Emily LakdawallaApr 26, 2013

Curiosity on Mars - Design, Planning, and the First Mars Year of Operations

Update: Go here for the latest announcement about Emily's forthcoming book.

Last month, I formally entered a new phase of my career: I signed my first book contract. I agreed "to prepare for publication by Springer a work provisionally entitled Curiosity on Mars - Design, Planning, and the First Mars Year of Operations...comprising approximately 400 pages, including approximately 210 illustrations."


It's been in the back of my mind for a while that the next step in my career should be to write a book. But the idea of trying to propose one, and be rejected, and do more work, and be rejected again, was daunting, especially when I had no lack of work to do writing this blog and also being a mom to two very young children. I figured that was something that might come later.

Later seems to have arrived. This particular book was the publisher's idea; they came to me, said they wanted to publish a book on Curiosity, covering not only the technology but also the geology, and that it should be accessible to space enthusiasts, not just academics. I thought about it for a while and decided: I really am the right person to write this book. I can get the facts right, both on science and on engineering, and I can tell the story well, too. And my younger kid is no longer a baby -- she's starting pre-kindergarten in the fall -- so life as a mom is getting much easier. And it's about time professionally for me to write a book. So here we go!

If you have stories that you think belong in this book, please contact me.

A portrait of Curiosity
A portrait of Curiosity Cropped from the amazing color self-portrait photo of Curiosity standing on Mars, on sol 84 (October 31, 2012). The photo is a mosaic of images shot with MAHLI, the camera on the end of the robotic arm.Image: NASA / JPL / MSSS

Working on a book will, of course, have an impact on my work here at planetary.org. I simply won't have as much time to do the things I do now. However, I am hopeful that I will manage to delegate more of my behind-the-scenes work, so that the impact on my blogging should not be as great as the impact is on my unfortunate coworkers. I am grateful to The Planetary Society for their support.

One change you may already have noticed is that because I am writing a book about Mars, there is going to be more stuff on the blog about Mars than there used to be, because that's what I'll be reading. I have a lot of reading to do. That will necessarily reduce my coverage of other parts of the solar system. That is already frustrating me a little bit, because I am very loyal to my friends in the outer planets and asteroids and Mercury and Venus and Moon communities and I am sensitive to their constantly feeling overshadowed by Mars. But there's nothing I can do about that, except to plan to write my next book on something other than Mars (or at least not exclusively Mars).

As I already do for human and private spaceflight and exoplanets and Earth science and policy, I will be leaning on guest bloggers to write about the things that I am not writing about. Fortunately, I know a lot of researchers who really are quite excellent writers. If you are a scientist who thinks I am not writing enough about your favorite part of the solar system, then please consider volunteering a guest blog entry! I will be happy to edit your writing to help you reach this blog's audience.

This is a long-term project. The completed manuscript is not due until the end of 2014, after the end of Curiosity's primary mission. One hopes that Curiosity will still be going strong at that point, and it's quite likely that the best part of her mission will come after the time chronicled in my book. But that's okay. That just means they'll have to offer me another contract to update it for a new edition, right?

Since I'm talking about career changes and all, it seems appropriate to mention that my kids are now old enough that I've also lifted my self-imposed travel ban for public speaking engagements. Here's a page with my appearance calendar and some sample talk topics and so forth; please do contact me if you'd like to arrange for me to speak at your event.

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