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Seeing Like a Rover

How Robots, Teams, and Images Craft Knowledge of Mars

Janet Vertesi



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University of Chicago Press
22 April 2015
In the years since the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit and Opportunity first began transmitting images from the surface of Mars, we have become familiar with the harsh, rocky, rusty-red Martian landscape. But those images are much less straightforward than they may seem to a layperson: each one is the result of a complicated set of decisions and processes involving the large team behind the Rovers.

With Seeing Like a Rover, Janet Vertesi takes us behind the scenes to reveal the work that goes into creating our knowledge of Mars. Every photograph that the Rovers take, she shows, must be processed, manipulated, and interpreted-and all that comes after team members negotiate with each other about what they should even be taking photographs of in the first place. Vertesi's account of the inspiringly successful Rover project reveals science in action, a world where digital processing uncovers scientific truths, where images are used to craft consensus, and where team members develop an uncanny intimacy with the sensory apparatus of a robot that is millions of miles away. Ultimately, Vertesi shows, every image taken by the Mars Rovers is not merely a picture of Mars-it's a portrait of the whole Rover team, as well.
By:   Janet Vertesi
Imprint:   University of Chicago Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 236mm,  Width: 163mm,  Spine: 27mm
Weight:   866g
ISBN:   9780226155968
ISBN 10:   022615596X
Pages:   304
Publication Date:   22 April 2015
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Janet Vertesi is assistant professor of sociology at Princeton University.

Reviews for Seeing Like a Rover: How Robots, Teams, and Images Craft Knowledge of Mars

Vertesi places what many incorrectly perceive as a purely technological, asocial, non-interactive activity-robotic planetary exploration-squarely in the context of human behavior. Her analysis is thoughtful, insightful, and timely, and is sure to influence future explorers, human and robotic alike. (Jim Bell, member of the Mars Exploration Rover team and author of Postcards from Mars: The First Photographer on the Red Planet)

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