Have you ever heard about New Horizons spacecraft? Did you know that it flew by dwarf planet Pluto in 2015, which was never been done before? Did you know that in 2018 it visited a Kuiper Belt Object Ultima Thule, now officially known as Arrokoth? If you answered no to any of these questions and you are interested in deep space exploration then you may find this post interesting.
The post is a short review of the book Chasing New Horizons : inside the epic first mission to Pluto. If you already read other books on the subject, then this one could resemble to you The Interstellar Age by Jim Bell or The Right Kind of Crazy by Adam Steltzner. If not, then buckle up and lift off!
Back in 2015 Pluto was still a dwarf planet that little was known about except its orbit, its approximate mass and volume, and composition of its atmosphere. No space mission had visited it before, though one of the Voyager probes was planned to visit it, but it didn’t happen. In 2015 with a flyby of the New Horizons spacecraft, Pluto has revealed its secrets and new exciting data became available to scientists and a larger audience.
The book Chasing New Horizons is all about telling the story of how this flyby became a reality and how dedication and perseverance of a group of relentless planetary scientists, engineers and space enthusiasts put their careers on a line to make this happen. It was written by Dr. Alan Stern who was a Principal Investigator (PI) behind New Horizons mission and Dr. David Grinspoon, an astrobiologist, who also took part in the mission. It tells the story of how the mission was conceived back in late 80’s of the previous century, how it took about 27 years from an idea to its implementation and what obstacles the team had to overcome to make it a reality.
What I liked about the book
As I’ve already mentioned in my other post, I find the that the most interesting books are books written not by journalists, but by actual scientists, engineers, project managers and others, who were there, who made the decisions, who first hand experienced what happened before their own eyes.
This book stands out in comparison to similar ones about space, since it is able to engage readers in an exciting story of exploration of new horizons despite the hurdles emerging almost daily along the way, that would prevent other people from proceeding forward. I like how the NASA’s inner politics, engineering tradeoffs and solutions to emerging problems were described in detail in the book. This way a reader gets a better context of how the events unfolded and why.
Significant part of the books is also dedicated to describing day-to-day activities, such as mission planning, spacecraft housekeeping that were carried out to support the ongoing New Horizons journey to Pluto. By providing these details authors made it feel like you actually were there in mission control room observing what had happened in a real time.
All in all, books like this make you appreciate what we people are capable of when we are driven by high goals of exploration, knowledge advancement and pure joy of adventures. And such books make you crave for more.
- Books on deep space exploration I’ve read and recommend