- The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity
The latest Scientist in the Field title features the rousing success story of astronomer Steven Squyers, who planned and directed the creation, launch, and movement of two rovers exploring the Martian surface in search of evidence of water, and by extension, of life. After having NASA deny previous proposals, Squyers was given a hasty go-ahead to ready a mission for 2003, when Mars would be relatively close to Earth (less time and fuel needed for the journey) and to the Sun (the rovers would rely on solar power for all operation.) The rovers Spirit and Opportunity would land on different parts of the planet and explore an approximate range of a third of a mile over three months—but they just kept on going. And going. Into craters, up hills, over rocks; getting stuck, working free, shutting down in the Martian winter and powering up again in spring. At the time of this book's printing, the pair had found indications that water had been present on Mars in some form; moreover, silica deposits suggest that, if the Martian environment is like that of Earth, conditions could have supported tiny life forms. Rusch follows both the engineering feats and scientific accomplishments of the mission in considerable detail, and while the layout is overcrowded and overvaried, requiring perserverance from the reader, the meat of the account still remains compelling. The energy and exuberance of the mission's extraordinary success will keep committed readers fully engaged—cheering [End Page 582] for intrepid Opportunity as it keeps on rolling, and perhaps planning their own rescue mission for Spirit, who's been silent since March 2010. Source notes, an index, and a glossary are included.