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Dreams of Other Worlds: The Amazing Story of Unmanned Space Exploration [Hardcover]

Chris Impey , Holly Henry
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

8 Sep 2013

Dreams of Other Worlds describes the unmanned space missions that have opened new windows on distant worlds. Spanning four decades of dramatic advances in astronomy and planetary science, this book tells the story of eleven iconic exploratory missions and how they have fundamentally transformed our scientific and cultural perspectives on the universe and our place in it.

The journey begins with the Viking and Mars Exploration Rover missions to Mars, which paint a startling picture of a planet at the cusp of habitability. It then moves into the realm of the gas giants with the Voyager probes and Cassini's ongoing exploration of the moons of Saturn. The Stardust probe's dramatic round-trip encounter with a comet is brought vividly to life, as are the SOHO and Hipparcos missions to study the Sun and Milky Way. This stunningly illustrated book also explores how our view of the universe has been brought into sharp focus by NASA's great observatories--Spitzer, Chandra, and Hubble--and how the WMAP mission has provided rare glimpses of the dawn of creation.

Dreams of Other Worlds reveals how these unmanned exploratory missions have redefined what it means to be the temporary tenants of a small planet in a vast cosmos.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (8 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691147531
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691147536
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.5 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 101,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"Dreams of Other Worlds synthesizes that knowledge as it has been derived from unmanned spacecraft in the half-century since NASA was founded in 1958. . . . One of the strengths of Dreams of Other Worlds is its discussion of how the data generated by any given mission continues to produce results long after the mission ends. . . . An account of a magnificent panorama of knowledge."--Konstantin Kakaes, Wall Street Journal

"Refreshing. . . . [W]ell-analysed and presented in a scholarly yet engaging way. . . . [F]rom the interior of the Sun to the outer reaches of our Solar System--Impey and Henry are able guides. They explain the scientific imperative of these missions in a way that is accessible and interesting to specialists and generalists."--John Zarnecki, Nature

"Although less sexy than manned space travel, satellites, probes and landers have produced a scientific bonanza with more to come. Impey and Henry team up for an enthusiastic account of a dozen programs. . . . The authors' largely uncritical, gee-whiz approach is entirely appropriate since these programs were not only technological marvels, but produced dazzling, quantum-leap discoveries."--Kirkus Reviews

"[W]ell-balanced. . . . This richly illustrated work of remarkable scholarship spans the depths of the solar system, the Milky Way, and beyond, revealing how the great leaps forward in astronomy have brought into focus a landscape few could have imagined. The authors present a combination of hard science and edifying narrative that is both informative and entertaining. Recommended for NASA 'nerds' and anyone with even a passing interest in astronomy."--Library Journal

"Packed with absorbing insights and written in an accessible voice, this volume translates scientific discoveries into simple, visual terms. . . . Diverse references--ranging from the caves at Lascaux and Pythagoras to Einstein, Carl Sagan, quantum mechanics, and, yes, even Virginia Woolf--enliven and enrich this engaging and beautifully crafted book."--Kristen Rabe, ForeWord Reviews

"The book helps provide a bigger picture of the significance of studying the universe with these robotic explorers, be they spacecraft that remain in Earth orbit or, like Voyager 1, head out into the cosmos."--Jeff Foust, Space Review

"[A] riveting read. . . . The book is well told, and interweaves its story with wonderful little nuggets."--Katia Moskvitch, BBC Sky at Night

"Dreams of Other Worlds is a substantial chronology of the exploration of the solar system objects that humans have wondered about ever since Galileo first pointed his telescope at Jupiter and peered through it. The undertaking spotlights all the struggles and setbacks that ultimately led to a complete mapping of the solar system."--D. Wayne Dworsky, San Francisco Book Review

"Noted astronomer Impey has teamed up with English professor Henry to write an interesting book about NASA's unmanned space explorations. . . . People with an interest in space exploration will want to read this fascinating work."--Choice

From the Inside Flap

"When the history of the last fifty years can be viewed in a more balanced perspective, some of its most inspirational highlights will surely be the major space projects--often international in scope--that have voyaged to distant planets, extended our cosmic horizons, and deepened our understanding of Earth's place in the wider universe. This fascinating and finely written book chronicles the peak achievements in this grand exploratory endeavor, showing that credit is due to the cutting-edge technology as well as to visionary science."--Martin Rees, Trinity College, University of Cambridge, and Astronomer Royal

"Until we build the starship Enterprise, our efforts to boldly seek out new worlds will depend on mechanical surrogates. This book gives voice to their exploits--adventures not equaled since the great Age of Exploration four centuries ago. The flood of imagery sent back by these craft has revealed--for the first time--a universe of uncanny beauty, terrifying desolation, and inspiring promise. Surely, this is the most wondrous legacy of our generation."--Seth Shostak, SETI Institute

"Dreams of Other Worlds interweaves cutting-edge science, popular culture, and history, using each mission as a springboard to launch into what are sometimes quite unexpected directions. There is really nothing else quite like this book out there."--Michael A. Strauss, Princeton University

"In writing that is clear, engaging, and at times almost lyrical, Dreams of Other Worlds provides deep treatments of these important space missions and their cultural relevance. Scientifically attentive readers will gain a great deal from this book."--Stephen P. Maran, author of Astronomy for Dummies

"Dreams of Other Worlds traces the history of ideas about the cosmos from the Greeks to the latest space missions. Exciting to read and accessible to lay readers, this book offers inspiration and intriguing speculations in addition to facts."--Larry Esposito, author of Planetary Rings


Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By FictionFan TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition
Last week, NASA announced that Voyager 1, launched 36 years ago, has finally left our solar system and entered interstellar space. A mind-blowing achievement which will allow scientists to confirm some of their theories and expectations of what we will find beyond the reach of our Sun. But Voyager, impressive though it is, is only one of the amazing journeys we are making into space, some with great fanfares and trumpets, like the Mars Rovers expeditions, some less well known but no less important and inspiring for the information they send back. In this book, the authors tell us about eleven of these missions, what scientists have learned from them and how they have impacted on the popular imagination and culture.

The main thrust of the book is on the search for conditions suitable for life either on planets within our solar system or on the exoplanets that are now being identified exponentially. The early chapters cover the missions to planets and objects within our own solar system and the later part of the book is given over to the various observational missions looking beyond our little bit of the universe and back through space-time to the earliest observable point after the big bang. The enthusiasm of the authors is infectious and the book is written in such a way that it is easily accessible to the non-scientists among us. It is liberally illustrated with diagrams to help explain some of the concepts as well as pictures from Hubble and other observatories.

The authors start with a look at the Mars missions - the Viking and MER Rovers. They explain the technical marvels that got us there and contrast that with the extremely limited computing and camera facilities that were available, particularly on the Viking Rovers.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Horizons, New Worlds 12 Dec 2013
By Steve Reina - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Were Rip Van Winkle to have gone to sleep in 1958 instead of going to sleep in the 18th century and just awoken now he would have returned to a world strikingly different than the one he left.

Back in 1958 no country on Earth had yet managed to even get an object into space.

Now, a mere have century, not only have objects gone into space, but they've taken people along with them, visited other planets and even left the solar system itself.

In this breathtaking work we get a sample of just some of the exciting unmanned space missions that have occured over the past 50 years. In brief yet thorough chapters this book discusses efforts by NASA and others (NASA often works for example with the European Space Agency) to send unmanned probes into space.

For me one of the best sections of this book was its coverage of our journey to Mars. Starting with the Viking 1 and 2 missions of 1976 this book tells the story of how the missions were planned, where they landed, and the tests they performed in search of life ont the red planet. From there the book goes on to discuss the more modern Spirit and Opportunity missions which, like Pathfinder from 1998, were able to range freely on the planet because their research tools were on motorized platforms.

Anolther great chapter in this book tells the story of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 which are now 126 astronomical units and 110 astronimical units respectively away from Earth. In this section were learn about how each of the probes visited Jupiter and Saturn before continuing their missions. From them we've also gotten pretty much everything we now know about Uranus and its moon system and Neptune and its moon system.

As is made clear in the very helpful bibliography that appears at the end of this book readers interested in more information about these probes can look to other books. Two that are particularly helpful would Europa Unmasked and Titan Unveiled.

Readers famaliar with co author Chris Impey from his prior books How it will End and How it Began will recognize his easy conversational style in this great book.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "There is music in the spacing of the spheres." Pythagoras 16 Sep 2013
By FictionFan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Last week, NASA announced that Voyager 1, launched 36 years ago, has finally left our solar system and entered interstellar space. A mind-blowing achievement which will allow scientists to confirm some of their theories and expectations of what we will find beyond the reach of our Sun. But Voyager, impressive though it is, is only one of the amazing journeys we are making into space, some with great fanfares and trumpets, like the Mars Rovers expeditions, some less well known but no less important and inspiring for the information they send back. In this book, the authors tell us about eleven of these missions, what scientists have learned from them and how they have impacted on the popular imagination and culture.

The main thrust of the book is on the search for conditions suitable for life either on planets within our solar system or on the exoplanets that are now being identified exponentially. The early chapters cover the missions to planets and objects within our own solar system and the later part of the book is given over to the various observational missions looking beyond our little bit of the universe and back through space-time to the earliest observable point after the big bang. The enthusiasm of the authors is infectious and the book is written in such a way that it is easily accessible to the non-scientists among us. It is liberally illustrated with diagrams to help explain some of the concepts as well as pictures from Hubble and other observatories.

The authors start with a look at the Mars missions - the Viking and MER Rovers. They explain the technical marvels that got us there and contrast that with the extremely limited computing and camera facilities that were available, particularly on the Viking Rovers. While sadly the rovers have not found any little green men, they have found clear indications of water in the past and perhaps even still. We get to find out a little about the team behind the mission and how the information sent back changed how scientists thought about the conditions necessary to support life. The style is almost conversational and the authors very enjoyably anthropomorphise the robotic rovers, making this reader at least feel sorry for their little 'broken arm' and 'limp' - indeed, when one of the rovers finally 'died' (very bravely, I might add) I had to suppress a little tear!

The Voyager mission itself takes us first to Uranus and Jupiter before heading out beyond the edge of the solar system, while Cassini and Huygens study Saturn and its moons. As the journeys unfold, we are told how the power required to travel these distances is achieved through 'gravity assist' - using the gravity of the planets themselves as a kind of slingshot. The authors discuss how the real science of these missions inspired programmes like Star Trek and were in turn influenced by them. In fact, NASA used Nichelle Nicholls (Lt. Uhura) as a figurehead to inspire more women and minorities to enter the field.

The Stardust mission successfully captured dust from the tail of the Wild 2 comet. In this fascinating chapter, the authors explain how comets are seen as the bringers of life and also the harbingers of destruction. They explain in relatively simple terms that we are indeed stardust, as the song says. They remind us of the thrilling pictures of Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashing into Jupiter and how those images encouraged the US government to authorise NASA to monitor possible comet threats to Earth. As well as particles from Wild 2, Stardust also captured particles from the surrounding space, and the authors explain how 'open science' projects have been used to involve the public in locating these tiny, sparse particles in the aerogel that trapped them. And we are told that we have the technology to 'capture' comets into Earth orbit should we choose and use them for mining precious metals or also as a means to provide a lift off point and all the fuel required for future space missions.

The later chapters cover the observational missions - SOHO, Hipparcos, Spitzer, Chandra, Hubble and WMAP. These missions have expanded our knowledge of the universe and shed light on its origins, confirming some of the theories that had been posited while forcing re-evaluation of others. At the same time, they are daily discovering exoplanets that may be able to support life. The authors take us back through the history of cosmology from its earliest days and bring us up to date on the current theories, clearly differentiating between what is known and what has not yet been proved. We hear of the amazing technology behind these missions, the people who in some cases have spent an entire career on them, and what they have taught us. The near-disasters are covered too - the early days of the Hubble mission dogged by technical problems which led to some of the most inspiring spacewalks to date. This whole section is much more science-heavy and I struggled a few times to really grasp the concepts, but not often - on the whole, the authors were able to simplify to a level that allowed me to follow along.

A very accessible and hugely inspiring book - inspirational not just about the sheer glory of the universe, but about the amazing people who are allowing us to learn about it through them. The concluding chapter looks ahead to the exciting future missions that are on the horizon, as well as some that have already begun - the possibility of bringing samples back from Mars, better studies of Jupiter's moons, and observational missions to discover 'first light' and investigate the theory of 'inflation' following the big bang; and of course the continuing search for extraterrestrial life. Stirring stuff! If you have even the smallest amount of geekiness in your soul, I heartily recommend this to you.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Princeton University Press.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An author's dreams of space exploration 26 Dec 2013
By Ursiform - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book takes the reader through a succession of major space probes. The descriptions of the missions are good, and a pleasure to read for someone like me who grew up with many of these missions.

But this is very much the author's book, and is quirky at times. You can suddenly find yourself in a discussion of evolution, then evolution of the eye, then vertical migration of sea life, and then bioluminescence. Or music, then "space" music, then harmonics. There are many tangents in this book. Some are interesting, but the overall feel is at times a bit disjointed.

In a few cases the author takes liberties with the science, for example saying that Chandra is in the "perfect vacuum of deep space", when in fact it is in a very good, but not perfect, vacuum. But non-scientists won't be much bothered or mislead by these hyperbole.

Overall this book is well written, albeit a bit quirky. Most readers interested in the subject should enjoy it.

I was provided a copy for review by the publisher.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read 13 Dec 2013
By Ric - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Loved it. A great history of man's exploration of space from before telescopes, to where we plan to be in the near future.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars DREAMS OF OTHER WORLDS review 29 Nov 2013
By Samuel F. Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I WISH IT HAD COVERED A LITTLE MORE ABOUT THE PLANETARY SPACE MISSIONS BUT THE BOOK WAS STILL VERY GOOD
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