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Exploring Mars

Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery

By Scott Hubbard; Foreword by Bill Nye

Publication Year: 2012

The Red Planet has been a subject of fascination for humanity for thousands of years, becoming part of our folklore and popular culture. The most Earthlike of the planets in our solar system, Mars may have harbored some form of life in the past and may still possess an ecosystem in some underground refuge. The mysteries of this fourth planet from our Sun make it of central importance to NASA and its science goals for the twenty-first century.  

In the wake of the very public failures of the Mars Polar Lander and the Mars Climate Orbiter in 1999, NASA embarked on a complete reassessment of the Mars Program. Scott Hubbard was asked to lead this restructuring in 2000, becoming known as the "Mars Czar." His team's efforts resulted in a very successful decade-long series of missions--each building on the accomplishments of those before it--that adhered to the science adage "follow the water" when debating how to proceed. Hubbard's work created the Mars Odyssey mission, the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Phoenix mission, and most recently the planned launch of the Mars Science Laboratory

Now for the first time Scott Hubbard tells the complete story of how he fashioned this program, describing both the technical and political forces involved and bringing to life the national and international cast of characters engaged in this monumental endeavor.  Blending the exciting stories of the missions with the thrills of scientific discovery, Exploring Mars will intrigue anyone interested in the science, the engineering, or the policy of investigating other worlds.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

List of Plates

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pp. xi

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pp. xiii-xvi

Despite its common nickname, it’s not red so much as orange. Even then, someone has to carefully show the stargazing newcomer that the planet Mars really has a special color. It’s close and bright; it has always been a special place for us. As you make your way through the history recorded...


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pp. xvii-xix

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pp. xxi

In the body of the book, it is clear that Dan Goldin, Ed Weiler, the late Earle Huckins, Firouz Naderi, Gentry Lee, the late Jim Martin, Jim Garvin, and Steve Isakowitz all played an extraordinary role in the development of the Mars Exploration Program....

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1. Mars Is Hard

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pp. 1-12

On September 23, 1999, near 2 a.m. Pacific daylight time, the Mars Climate Orbiter, known as MCO, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) spacecraft that had been launched nine months earlier from Cape Kennedy in Florida, was just arriving at the red planet. The control...

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2. Getting Started

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pp. 13-38

During the period from 1995 to 1999 when MCO and MPL were being constructed and launched to Mars, I was engaged in two projects, managing the Lunar Prospector mission and then establishing the NASA Astrobiology Institute, and had arguably laid the groundwork for a third (Mars...

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3. Inside the Beltway

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pp. 39-51

In an ideal world, I would have sat down in my “Mars Czar” office at NASA HQ on E Street SW and started methodically planning how to approach the enormous task before me—get ten years of demanding interplanetary missions planned within the available budgets and make certain they all...

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4. Follow the Water

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pp. 52-67

When I was named to lead the Mars Program on March 28, 2000, the program was driven to no small degree by the desire to return a sample of Mars soil and rock to Earth as quickly as possible. This focus on returning a Mars sample was driven primarily by news and opinions surrounding the...

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5. To Land or Not to Land?

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pp. 68-81

From late March, when I was appointed, until early October 2000 the replanning of the entire Mars Program was ongoing, not in an easy-to- follow serial fashion, but rather in a multiplex, multifaceted, intertwined, and interconnected way. As is customary with NASA missions, there are a...

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6. The Rover Becomes Rovers

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pp. 82-89

Many people probably believe that for space missions, building the spacecraft takes all the time. However, in my experience, we often understand well how to build spacecraft, and it is the scientific instruments that are the slowest to develop or the last to arrive. This is not because the scientists...

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7. Hands across the Water

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pp. 90-97

The space business has been an inherently international endeavor since it began. In the earliest day, the Russians had a success, and we jumped in. We had a success or two, and they matched us and tried to best us. We struck back and so on, but space is a grand, risky, and very expensive...

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8. Getting the Word Out

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pp. 98-121

If the story appears simple or straightforward in any way, don’t be fooled. It wasn’t. On the one hand, Firouz Naderi and I were in sync developing the program systems engineering approach, and the science community was embracing the elegance of “follow the water.” However, never underestimate...

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9. All Things to All People

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pp. 122-146

Any time a significant new program is proposed through the budgetary process and there is an announcement about the details of the program, there is a well-understood and semi-formalized process in which you speak to all of the stakeholders before a public announcement. Everyone wants a...

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10. Return to Flight: A Mars Odyssey

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pp. 147-160

Planning is all well and good, but in the spaceflight world, it’s all about firing rockets. No matter how careful we are, no matter how huge the armies of people or how dedicated their hearts and minds are to the process, actually being ready for launch and firing the rocket that starts you on your way...

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11. The Queue

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pp. 161-179

The ticking of all the clocks had been deafening: The federal budget cycle clock, which is inexorable and unforgiving; nature’s 26-month cycle for launches to Mars, even more relentless and unchangeable; and the incompressible time it takes to build special-purpose spacecraft all weighed heavy...

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12. Zeroing In

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pp. 180-186

As this is being written, the Mars Science Laboratory, due to launch on November 25, 2011, is the final mission of the decade for which I had responsibility. This mission was originally planned to launch one opportunity earlier, in 2009. While the change in schedule was for a host of technical...

Appendix: Timeline of the New Mars Program

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pp. 187-188


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pp. 189-194

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599691
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816528967

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2012