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.
Stern, the leader of the NASA mission to send the first probe to Pluto, and astrobiologist Grinspoon (Earth in Human Hands), who played a small part in the project, manage to make its many technical and bureaucratic roadblocks into a thrilling narrative, despite readers' awareness of their ultimate success. The science involved in sending the spacecraft, New Horizons, over three billion miles from earth is certainly impressive, representing over two decades of work by a legion of devoted scientists. Their diligence and creativity paid off spectacularly when, in 2015, New Horizons flew by Pluto at 32,000 miles per hour and transmitted spectacular images back to Earth, reawakening a dormant public fascination with space exploration and dramatically increasing scientific knowledge. Stern's hands-on and passionate involvement with the project from its inception enables him to make potentially dull material seeking committee approvals, battling for funding, and managing relationships with superiors as interesting as the science, and he provides a valuable perspective on the practical aspects of getting a venture like this off the ground. This is a future classic of popular science, full of twists and turns and unexpected heroes (a teenager's passion for Pluto helped influence NASA administrators at a crucial moment), with a dramatic and profound payoff.