Sunday, September 12, 2021

REVIEW: Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto (audiobook) by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon, narrated by the authors

Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto is nonfiction. I listened to it through OverDrive.


This book gives a behind-the-scenes look at the New Horizons interplanetary space probe: what it took to get it funded, the work necessary to get the public excited about Pluto and the mission, some of the decision-making processes along the way, and more.

I didn't write it down, but I believe the primary narrator for this was David Grinspoon - Alan Stern also narrated a bit, but only small sections. (Or I mixed up the names and it's actually the reverse.) Although the narration wasn't terrible, and definitely communicated how exciting and nerve-wracking this mission was, I found myself wishing that it had been narrated by someone else. It took me longer than it should have to get through this book, two checkout periods, and my slight dislike of the narration was part of the reason why. Grinspoon's voice didn't quite work for me.

Overall, this was a nice overview of the New Horizons mission for someone like myself (enough of an interest in space to have listened to at least one other nonfiction book on the topic, but otherwise not very knowledgeable). I could feel the tension whenever the team ran into problems, and one of my favorite parts was the nerve-wracking bit just before the close flyby at Pluto. I also liked the book's science communication aspects - in order for the project to happen in the first place, a lot of people had to be convinced that it was worth doing, and part of that relied on selling the public on Pluto and its importance. And, same as in Rob Manning and William L. Simon's Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account from Curiosity's Chief Engineer, a large chunk of the book was devoted to efforts to get the mission funded. I wasn't as interested in this, but it was clearly a source of stress and concern for the team.

The narrative could get a bit melodramatic at times, and the authors were fond of Star Wars references. Also, yeesh, there were a lot of bickering scientists. JPL vs. APL and efforts to get approval and funding, and the whole "Pluto isn't a planet" thing brushed off as just one scientist disliking another one enough to want to undo his legacy. Still, this was a decent book, and I definitely learned a few things.

No comments:

Post a Comment