The mission Or, how a disciple of Carl Sagan, an ex-motocross racer, a Texas Tea Party congressman, the world's worst typewriter saleswoman, California mountain people, and an anonymous NASA functionary went to war with Mars, survived an insurgency at Saturn, traded blows with Washington, and stole a ride on an Alabama moon rocket to send a space robot to Jupiter in search of the second Garden of Eden at the bottom of an alien ocean inside of an ice world called Europa (a true story)

David W. Brown

Book - 2021

A narrative chronicle of NASA's deep-space mission to Jupiter's ocean moon, Europa, discusses the remarkable work of scientists who overcame formidable hurdles in their effort to determine if organic life exists elsewhere in the solar system.

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Subjects
Genres
Creative nonfiction
Published
New York, NY : Custom House [2021]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
467 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 393-453) and index.
ISBN
9780062654427
006265442X
Main Author
David W. Brown (author)
  • The course of icy moons
  • Situations vacant
  • The Dark Ages
  • The center of the universe
  • Station
  • Maestro
  • The Death Star
  • Auto-da-fé
  • Grand theft orbiter
  • This Earth of majesty, this seat of Mars
  • E Pur Si Muove
  • The Baltimore Gun Club
  • Clipper
  • Princess-who-can-defend-herself
  • Ocean rising
  • Train driver
  • Step forward, Tin Man
  • One inch from Earth.
Review by Booklist Reviews

What goes on behind the scenes at NASA? What do these scientists who shoot rockets into space, probe the innermost secrets of the solar system, and land astronauts on the moon actually do, and how do they do it? It turns out, according to Brown, that they compete with each other a lot. Brown reveals this as he tells the dream-come-true story of the team who put together the first deep-space flyby mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter's, a much-debated quest that took 20 years to complete. Brown notes that Europa has fascinated stargazers since its discovery by Galileo, and once evidence suggested that it may contain life beneath its icy shell, scientists were determined to get close enough to study it in detail. In an account in which all strands lead back to Carl Sagan, Brown leaves no door closed as he covers the science, logistics, personalities, and politics of this extraordinary NASA mission. His extensively researched, humorous, raucous, dramatic, and pop-culture- and science-fiction-laced immersion in planetary science will have readers hanging on every word. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Journalist Brown provides a narrative of one of the most ambitious science projects ever conceived: NASA's deep-space mission to Europa. This true story has not been previously written about in such detail. Europa, one of the moons orbiting Jupiter, has miles of ice that may contain an ocean that may contain life. The story begins with Bob Pappalardo, a former disciple of Carl Sagan while a student at Cornell University. Pappalardo had multiple stops in academia and developed a doctoral thesis that focused on Jupiter's moons. He would become Project Scientist for a motley crew focused on developing a mission to explore Europa. This eclectic team encounters multiple challenges, including navigating the complexities of NASA, the White House, Congress, members of academia, and even Jupiter itself. The grit and persistence, mixed with the idealism of the group, led to creative approaches for completing the mission, including hitching a ride on another rocket launch designed to send a robot to Jupiter. This inspiring story provides a look into some of the characteristics needed to make change in a large industrial complex. Extensive notes are provided for further research. VERDICT An engaging read for all, especially for anyone curious about the details of space exploration.—Gary Medina, El Camino Coll., Torrance, CA Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Journalist Brown (Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry) brings to vivid life the 17-year effort to put together a mission to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. At the heart of the quest is Robert Pappalardo, a plucky planetary scientist whose expertise was in "icy moons" (and who studied under Carl Sagan at Cornell). Dissatisfied with his life as a professor and at the request of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in 2006 Pappalardo "packed his life and his cat and pointed his car westerly" to California to build a program to find life on Europa. There, he "oversaw all decisions affecting the project science" and in 2014 met with the administrator of NASA, to whom he "made the science case for Europa." Meanwhile, NASA was focused on sending robots to Mars, White House support for space exploration waffled from one administration to the next, and rival planetary scientists fought to fund their own projects. Not until 2015 was the Europa Clipper mission greenlighted by NASA. (Its launch date is still undetermined.) Brown skillfully braids biography, science, obsession, and accounts of bureaucracy-wrangling into this mesmerizing tale of "good, bare-fisted science." Salted with pop culture references and humor, Brown's fascinating outing will entertain anyone curious about space exploration. Agent: Stacia Decker, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Jan.) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A narrative chronicle of NASA’s deep-space mission to Jupiter’s ocean moon, Europa, discusses the remarkable work of scientists who overcame formidable hurdles in their effort to determine if organic life exists elsewhere in our solar system. 75,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A narrative chronicle of NASA's deep-space mission to Jupiter's ocean moon, Europa, discusses the remarkable work of scientists who overcame formidable hurdles in their effort to determine if organic life exists elsewhere in the solar system.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

'Exceptionally absorbing and thrilling. ... Masterful.' 'NatureA "magnificent" (Scientific American), genre-defying narrative of the most ambitious science project ever conceived: NASA's deep space mission to Europa, the Jovian moon where might swim the first known alien life in our solar systemIn the spirit of Tom Wolfe and John McPhee, The Mission is an exuberant master class of creative nonfiction that reveals how a motley, determined few expanded the horizon of human achievement. When scientists discovered the first ocean beyond Earth, they had two big questions: 'Is it habitable?' and 'How do we get there?' To answer the first, they had to solve the second, and so began a vivacious team's twenty-year odyssey to mount a mission to Europa, the ocean moon of Jupiter.Standing in their way: NASA, fanatically consumed with landing robots on Mars; the White House, which never saw a science budget it couldn't cut; Congress, fixated on going to the moon or Mars'anywhere, really, to give astronauts something to do; rivals in academia, who wanted instead to go to Saturn; and even Jupiter itself, which guards Europa in a pulsing, rippling radi­ation belt'a halo of death whose conditions are like those that follow a detonated thermonuclear bomb. The Mission is the Homeric, never-before-told story of modern space exploration, and a magnificent portrait of the inner lives of scientists who study the solar system's mysterious outer planets. David W. Brown chronicles the remarkable saga of how Europa was won, and what it takes to get things done'both down here, and up there.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

“Exceptionally absorbing and thrilling. ... Masterful.” —NatureA "magnificent" (Scientific American), genre-defying narrative of the most ambitious science project ever conceived: NASA’s deep space mission to Europa, the Jovian moon where might swim the first known alien life in our solar systemIn the spirit of Tom Wolfe and John McPhee, The Mission is an exuberant master class of creative nonfiction that reveals how a motley, determined few expanded the horizon of human achievement. When scientists discovered the first ocean beyond Earth, they had two big questions: “Is it habitable?” and “How do we get there?” To answer the first, they had to solve the second, and so began a vivacious team’s twenty-year odyssey to mount a mission to Europa, the ocean moon of Jupiter.Standing in their way: NASA, fanatically consumed with landing robots on Mars; the White House, which never saw a science budget it couldn’t cut; Congress, fixated on going to the moon or Mars—anywhere, really, to give astronauts something to do; rivals in academia, who wanted instead to go to Saturn; and even Jupiter itself, which guards Europa in a pulsing, rippling radi­ation belt—a halo of death whose conditions are like those that follow a detonated thermonuclear bomb. The Mission is the Homeric, never-before-told story of modern space exploration, and a magnificent portrait of the inner lives of scientists who study the solar system’s mysterious outer planets. David W. Brown chronicles the remarkable saga of how Europa was won, and what it takes to get things done—both down here, and up there.