on March 1, 2004
Like other books concerning the space program (e.g."Moon Hunters") this book is an interesting historical document concerning some of JPL's remarkable accomplishments. In addition however, the author provides valuable technical insights into the unique thinking, problem solving, and development obstacles which scientists and engineers encounter when exploring remote areas of our world and universe. From a project management perspective, Mishkin has demonstrated how issues over team dynamics, personality, scheduling, and budgets were successfully overcome to attain success beyond all expectations.
I think that this book would make excellent reading for scientists and engineers destined to manage major team oriented projects. This book also should prove of great interest to people working in space science, oceanographic work, or other such fields with similar problems and they will likely find several technical parallels to the mode of thinking that is applied to their own areas.
I would think that JPL would gain much in the way of public interest and support if similar books appear in the future.
on February 19, 2005
I just finished Andrew Mishkin's booked titled "Sojourner" and I couldn't put it down. Mishkin, a Senior Systems Engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), helped to design, build and operate humanity's first operational MARS rover. The book starts back in the 1960's with a General Motors built rover which was meant for, but not flown on, the Lunar Surveyor missions of that decade. He explains how this machine became the basis for several JPL skunk-works created machines including the one that finally did the job in 1997. The book contains just enough technical information (both hardware and software) to be interesting but not so much as to lose the non-technical reader. There are two added chapters which cover the missions in 2001 and 2004.
on December 15, 2003
Mishkin takes the reader on the bumpy, rock-strewn path of rover development at JPL and does so in readable terms. Forget acronyms or dry engineering terms here, it's a highly readable account of one of NASA's great achievements of the past decade. The book is full of anecdotes and good writing.
It also shows how the Mars program had too grand a scale with their intial rover program in the early 1990s. They scaled it back and came up with the smaller Pathfinder, or Sojourner (but what everybody just calls "the rover") that was very well executed in 1997.
Now, two more rovers are slated to land on Mars by Jan. 4, 2004. Read this book and the story of how long and interesting that voyage truly is will unfold.