Book Review: Lunar and Planetary Rovers

Ordinarily if a book attempts to cover crewed and unmanned missions – the book is a compilation of space flight history in general. This is not the case when it comes to Springer/Praxis’ offering Lunar and Planetary Rovers. Written by Anthony Young, the book details both crewed (the Apollo “J” missions) and unmanned rovers (Pathfinder, Mars Exploration Rovers and Curiosity). The book is not a perfect blending of the two interconnected, yet separate programs – but it does have much to offer.

First published in 2010, the book is a well-researched, detailed account of the lunar rovers that flew on Apollos 15, 16 and 17 and the robotic explorers that have scoured the face of the red planet – Mars.

Lunar and Planetary Rovers covers both the manned rovers used on the final three Apollo lunar missions and the unmanned rovers used to explore the surface of Mars - under one book. Photo Credit: NASA/Jack Schmitt

Lunar and Planetary Rovers fills a need for an account of efforts to get wheels on other worlds. The book is filled with numerous photographs (both color and black and white) that have never been published before. In terms of the Apollo Program, Lunar and Planetary Rovers is replete with quotes from the astronauts that drove the lunar rovers on the Moon. In terms of the unmanned planetary rovers, the book pulls from the engineers and scientists that made (and make) these machines work.

The book is 305 pages long. It could have stood to be a few pages longer. One glaring omission in the general body of the book is that of the Lunokhods (these amazing machines are mentioned in the appendix of the book). Given that the Lunokhods bridge the gap between the Apollo Program’s manned lunar rovers (in that they both rolled across the lunar regolith) and the robotic planetary rovers – this is a fairly significant gap in coverage of the topic. The book also does not tie these two, separate, programs together very well (the jump from one topic to the other is jarring and not done consistently).

For some reason, Russia's Lunokhod Rover, the first unmanned rover to explore another world, is only mentioned in passing - at the very end of the book. Photo Credit: NASA

Even when one considers this slight flaw – the book still provides an accurate and useful history of rovers. Lunar and Planetary Rovers can be purchased on the secondary market (Amazon) for approximately $5 (that is including shipping and handling) the book is a good buy for those wanting information concerning the topic. For those that are not interested in the traditional, paper, format a Kindle edition is available for around $25.

With the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) or Curiosity as it is more commonly known currently scheduled to take place this November – this book serves as a historical reminder as to how the technology employed by Curiosity was both developed and refined.

Lunar and Planetary Rovers details all of the rovers to traverse the surface of the red planet, from the Mars Pathfinder; seen here, to Curiosity - currently set to launch on Nov. 25, 2011. Photo Credit: