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Distant Worlds: Milestones in Planetary Exploration / Edition 1

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This book recounts the epic saga of how we as human beings have come to understand the Solar System. The story of our exploration of the heavens, Peter Bond reminds us, began thousands of years ago, with the naked-eye observations of the earliest scientists and philosophers. Over the centuries, as our knowledge and understanding inexorably broadened and deepened, we faltered many times, frequently labored under misconceptions, and faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles to understanding. Yet, despite overwhelming obstacles, a combination of determined observers, brilliant thinkers, courageous explorers, scientists and engineers has brought us, particularly over the last five decades, into a second great age of human discovery.

At our present level of understanding, some fifty years into the Space Age, the sheer volume of images and other data being returned to us from space has only increased our appetite for more and more detailed information about the planets, moons, asteroids, and comets of the Solar System. Taking a much-needed overview of how we now understand these "distant worlds" in our cosmic neighborhood, Bond not only celebrates the extraordinary successes of planetary exploration, but reaffirms an important truth: For seekers of knowledge, there will always be more to explore.

An astonishing saga of exploration…

In this much-needed overview of "where we stand today," Peter Bond describes the achievements of the astronomers, space scientists, and engineers who have made the exploration of our Solar System possible. A clearly written and compelling account of the Space Age, the book includes:

• Dramatic accounts of the daring, resourcefulness, and ferocious competitive zeal of renowned as well as almost-forgotten space pioneers.

• Clear explanations of the precursors to modern astronomy, including how ancient natural philosophers and observers first took the measure of the heavens.

• More than a hundred informative photographs, maps, simulated scenarios, and technical illustrations—many of them in full color.

• Information-dense appendices on the physical properties of our Solar System, as well as a comprehensive list of 50 years of Solar System missions.

Organized into twelve chapters focused on the objects of our exploration (the individual planets, our Moon, the asteroids and comets), Bond’s text shows how the great human enterprise of space exploration may on occasion have faltered or wandered off the path, but taken as a whole amounts to one of the great triumphs of human civilization.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

From the reviews:

"The author describes the achievements of the astronomers, space scientists, and engineers … . This compelling account of the Space Age includes dramatic accounts of the daring, resourcefulness, and ferocious competitive zeal of renowned as well as almost-forgotten space pioneers; clear explanations of the precursors to modern astronomy … 100 informative photographs, maps, simulated scenarios, and technical illustrations, many in full color; appendices on the physical properties of our solar system; as well as a comprehensive list of 50 years of solar system missions." (The Lunar and Planetary Information Bulletin, May, 2007)

"Peter Bond, a professional Science writer with close ties to the Royal Astronomical Society, provides a comprehensive and well-illustrated summary of planetary exploration … . The account is both accurate and up-to date. … This is an ideal introduction to the current state of Solar System science, whether you’re a science student, amateur astronomer or interested layperson." (Fred Taylor, BBC Sky at Night, August, 2007)

"In an overview of ‘where we stand today’, Peter Bond describes the remarkable achievements of the astronomers, space scientists, and engineers who have made it possible to unravel the mysteries of the distant worlds that make up our Solar System. … More than 250 illustrations, including photographs, maps, artists’ impressions, and explanatory diagrams-many of them in full color. … Bond shows how the great enterprise of planetary exploration can justifiably be regarded as one of the great triumphs of human civilization." (, May, 2007)

"The author writes with a fresh, fast pace that captures the excitement of exploring each planet in those heady, early days of space exploration … . The text is fully up-to-date, including results from the Huygens probe to Saturn’s moon Titan, and the discovery of new moons orbiting Pluto. … plenty of detail on the historical discoveries and science of each planet add to the value of this book. Packed with images … this is a visual as well as textual masterpiece." (John Rowlands, Astronomy Now, July, 2007)

"Peter Bond explores how ground-based observers and robotic sentinels have alleviated our astronomical ignorance about the solar systern. … Bond provides an engaging chronology of each world and its satellites, as well as separate chapters for asteroids and comets. … Appendices list all planetary missions grouped by target, characteristics of the planets and satellites, lunar and planetary ‘firsts’, and a wealth of printed and online references." (Stuart J. Goldman, Sky and Telescope, October, 2007)

"As an introduction and overview to our current understanding of the solar system, Distant Worlds is a serviceable book. Bond provides a readable, accurate review of our knowledge of each planet, as well as comets and asteroids. … Distant Worlds is a good review of our (more-or-less) current understanding of the solar system, particularly for those people not terribly familiar with anything more than the basics."(Jeff Foust, The Space Review, June, 2007)

"Bond writes in a clear, concise fashion that would be interesting reading for an undergraduate. … The index is well done. Summing Up: … General readers; lower division undergraduates." (J. R. Kraus, CHOICE, Vol. 45 (2), October, 2007)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780387402123
  • Publisher: Springer New York
  • Publication date: 2/28/2007
  • Edition description: 2007
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 324
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Bond is a Press Officer for the Royal Astronomical Society and Consultant for the European Space Agency.

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Table of Contents

Discovering Distant Worlds.- Mercury: The Iron Planet.- Venus: The Runaway Greenhouse.- The Moon: Queen of the night.- Mars: The red planet.- Asteroids: Vermin of the skies.- Jupiter: King of the planets.- Saturn: Lightweight lord of the rings.- Uranus: The toppled giant.- Neptune: The last giant.- Pluto: King of the Kuiper Belt.- Comets: Cosmic icebergs.

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