Right Kind of Crazy

9781591846925_p0_v2_s192x300By now readers of this blog are I’m sure well aware of my obsession over anything space related. One of the places I always go when looking for books to read is the  new books section of my local library, (which by the way is closing for remodeling soon and I’ll have to go to another location I’m having a bit of angst over that). At this point I know exactly where to go to find the new space books – 629.45, which falls under branches of engineering. The books on rocketry and robotics are nearby. Not long ago when I went to the new bookshelf in that section I found the book The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership, and High-Stakes Innovation by Adam Steltzner and William Patrick.

Right Kind of Crazy is a cross between a biography of Steltzner and a book about how to be a good leader. Steltzner led the Entry, Landing, and Descent team for the Curiosity rover. The book begins with a problem propping up just days to hours before the final descent of the rover to the surface of Mars, then backtracks to Steltzner’s schooling. A bit of a wild child his education took an unusual route but he eventually made the commitment and found what worked for him and succeeded.

I’ve always been a bit curious as to how things run at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In other books about the space program, astronauts, and NASA you get behind the scenes information on several locations but somehow JPL is always left out. Here is that window behind the scenes.

Adam takes us through his journey at the JPL from his starter position to taking on leadership roles and finally his role as lead of the EDL team. Along the way he shares mistakes he made and what he would do differently. He also shares successes, things he did that worked well. It’s a fast and enjoyable read although if like me you don’t have much engineering knowledge you may find yourself bewildered when he occasionally gets technical, still it’s worth it to read.

May 30, 2016 Mars was the closest to Earth as it would be for 26 months, it was brightest on the 22nd. I sat on my back patio on the 22nd and looked at Mars, marveling that I could see it with my own eyes when it’s so far away, marveling even more that considering just how far away it is, and that it moves closer and further away that there are people who were able to calculate the trajectory to land several rovers there on Mars in different places. That there are people who are even now calculating how to get humans to Mars. It’s easier to understand how people got to the Moon, you can see it fairly clearly. One a good full moon night you can easily see the Sea of Tranquility where Apollo 11 landed, but Mars???  It’s nearly mind-boggling to realize that we have sent machines to what appears in our sky as a twinkling reflection of the sun with a distinctive red tint, that we are able to communicate with those machines and receive information back from them. I hope I’m alive when humans make it to Mars, in the meantime I’ll keep following the work of the JPL and those putting the rovers on Mars, orbiters around other planets, and on asteroids and comets.

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