The Mission: A True Story

The Mission: A True Story

by David W Brown


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"An extraordinary tale, extraordinarily told." –Megan Abbott

A "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 system

In 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062654427
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/26/2021
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 31,875
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

David W. Brown is a freelance writer whose nonfiction appears frequently in The Atlantic, The New York TimesScientific American, and Smithsonian. His other publishers include The New YorkerVox, and Foreign Policy. He is an Antarctic expeditioner, an endurance runner, a former Army paratrooper, and a veteran of Afghanistan. He is a graduate of Louisiana State University and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Arkansas at Monticello. The Mission is his fourth book. Brown lives in New Orleans. 

Table of Contents

Dramatis Personæ x

Chapter 1 The Course of Icy Moons 1

Chapter 2 Situations Vacant 34

Chapter 3 The Dark Ages 53

Chapter 4 The Center of the Universe 110

Chapter 5 Station 133

Chapter 6 Maestro 155

Chapter 7 The Death Star 188

Chapter 8 Auto-da-fé 199

Chapter 9 Grand Theft Orbiter 234

Chapter 10 This Earth of Majesty, This Seat of Mars 251

Chapter 11 E Pur Si Muove 263

Chapter 12 The Baltimore Gun Club 287

Chapter 13 Clipper 317

Chapter 14 Princess-Who-Can-Defend-Herself 326

Chapter 15 Ocean Rising 337

Chapter 16 Train Driver 344

Chapter 17 Step Forward, Tin Man 355

Chapter 18 One Inch from Earth 371

Acknowledgments 391

Notes 393

Index 455

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