Under Desert Skies: How Tucson Mapped the Way to the Moon and Planets

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An upstart planetary laboratory in Tucson would play a vital role in the nation s grand new venture, and in doing so, it would help create the field of planetary science. Founded by Gerard P.

Under Desert Skies: How Tucson Mapped The Way To The Moon And Planets

Kuiper in , the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory LPL at the University of Arizona broke free from traditional astronomical techniques to embrace a wide range of disciplines necessary to the study of planets, including geology, atmospheric sciences, and the elegant emerging technology of spacecraft. Brash, optimistic young students crafted a unique sense of camaraderie in the fledgling institution. Driven by curiosity and imagination, LPL scientists lived through and, indeed, made happen the shattering transition in which Earth s nearest neighbors became more than simple points of light in the sky.

Under Desert Skies tells the story of how a small corner of Arizona became Earth s ambassador to space. From early efforts to reach the Moon to the first glimpses of Mars s bleak horizons and Titan s swirling atmosphere to the latest ambitious plans to touch an asteroid, LPL s history encompasses humanity s unfolding knowledge about our place in the universe. Additional Product Features Dewey Edition.

Learn “How Tucson Mapped the Way to the Moon and Planets”

Melissa Sevigny has captured this remarkable story in a well-researched, thoroughly enjoyable manner. It is a must-read for anybody interested in humanity's quest to understand our origins and place in the universe. Show More Show Less.


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It coincided with an effort by the university to raise its profile as a research institution. More importantly, it came as the Space Race heated up, raising the profile of, and funding for, the Moon and lunar research. But Kuiper also comes off, among those who worked with or studied under him, as aloof and autocratic.

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Kuiper passed away in , but the lab continued to grow and evolve, like the emerging discipline of planetary science—one that increasingly incorporated the geological sciences in addition to astronomy. That meant, over time, more people working on a wider range of research across the solar system. Under Desert Skies is an enjoyable history of LPL and the people who helped create not just an institute, but also shaped the development of a new scientific field.

Jeff Foust jeff thespacereview. He also operates the Spacetoday. Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.


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