Robot Arms and Space Cowboys


If you want to watch a rising star with a bestselling book, look to Andrew Kessler and Martian Summer. He’s part gonzo journalist, i.e. Mary Roach with gonads, and part wacky hip ad-man, i. e. his real life gig as Creative Director, HUGE.

The social media buzz isn’t shameless self-promotion; it’s comedy central. Yup, the book trailers are only a piece to this sweet marketing mix for an up and coming writer of critical acclaim.

Mars is far. Kessler’s ability to make astrophysics comprehensible to an eighth grade girl and get her to giggle is the geek appeal. Spending a summer inside mission control in Tucson brings home the fact that Mars is truly distant.

A sol is a Martian day. It’s a couple hours and some minutes longer than a day on Earth. Hence the plot of sleep deprivation and science stirred together and shaken. Kessler’s own experiences with time-shifting and its physiological, emotional and professional impact are documented in a way Hunter Thompson might admire.

Digging for Regolith, the word for Martian dirt, is part of the mission. The objective is to determine whether Mars has water. The execution of these tasks by teams of NASA scientists is about as action packed as watching paint dry on the wall. Kessler keeps the reader turning the page nonetheless with his wacky way of connecting the reader to the science in pursuit of a discovery. Arcade games, household cleaning products, even anti-freeze are ways in which Kessler demystifies the discovery of water on Mars.

In the process of sharing his fly-on-the-wall observations, the scientists become humans and a few heroes; all of them characters you grow to know and care about.  It’s the best evidence NASA presents for continued funding of the US Space Program.

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