re a space geek too or interested in where the costs of these machines go to.

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  • Mr. Tim Fowle
  • 07-06-17

Really interesting insight

What did you like most about Mars Rover Curiosity?

Interesting details about the project, how it was run and the problems faced.

What did you like best about this story?

Details about the technical challenges and how as a team they worked through (most) of them

What does Bronson Pinchot bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

An american accent

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

no

Any additional comments?

Very enjoyable

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-09-21

Great listen for any space enthusiast

would recommend to anyone interested Mars or space exploration and NASA'S Jet Propulsion laboratory.

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  • Tony
  • 03-04-19

A great insight into the team behind the curtain

I work in an earth based but surprisingly similar industry, albeit not even close to the same budget. we make prototype machines, write and test firmware then send them out hoping we've done enough. This book has been very interesting in the process of development and I've definitely picked up several points that I can put into my methods. And I can certainly relate to the nervous weight for the status report from a machine.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-23-18

Great story. A bit dry in audio

A great story I always wanted to know the detail of. A great insight into the engineering & testing. The monotone manner of the narrator made it hard to listen to at times.

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  • Scott
  • 12-31-17

Recommended technical read

I recommend this book for systems engineer or anyone seeking a technical and political insight into the workings of a NASA mission. It is so refreshing to gain an honest "warts and all" account from the chief engineer of mars missions. Great read.

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  • Peter manderson
  • 04-11-15

Was most enjoyable

A good listen and makes you appreciate how hard space travel is. Great value.

I recommend this audible book to everyone