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 1990s and continuing through the Mars Phoenix mission of 2007, 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 history.
In Exploration and Engineering, Erik M. Conway reveals how JPL engineers’ creative technological feats led to major Mars exploration breakthroughs. 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 turmoil.
Conway, 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.
Erik M. Conway is a historian of science and technology at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. He is the author of Atmospheric Science at NASA: A History.
"No subject in the history of planetary science has been more publicly enticing than the efforts to understand Mars. In Exploration and Engineering, historian Erik M. Conway presents a very detailed, mission-by-mission discussion of Mars exploration since Viking. This capably told narrative captures the fascinating details of the Mars program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory."
— Roger D. Launius, National Air and Space Museum, editor of Exploring the Solar System: The History and Science of Planetary Exploration
Page 29, bottom, sentence beginning "The cost increases created by the launch delay. . .had caused JPL to replace Bill Purdy, who took a job with TRW at the end of 1988." In fact, Purdy quit to join TRW, hoping to work with Daniel S. Goldin, who was then promoting lower-cost techniques at that company. My apologies to Purdy.
The background image is photo number PIA07997, taken May 19, 2005, by the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit. This is a sunset over Gusev Crater, where the spacecraft had landed a year before. Credit: NASA/JPL/Texas A&M/Cornell.