The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership, and High-Stakes Innovation
by Adam Steltzner, with William Patrick
Portfolio, 2016 ($28)
Less than a week before NASA's Curiosity rover was to land on Mars, an engineer on the team planning its touchdown found a problem: the three coordinates that determined the vehicle's “center of navigation” in its onboard computer were off. The team members faced a daunting decision: live with the minor error, which might have no effect on the landing, or update the coordinates and risk setting off other problems by making such a significant change so late in the game. They decided to alter the numbers—apparently a good call, because the rover famously made a flawless descent using its unprecedented “sky crane” landing system, which lowered the rover on cables from a spacecraft hanging above.
Steltzner, leader of Curiosity's entry, descent and landing team, with writer Patrick, recounts the challenges and thrills of planning the most complex planetary landing mechanism ever designed—a system he helped convince nasa's chief was “the right kind of crazy.”