The first spacecraft to explore the secrets of the Sun, Jupiter, Saturn, and the void beyond Pluto, the Pioneer space probes have been the trailblazers of the space age, truly going where no man has gone before.
Emblazoned with the nude figures of a man and a woman, etched representations of our human form, the Pioneer generation of probes were aptly named. Launched into the inky depths of space, they were more than mere machines, they were humanity's first emissaries into deep space. And the pictorial inscriptions that adorned the crafts embodied the hopes and dreams of everyone involved in the Pioneer program. They were our humble attempt to communicate with the extraterrestrial intelligent life we imagined the probes might encounter -- they were our message in a bottle.
Perhaps the most efficient, reliable, and cost effective program to come out of NASA, the Pioneer missions are a shining example of how a small and talented group of people can, against all odds, pull something off that has never been done before. Indeed, more than thirty years after its launch in 1972, Pioneer 10 is still cruising into interstellar space, sending back data as it courses through the galaxy while Pioneer 6, in solar orbit, is more than 35 years old and humankind's oldest functioning spacecraft. But despite their enduring contributions, the Pioneer project remains a footnote in space history, little more than a humble prologue to its inheritors.
The Depths of Space recounts the long overdue history of Pioneer both as a scientific and technological achievement and as the story of the exceptional people who made the program possible. This tight narrative captures the black-coffee buzz of full-throttle, deadline-driven production, the sharp, intense thrill of discovery, the pang of anxiety that accompanies looming danger and ultimate loss, and the satisfaction and pride of creating an enduring legacy.
"Wolverton conveys the intense competition within NASA as scientists at Ames jockeyed with other space centers, first to run the Pioneer projects, then to get the valuable allocation of radio antenna time to answer the crafts'ever fainter signals. ... Space buffs will revel in this well-told tale of the little space probes that could."
-- Publishers Weekly, April 19, 2004
"Depths of Space does an excellent job describing the history of the Pioneer program in a manner that is detailed yet accessible to the casual reader."
-- Sky & Telescope, September 2004
"The Depths of Space does an excellent job describing the history of the Pioneer program in a manner that is accessible to the casual reader."
-- The Space Review, August 9, 2004
"The Pioneers are heading for the stars, bearing a message from Earth. The message of this book -- the story of those legendary space probes -- is that human beings, working together, can achieve incredible things."
-- Andrew Chaikin, author of A Man on the Moon
"The author uses an economical and fluid literary style that zips along nicely. ... This is a fine book, filled with lots of nostalgia and heart-warming stories."
-- Planetarian, December 2004
"Space travel buffs and history lovers alike will revel in this awesome and inspiring book about the Pioneer planetary probes, the forgotten trailblazers that took us deep into the unknown from 1958 to the late 1970s. ... This well-rounded book reads with the excitement of a thriller or sci-fi novel, but also with historical depth and scientific detail. The combination is a satisfying journey into space that will please both the dreamer and the down-to-earth. The blood, sweat and tears involved in the planning and execution, the successes and the heart-breaking failures, of the Pioneer probes is laid out in all its glory, complete with both the human stories and the intricate scientific challenges that combined to make these first forays into space so important and ground-breaking."
-- Curled Up With a Good Book, December 2004
"This extraordinarily well written text traces the chronology of the Pioneer 0-13 space probes, beginning in 1958 and concluding with the last signal received from Pioneer 10, 7.5 billion miles from Earth in 2001. Through meticulous, well-documented research, the author develops an engaging story that provides an insight into the political, social, and scientific complexities that permeated what may arguably be the most successful series of unmanned space missions ever launched. ... This volume is an absolute 'must read' for any one interested in the development of NASA's unmanned space program. It should be in every library that endeavors to provide its patrons with excellent material that will pique interest in, and further understanding of, space exploration."
-- Science Books & Films, Nov/Dec 2004
"...refreshing insight into the science and the politics of the Pioneer space probes... a very readable and pleasant historical look at some of the significant issues surrounding the Pioneer space probes. ...it contains excellent views into some of the significant trials, tribulations and credos for humankind's first spacecraft to go boldly where none had gone before."
-- Universe Today, Sept. 14, 2004
"Wolverton documents how time and time again these missions achieved far more information for far less money than anyone could have imagined and in the process launched an era of space exploration."
-- Science News, July 17, 2004
"...[a] gripping account of the achievements of a remarkable set of 19 spacecraft in their exploration of the sun and the planets. ... Highly recommended for space-age history buffs."
-- CHOICE, November 2004
"...an informed and informative historical overview of the Pioneer space probe mission program... Superbly written, The Depths of Space is a seminal and enthusiastically recommended addition to personal and community library Space Exploration History reading lists and reference shelves."
-- The Bookwatch, September 2004
"NASA's Pioneer 10 and 11 probes were the first spacecraft to boldly go farther, faster and longer than any manmade object has ever had gone before. This intriguing tale of their navigating the uncharted asteroid belt, barnstorming the treacherous outer planets, and hurtling onto the far-flung stars is the space-age version of Homers' Odyssey. Except here the story is real."
-- Ray Villard, News Director, Space Telescope Science Institute
"Wolverton gives us a highly accessible, well-crafted history of a stupendously underappreciated era in space science and exploration. The Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft were our first emissaries to Jupiter and Saturn in the 1970s. They were the instruments that helped to turn these planets into real places, to echo the sentiments of Carl Sagan, but their legacy does not end there. Wolverton's finely tuned tale of technical challenge and scientific success carries us to the farthest regions of the known Solar System, into the very 'depths of Space.'"
-- David DeVorkin, Curator of the History of Astronomy and the Space Sciences at the National Air and Space Museum
"From the 'Great Galactic Ghoul' to the plaque that carried human images to the stars, Wolverton engagingly tells the story of the first forays to the outer solar system and beyond."
-- William K. Hartmann, author of A Traveler's Guide to Mars and Cities of Gold
"Skillfully tells the audacious story of a small group of Americans who built and flew the first spacecraft to travel beyond Mars and escape our solar system. The tale is not only inspiring, it teaches us lessons we must learn if our future efforts to conquer space are to be as successful."
-- Robert Zimmerman, author of Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel
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