Exploration, Space, and the Third Great Age of Discovery

Additional Formats
  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9780143119593
  • 464 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


“Blooms with such glorious rushes of exalted prose that I was dog- earing almost every page.” –The New York Times Book Review

As debate over the future of NASA heats up, award-winning author Stephen J. Pyne presents America’s greatest space expeditions as the latest chapter in a continuous saga of discovery that goes back centuries. Pyne’s luminous narrative not only recounts the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 missions, launched in 1977 to explore the outer planets, but also fixes their place in Western civilization’s urge to explore-an impulse that links NASA’s scientists with Magellan, Columbus, Cook, Lewis and Clark, and other intrepid seekers through the ages. Pyne’s eye-opening look at what he calls the third age of discovery “reminds readers of the rich cultural history that underlies humankind’s exploration of the cosmos” (Science News).


“A challenging but immensely rewarding read.”
-Kirkus (starred)

“Pyne’s book isn’t just an overview of the Voyager program; it’s a sweeping history of what Pyne calls the “third age of discovery,” beginning with the first sputterings of Sputnik and reaching all the way to our recent space shuttle disasters. Along the way, we’re treated to a dense but intriguing sweep of the eras of exploration past.”

“For space geeks, it’s a sweet read; for everyone else, it’s an eye opener.”

“Today both Voyagers are still in operation and are passing beyond the edge of the solar system, serving as distant ambassadors for humankind. In this book, Pyne puts that quest in grand perspective.”
-Science News

“The Voyager story itself is an amazing one, and Mr. Pyne tells it skillfully…Mr. Pyne deftly shows how the development of rocketry, of orbital science and of computer technology all came together just in time to take advantage of a once- every-176-years planetary alignment that would allow a spacecraft to make close passes of outer planets- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune-all in one long trip.”
-The Wall Street Journal “Even the most passionate aficionado, who devoured every digital bit sent back by the Voyagers, will find this overview enriching.”
-The Washington Post

“Pyne manages to set alight the story of the Voyagers as few space writers have ever done. In a marvelous twist on the usually self-important chronicles of space missions, he places the Voyagers in their historical and sociological context.”
-Dallas Morning News

“This is not just a history of the remarkable Voyager programme. Instead, it is an attempt to analyse it as part of the broad sweep of exploration stretching back to the likes of Christopher Columbus, focusing more on the politics and culture behind these ventures than on their scientific returns.”
-New Scientist

“The Voyager spacecraft have not only clocked up a far better understanding of the outer planets, they also illustrate mankind’s third great age of discovery, according to Stephen Pyne in a fascinating new book.”
-The Economist

“If NASA’s historic achievement in manned spaceflight is a source of wonder and pride for all Americans, the agency’s epic triumphs with satellites should be just as widely known and celebrated. Stephen Pyne’s masterful Voyager show us just how the U.S. continues to command the forefront of a third age of discovery in exploring our beautiful and astonishing universe.”
-Craig Nelson, author of the New York Times bestselling Rocket Men

Praise for How the Canyon Became Grand

“This extraordinary book puts the national landmark in the context of nothing less than the intellectual history of western civilization-in 200 pages.”
-Newsday “Unique and revealing…offers great grist for discussion, perhaps as deep as the Grand Canyon itself.”
-USA Today

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“Readers…of this unusual book will find themselves in a world seldom visited by historians, let alone to the general public…Year of the Fires is a pleasure to read.”
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“Powerful and absorbing.”
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