The leader of the team that created the revolutionary Mars Sojourner rover chronicles her trailblazing career in space exploration and tells the fascinating, behind-the-scenes story of the celebrated Mars Pathfinder mission.
Donna Shirley's 35-year career as an aerospace engineer reached a jubilant pinnacle in July 1997 when Sojourner--the solar-powered, self-guided, microwave-oven-sized rover--was seen exploring the Martian landscape in Pathfinder's spectacular images from the surface of the red planet.
The event marked a milestone in space exploration--no vehicle had ever before roamed the surface of another planet. But for Donna Shirley, the manager of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Exploration Program who headed the mostly male team that designed and built Sojourner, it marked a triumph of another kind. Since her childhood in Oklahoma, Shirley had dreamed of traveling to Mars, and, through Pathfinder, she did just that.
"Managing Martians is Shirley's captivating memoir of a life and career spent reaching for the stars. From her seemingly outlandish aspiration at age ten to build aircraft, to abandoning high school Home Ec in favor of mechanical drawing, and, at sixteen, becoming a licensed pilot, Shirley defied expectations from the beginning.
The only female engineering student in her college class, Shirley earned a degree in aerospace/mechanical engineering (while picking up a beauty contest title along the way) and, in 1966, began a career at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that has spanned twenty-four different projects, including Mariner 10's trip to Venus and Mercury and a 1991 assignment as chief engineer of a $1.6 billion project to explore asteroids, acomet, and Saturn.
Shirley's innovations in automation and robotics paved the way to her being named the first woman ever to manage a NASA program. For Pathfinder she assembled a brilliant band of upstarts (her fellow "Martians") and embarked on an improbable mission: to put an untethered, fully automated rover on Mars--at a fraction of the cost of any previous Mars project.
In a vivid narrative, rich with anecdotes and thrilling turning points, Shirley recounts the intense battles she waged to defend her vision and the ingenuity and resourcefulness of her committed team. Her moment-by-cliffhanging-moment account of Pathfinder's landing and Sojourner's first tentative foray across the sands of Mars brilliantly captures the fulfillment of a lifelong dream as it heralds a brave new era of space exploration.
What people are saying - Write a review
MANAGING MARTIANSUser Review - Kirkus
To paraphrase the old soap opera: Can a rich girl from a small Oklahoma town find success and happiness married to her job as first woman manager of a NASA space program? The answer is a resounding ... Read full review
Other editions - View all
aerobraking aerogel airbags APXS atmosphere Bill Layman bogie Brian Wilcox budget build camera Charlie cost Dave Dave Miller Deep Space Network demo Earth engineers exploration flight hardware front Glenn going guys Henry Stone hour Howard Eisen idea images instruments JPL's knew lander landing launch Little Blue Lonne looked manager Mariner Mars Global Surveyor Mars Observer Mars's Martian Mercury million mission mobility modems moon mother motors MRSR NASA needed never Oklahoma operations orbit Pathfinder team Pathfinder's Pauls Valley petals planet problem radio ramp review board robot rocket rocks Rocky Rocky's rover team sample return sandbox Sands of Mars schedule scientists seismometer signal soil Sojourner solar panels spacecraft spectrometer surface of Mars Surveyor things thought tiny tion told Tony Spear took trajectory trying turn vehicle Viking wanted wheels Wynnewood