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