Credit: Martha Sewall/Purestock/Thinkstock/Johns Hopkins University Press

Credit: Martha Sewall/Purestock/Thinkstock/Johns Hopkins University Press

Why Mars – NASA and the Politics of Space Exploration by W. Henry Lambright; Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland; $49.95 (hardcover); 2014.

Wondering when humans will set boot on Mars?

Author W. Henry Lambright has written an absorbing and detailed look at the long trail of robotic Mars exploration program from its origins to today. This is an excellent review of the politics and policies behind NASA’s multi-decade quest at exploring the Red Planet, the roles of key individuals and institutions, including a look at triumphs and defeats in reaching Mars.

Lambright tells of the quest for Mars, one that stretches out over decades and involves billions of dollars. The book is up-to-date in that it also includes the big ticket rover now scouting about on Mars – Curiosity – and how it took more than seven minutes of terror to get its wheels down and dirty.

Don’t look to this book to give you the technical needs for sustaining humans on that faraway world. However, this book details what’s needed to mount and give coherence to a multi-mission, big science program. In that light, Lambright’s look at robotic Mars probing suggests a number of lessons learned that might apply to large-scale national endeavors in science and technology.

Why Mars details what’s required to formulate missions, establish priorities, followed by the hard part: “Get the funds to accomplish technical miracles,” Lambright notes in the book’s preface.

Lambright is a professor of public administration, international affairs, and political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. He is also author of Powering Apollo: James E. Webb of NASA and Space Policy in the Twenty-First Century, both published by Johns Hopkins.

The last page of his new book is the kicker: “Robots are there today and will continue to forge a trail,” Lambright writes. “Robots go first as pioneers. Ultimately, men and women will bring life to the Red Planet. Mars calls because we want to know about ourselves,” he concludes.

For more information on this book, go to:


Tune into David Livingston’s The Space Show and listen to Lambright discuss this book. Go to Broadcast 2274 (Special Edition) at:


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