Monthly Archives: February 2011

Space Geek with a Sense of Humor


Andrew Kessler has just written a book that will make you giggle and guffaw, whether you are a space buff or not. The book isn’t available until April 15th, but I’ve been privy to the manuscript, and I just know you’re going to enjoy Martian Summer: Robot Arms, Cowboy Spacemen, and my 90 Days with the Phoenix Mars Mission (published by Pegasus).

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Kessler takes the tough science behind the mission to find water on Mars and makes it comprehensible to someone who lives on Earth. Explaining the scientific debates over what constitutes water is entertaining and enlightening. With the same kind of incisive explication of physicist Richard Feynman who explained how o-rings caused the Challenger disaster, Kessler makes the science straightforward and sensible.

NASA’s ongoing disaster is public relations. So instead of relying on journalists to “sell” the Mars Mission, Kessler is chosen to spend 90 days in Tucson working at Mission Control. NASA would do better with someone in advertising on their side. Enter Kessler, former Creative Director at Campfire and now CD at HUGE, who wins the super-geek lottery to join the mission.

Kessler uses his self-deprecating humor to win you over to the side of water. With full access to the scientists, engineers, and commanders, Kessler gives you the blow by blow of day to day (or rather sol to sol) action on a Mars mission.

Kessler makes the people who explore space human and heroic. Like many other Americans who work time shifts that alter their sleep cycles, those who work in Mission Control are on a Sol schedule. A sol is a “day” on Mars and almost an hour longer than here on Earth. This time difference doesn’t just make the robotic maneuvers millions of miles away on Mars complicated; it complicates human behavior. Kessler’s chapter on this sleeping sickness and the meds required is reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson. On Mars.

There are lots of heroes in this book. Real life science heroes. Rah for Nilton Renno!

NASA is not one of the heroes. The institutional character flaws become self-evident in the story of water of Mars that almost wasn’t. Make no mistake. Kessler is a space fan and supports increased funding for national space exploration; as do all the folks he worked with in Tucson. Andrew gets you to laugh and open your mind up to see a reflection of NASA that begs for improvements.

The books is smart, funny and a great read. I hope this is the first of many books by this great new author.

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