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Managing Martians

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In July, 1997, the real exploration of Mars began. Sojourner, a solar-powered, self-guided rover the size of a microwave oven, landed on the red planet and began to broadcast video images as it roamed over the bleak yet fascinating surface of our planet’s nearest neighbor in the solar system. It was another giant step for human beings, and a special personal triumph for Donna Shirley.

Even as a child growing up in Oklahoma, Donna Shirley dreamed of space exploration. Her dream led her to become a licensed pilot at sixteen and the only female engineering student in her college class. She earned a degree in aerospace and mechanical engineering and in 1966 began work with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Some thirty years later, she had led the way to Mars.

MANAGING MARTIANS is the story of those years, and it manages to entertain and educate in equal amounts at the same time. Scientific and technical problems were only one side of the difficulties facing Donna Shirley and her fellow “Martians” (as her team were known). There were challenges from rule-bound bureaucrats, rival project managers, limited funding and a fickle public that sometimes valued science fiction over science fact. Donna Shirley and her team surmounted them all, and ushered in a new era in relatively low-cost but high-yield space exploration.

MANAGING MARTIANS is a book which will reward almost any reader. Managers will find lessons on team leadership and overcoming obstacles. Science buffs will delight in the way Donna Shirley and her Martians overcame the technical difficulties which faced them. And those who want a good story about a woman who lived out her early dreams will be thoroughly satisfied.