The possibility that other life could exist within our universe has been an underlying hope ever since humans started exploring the heavens. In his latest book, The Mission: A True Story, writer David W. Brown (Deep State) relates the novel story of Europa Clipper, the planned NASA mission to explore Jupiter's moon Europa, home to a saltwater ocean flowing beneath its icy exterior. Even though Europa is far from the sun, its salty subterranean sea is warmed by the forces of gravity, its orbital proximity to Jupiter and the interplay of nearby moons.
Brown cleverly sets the scene for this impressive initiative by weaving together the backstories of NASA scientists, past and present. He digs deep into the NASA vault, meticulously detailing the seemingly insurmountable odds these men and women have faced over the years, including a lack of funds and wavering levels of interest and support from both the public and various presidential administrations.
As a result, The Mission is as much about the people behind space exploration as it is about the science of distant moons. Brown spent seven years interviewing these folks, and it shows in the way he vividly captures the challenges, triumphs and disappointments they have confronted, including the 20 years it took to convince NASA to sanction Europa Clipper.
Brown's experience writing for publications such as The Atlantic, Scientific American and Smithsonian also shines through as he provides context about the vast distances involved in space travel and explains the hardcore science in layman’s terms while adding a humorous tone. He writes with descriptive prose, such as when he coins Earth’s beginning as “a swelling union of dust and hydrogen . . . its rapacious core inhaling everything available.”
To help readers navigate the who’s who and what’s what of NASA, Brown graciously includes a dramatis personae in the frontmatter, listing the major players and spacecrafts mentioned throughout this weighty tome. Combining science and technology with the emotional human experience, The Mission is a fresh look at the future of space exploration.