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The Martian Principles for Successful Enterprise Systems: 20 Lessons Learned from NASAs Mars Exploration Rover Mission

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When you need to land and operate a robot on Mars, "halfway" software is not an option. While helping to develop the Collaborative Information Portal, or CIP, for NASA's Mars Exploration Rover mission, Ronald Mak identified and refined a set of principles that represent the fundamental goals necessary for any successful enterprise system. Following them, Mak's team developed a CIP that scientists, researchers, and engineers have been using continually for over two years to access data from two Martian rovers. Its uptime record—99.9%.

The principles are language and platform independent. They're not design patterns or code samples. They're not even rocket science. They just work.

Real-world examples from the Rover mission help you learn to:

  • Take advantage of what others have learned from their mistakes
  • Realize that clients may not know how to know what they want
  • Acknowledge that you aren't clairvoyant
  • Think like a user
  • Test, anticipate, be flexible, and keep it simple
  • Recognize that code integration is a greater challenge than code development
  • Become the successful architect of a successful system
About the Author

Ronald Mak
was a senior computer scientist and software architect at the NASA Ames Research Center. He was the architect and lead developer of the middleware for the Collaborative Information Portal, an important enterprise software system that is a part of NASA’s ongoing and highly successful Mars Exploration Rover mission. Mission managers, scientists, and engineers continue to use CIP—after over two years of continuous operation, it has an uptime record of better than 99.9 percent.

Working as a key member of the CIP development teamvalidated the principles that Ron describes in this book.Ron was also the architect and lead developer of an enterprise class information portal for NASA’s International Space Station and the future Crew Exploration Vehicle.

Prior to joining NASA, Ron had over 15 years of experience designing and developing enterprise systems using several programming languages and technologies on various platforms.
Most of these systems were highly successful, but therewere a few failures, too. The Martian principles are derivedfrom these experiences.
Ron held an academic appointment with the University of California at Santa Cruz, and he worked on contract to NASAAmes. He earned his B.S. degree with distinction in the Mathematical Sciences and his M.S.
degree in Computer Science from Stanford University.

He has written three previous books on computer science, Java Number Cruncher, the Java Programmer’s Guide to Numerical Computing (Prentice Hall PTR, 2003), Writing Compilers and Interpreters, C++ Edition (Wiley, 1996), and Writing Compilers and Interpreters, a Practical Approach (Wiley, 1991). He recently wrote several papers about CIP for refereed journals. He continues to hone his exposition of the Martian principles by giving presentations to both industry and academic audiences.

Ron recently co-founded and is the CTO of Willard & Lowe Systems, Inc. (www.willardlowe.com) which develops enterprise systems for information management and collaboration.
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