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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 breakthroughs in Mars exploration. 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. "A masterpiece of research and writing."— Quest: History of Spaceflight Quarterly "A 'must' for any reader of modern astronomy who wants insights into how the lab conducts its research, solves problems, and handle[s] technological challenges."— Midwest Book Review "A great tale of ambition, mishap and recovery, building on extensive archival research and interviews with JPL managers, scientists and engineers, to deliver a detailed overview of each mission's feats and failures... Exploration and Engineering is a great book for everyone seriously interested in the struggles and achievements of JPL as NASA's centre for Mars exploration."— Sky at Night 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.
Mars has captured the human imagination for decades. Since NASA’s establishment in 1958, the space agency has looked to Mars as a compelling prize, the one place, beyond the Moon, where robotic and human exploration could converge. Remarkably successful with its roaming multi-billion-dollar robot, Curiosity, NASA’s Mars program represents one of the agency’s greatest achievements. Why Mars analyzes the history of the robotic Mars exploration program from its origins to today. W. Henry Lambright examines the politics and policies behind NASA's multi-decade quest, illuminating the roles of key individuals and institutions along with their triumphs and defeats. Lambright outlines the ebbs and flows of policy evolution, focusing on critical points of change and factors that spurred strategic reorientation. He explains Mars exploration as a striking example of "big science" and describes the ways a powerful advocacy coalition—composed of NASA decision makers, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Mars academic science community, and many others—has influenced governmental decisions on Mars exploration, making it, at times, a national priority. The quest for Mars stretches over many years and involves billions of dollars. What does it take to mount and give coherence to a multi-mission, big science program? How do advocates and decision makers maintain goals and adapt their programs in the face of opposition and budgetary stringency? Where do they succeed in their strategies? Where do they fall short? Lambright’s insightful book suggests that from Mars exploration we can learn lessons that apply to other large-scale national endeavors in science and technology. -- Roger D. Launius, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution
Two leading scholars of space exploration -- both as historians and critics -- inquire into the human fascination with manned adventures, raise new questions that support the near-term use of robotics, and offer a case for "human cyborgs" in a "post-biological universe."
Some might think that the 27 thousand tons of material launched by earthlings into outer space is nothing more than floating piles of debris. However, when looking at these artifacts through the eyes of historians and anthropologists, instead of celestial pollution, they are seen as links to human history and heritage. Space: The New Frontier for Archeologists Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology and Heritage, published this month by CRC Press Taylor and Francis Group, brings together 43 anthropologists, historians, physicists, and engineers, a scientific team as culturally diverse as the crew of any science fiction cruiser. They offer a range of novel historical and technological perspectives on humankind’s experience in space. This ambitious work presents an informative, thought-provoking, and educational text that discusses the evolution of space engineering, spacecraft reliability and forensics, field techniques, and mission planning, as well as space programs for the future. The book is edited by a pair of scientists from different sides of the campus: Ann Garrison Darrin, aerospace engineer and NASA veteran and Beth Laura O’Leary, anthropologist and member of the World Archaeological Congress Space Heritage Task Force. The handbook delves into the evolution of space archaeology and heritage, including the emerging fields of Archaeoastronomy, Ethnoastronomy, and Cultural Astronomy. It also covers space basics and the history of the space age from Sputnik to modern day satellites. It discusses the cultural landscape of space, including orbital artifacts in space, as well as objects left on planetary surfaces and includes a look at the culture of Apollo as a catalog of manned exploration of the moon. It also considers the application of forensic investigation to the solving of cold case mysteries including failed Mars mission landing sites and lost spacecraft, and even investigates the archaeology of the putative Roswell UFO crash site and appraises material culture in science fiction.
"Faster, Better, Cheaper takes its title from the initiative of the same name, which officials at NASA adopted after the high-profile failure of the Mars Observer spacecraft in 1993. Although that expedition was conceived in 1981 as the last in a series of lower-cost missions, its budget by launch had grown from $250 million to more than $800 million. To compensate for research opportunities lost during the hiatus since the last Viking mission in 1976, scientists in 1992 added numerous instruments while technicians added equipment to guard against failure. This effort should have resulted in a more reliable and better-performing spacecraft, and yet, as the Observer approached Mars on August 21, 1993, it disappeared."--Jacket.
On the 20th anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon, President George H.W. Bush stood atop the steps of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and proposed a long-range human exploration plan that included the successful construction of an orbital space station, a permanent return to the Moon, and a mission to Mars. This enterprise became known as the Space Exploration Initiative (SEI). The president charged the newly reestablished National Space Council with providing concrete alternatives for meeting these objectives. To provide overall focus for the new initiative, Bush later set a thirty-year goal for a crewed landing on Mars. Within a few short years after this Kennedyesque announcement, however, the initiative had faded into history the victim of a flawed policy process and a political war fought on several different fronts. The story of this failed initiative was a tale of organizational, cultural, and personal confrontation by key protagonists and critical battles. Some commentators have argued that SEI was doomed to fail, due primarily to the immense budgetary pressures facing the nation during the early 1990s. The central thesis of Mars Wars: The Rise and Fall of the Space Exploration Initiative suggests, however, that failure was not predetermined. Instead, it was the result of a deeply flawed decision-making process that failed to develop (or even consider) policy options that may have been politically acceptable given the existing political environment.
Few federal agencies have more extensive ties to the private sector than NASA. NASA's relationships with its many aerospace industry suppliers of rocket engines, computers, electronics, gauges, valves, O-rings, and other materials have often been described as "partnerships." These have produced a few memorable catastrophes, but mostly technical achievements of the highest order. Until now, no one has written extensively about them. In NASA and the Space Industry, Joan Lisa Bromberg explores how NASA's relationship with the private sector developed and how it works. She outlines the various kinds of expertise public and private sectors brought to the tasks NASA took on, describing how this division of labor changed over time. She explains why NASA sometimes encouraged and sometimes thwarted the privatization of space projects and describes the agency's role in the rise of such new space industries as launch vehicles and communications satellites.
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