Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto

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Called "spellbinding" (Scientific American) and "thrilling...a future classic of popular science" (PW), the up close, inside story of the greatest space exploration project of our time, New Horizons’ mission to Pluto, as shared with David Grinspoon by mission leader Alan Stern and other key players.

On July 14, 2015, something amazing happened. More than 3 billion miles from Earth, a small NASA spacecraft called New Horizons screamed past Pluto at more than 32,000 miles per hour, focusing its instruments on the long mysterious icy worlds of the Pluto system, and then, just as quickly, continued on its journey out into the beyond.

Nothing like this has occurred in a generation—a raw exploration of new worlds unparalleled since NASA’s Voyager missions to Uranus and Neptune—and nothing quite like it is planned to happen ever again. The photos that New Horizons sent back to Earth graced the front pages of newspapers on all 7 continents, and NASA’s website for the mission received more than 2 billion hits in the days surrounding the flyby. At a time when so many think that our most historic achievements are in the past, the most distant planetary exploration ever attempted not only succeeded in 2015 but made history and captured the world’s imagination.

How did this happen? Chasing New Horizons is the story of the men and women behind this amazing mission: of their decades-long commitment and persistence; of the political fights within and outside of NASA; of the sheer human ingenuity it took to design, build, and fly the mission; and of the plans for New Horizons’ next encounter, 1 billion miles past Pluto in 2019. Told from the insider’s perspective of mission leader Dr. Alan Stern and others on New Horizons, and including two stunning 16-page full-color inserts of images, Chasing New Horizons is a riveting account of scientific discovery, and of how much we humans can achieve when people focused on a dream work together toward their incredible goal.

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About the author

DR. ALAN STERN is principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, leading NASA’s exploration of the Pluto system and the Kuiper Belt. A planetary scientist, space-program executive, aerospace consultant, and author, he has participated in over two dozen scientific space missions and has been involved at the highest levels in several aspects of American space exploration. Dr. Stern is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2016 Carl Sagan Memorial Award of the American Astronautical Society, and has twice been named to the Time 100. He lives in Colorado.

DR. DAVID GRINSPOON is an astrobiologist, award-winning science communicator, and prize-winning author. In 2013 he was appointed the inaugural chair of astrobiology at the Library of Congress. He is a frequent advisor to NASA on space-exploration strategy, and is on the science teams for several interplanetary spacecraft missions. Grinspoon's previous books include Earth in Human Hands (2016) and his writing has appeared inThe New York Times, Slate, Scientific American, Los Angeles Times, and others. He lives in Washington, DC.

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4.7
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Additional Information

Publisher
Picador
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Published on
May 1, 2018
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9781250098986
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Astronomy
Science / Physics / Astrophysics
Science / Space Science
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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There's a whole universe out there ... and this book is your journey into space.

Imagine you had a spacecraft capable of travelling through interstellar space. You climb in, blast into orbit, fly out of the solar system and keep going. Where do you end up, and what do you see along the way?

The answer is: mostly nothing. Space is astonishingly, mind-blowingly empty. As you travel through the void between galaxies your spaceship encounters nothing more exciting than the odd hydrogen molecule. But when it does come across something more exotic: wow!

First and most obviously, stars and planets. Some are familiar from our own backyard: yellow suns, rocky planets like Mars, gas and ice giants like Jupiter and Neptune. But there are many more: giant stars, red and white dwarfs, super-earths and hot Jupiters.

Elsewhere are swirling clouds of dust giving birth to stars, and infinitely dense regions of space-time called black holes. These clump together in the star clusters we call galaxies, and the clusters of galaxies we call... galaxy clusters.

And that is just the start. As we travel further we encounter ever more weird, wonderful and dangerous entities: supernovas, supermassive black holes, quasars, pulsars, neutron stars, black dwarfs, quark stars, gamma ray bursts and cosmic strings.

A Journey Through The Universe is a grand tour of the most amazing celestial objects and how they fit together to build the cosmos.

As for the end of the journey - nobody knows. But getting there will be fun.

For the first time in Earth's history, our planet is experiencing a confluence of rapidly accelerating changes prompted by one species: humans. Climate change is only the most visible of the modifications we've made--up until this point, inadvertently--to the planet. And our current behavior threatens not only our own future but that of countless other creatures. By comparing Earth's story to those of other planets, astrobiologist David Grinspoon shows what a strange and novel development it is for a species to evolve to build machines, and ultimately, global societies with world-shaping influence. Without minimizing the challenges of the next century, Grinspoon suggests that our present moment is not only one of peril, but also great potential, especially when viewed from a 10,000-year perspective. Our species has surmounted the threat of extinction before, thanks to our innate ingenuity and ability to adapt, and there's every reason to believe we can do so again. Our challenge now is to awaken to our role as a force of planetary change, and to grow into this task. We must become graceful planetary engineers, conscious shapers of our environment and caretakers of Earth's biosphere. This is a perspective that begs us to ask not just what future do we want to avoid, but what do we seek to build? What kind of world do we want? Are humans the worst thing or the best thing to ever happen to our planet? Today we stand at a pivotal juncture, and the answer will depend on the choices we make.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The riveting inside story of three heroic astronauts who took on the challenge of mankind’s historic first mission to the Moon, from the bestselling author of Shadow Divers.

“Robert Kurson tells the tale of Apollo 8 with novelistic detail and immediacy.”—Andy Weir, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Martian and Artemis

By August 1968, the American space program was in danger of failing in its two most important objectives: to land a man on the Moon by President Kennedy’s end-of-decade deadline, and to triumph over the Soviets in space. With its back against the wall, NASA made an almost unimaginable leap: It would scrap its usual methodical approach and risk everything on a sudden launch, sending the first men in history to the Moon—in just four months. And it would all happen at Christmas.

In a year of historic violence and discord—the Tet Offensive, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago—the Apollo 8 mission would be the boldest, riskiest test of America’s greatness under pressure. In this gripping insider account, Robert Kurson puts the focus on the three astronauts and their families: the commander, Frank Borman, a conflicted man on his final mission; idealistic Jim Lovell, who’d dreamed since boyhood of riding a rocket to the Moon; and Bill Anders, a young nuclear engineer and hotshot fighter pilot making his first space flight.

Drawn from hundreds of hours of one-on-one interviews with the astronauts, their loved ones, NASA personnel, and myriad experts, and filled with vivid and unforgettable detail, Rocket Men is the definitive account of one of America’s finest hours. In this real-life thriller, Kurson reveals the epic dangers involved, and the singular bravery it took, for mankind to leave Earth for the first time—and arrive at a new world.

“Rocket Men is a riveting introduction to the [Apollo 8] flight. . . . Kurson details the mission in crisp, suspenseful scenes. . . . [A] gripping book.”—The New York Times Book Review
Astrophysicist and NPR commentator on what the latest research on the existence and trajectories of alien civilizations may teach us about our own.

Light of the Stars tells the story of humanity’s coming of age as we awaken to the possibilities of life on other worlds and their sudden relevance to our fate on Earth. Astrophysicist Adam Frank traces the question of alien life and intelligence from the ancient Greeks to the leading thinkers of our own time, and shows how we as a civilization can only hope to survive climate change if we recognize what science has recently discovered: that we are just one of ten billion trillion planets in the Universe, and it’s highly likely that many of those planets hosted technologically advanced alien civilizations. What’s more, each of those civilizations must have faced the same challenge of civilization-driven climate change.

Written with great clarity and conviction, Light of the Stars builds on the inspiring work of pioneering scientists such as Frank Drake and Carl Sagan, whose work at the dawn of the space age began building the new science of astrobiology; Jack James, the Texas-born engineer who drove NASA’s first planetary missions to success; Vladimir Vernadsky, the Russian geochemist who first envisioned the Earth’s biosphere; and James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, who invented Gaia theory. Frank recounts the perilous journey NASA undertook across millions of miles of deep space to get its probes to Venus and Mars, yielding our first view of the cosmic laws of planets and climate that changed our understanding of our place in the universe.

Thrilling science at the grandest of scales, Light of the Stars explores what may be the largest question of all: What can the likely presence of life on other worlds tell us about our own fate?

It's been nearly four decades since Carl Sagan first addressed the general public from a scientist's perspective, confronting the possibility of extraterrestrial life. We've learned a lot in those years, and planetary scientist David Grinspoon is well prepared to explore this field with a new generation of readers. In Lonely Planets, Grinspoon investigates the big questions: How widespread are life and intelligence in the cosmos? Is life on Earth an accident or in some sense the "purpose" of this universe? And how can we, working from the Earth-centric definition of "life," even begin to think about the varieties of life-forms on other planets?

In accessible, lively prose, and using the topic of extraterrestrial life as a mirror with which to view human beliefs, evolution, history, and aspirations, Grinspoon takes readers on a three-part journey.

History is an overview of our expanding awareness of other planets, from the observations of seventeenth-century natural philosophers to modern-day space exploration. It traces the history of our ideas on alien life to the earliest days of astronomy, and shows how these beliefs have changed with humanity's evolving self-image.

Science tells the story of cosmic evolution and the evolution of life on Earth. Here, Grinspoon disputes the recent "Rare Earth hypothesis," which argues that Earth is unique for sprouting advanced life-forms, maintaining instead that life is likely to be well adapted to a wide variety of planets. He questions conventional assumptions of what is required for a planet to come to life, scrutinizing current ideas and evidence for life on Mars, Venus, and the moons of Jupiter, and challenging readers to think about other life-forms that may exist on other worlds.

Belief discusses the limits of our abilities to conceptualize or communicate with intelligent aliens living on planets circling distant stars. Grinspoon speculates on what intelligent life might become, eventually, on Earth and elsewhere, and the implications, both scientific and philosophical, of these far-future evolutionary possibilities.

Written with authority and edge, and rich in personal,often amusing anecdotes, Lonely Planets explores the shifting boundary between planetary science and naturalphilosophy and reveals how the search for extraterrestrial life unites our spiritual and scientific quests for connection with the cosmos.

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