Friday, September 22, 2017

A Truly Epic Read

Hey, guys, the word "epic" gets tossed around a lot. As in--"Wasn't that an epic party, man?" or "That was a truly epic hot dog, dude." Well, this book has the word in its title and it really does tackle an epic subject--a journey from earth to the giant outer planets of the Solar System and beyond. It's Voyager's Greatest Hits: The Epic Trek to Interstellar Space by Alexandra Siy and it is one amazing story!

Way back in 1965, some graduate students started thinking about "using gravity to propel a spacecraft from one planet to the next, indefinitely." That way an exploratory spacecraft could explore huge amounts of space with a minimum of fuel. Scientists then realized that a "rare planetary alignment would occur during the 1980's"--a perfect time to use the gravity effect to explore the outer planets. So NASA built two space probes, named each one "Voyager" and launched them on August 20 and September 5 of 1977. (Hey, that makes this the 40th anniversary!) The rest of the book tells this incredible story. It's amazing--two lone space craft, operating on 1977 technology  travel vast distances to discover things no one ever suspected existed in the Solar System, like volcanoes on a moon of Jupiter! And those Voyagers are still transmitting data to us today from interstellar space. If this doesn't qualify as an epic story, I don't what does!

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Photo of Saturn taken by Voyager
This book is truly an enthralling read and any guy will enjoy it. It can be read in about an hour and is full of great stories of interplanetary travel, thrilling discoveries, fascinating scientists (you'll be happy to know that a lot of them were women) and strange facts that people have still not figured out. Plus the story moves right along. It could have gotten bogged down in a lot of technical terms or lengthy scientific explanations but doesn't. You get enough background, maps and charts and to make you understand what's going on and appreciate the challenges the mission had to overcome but these don't interrupt the flow of the story.  Plus there are breathtaking photos taken by the Voyagers all throughout the book. Plus there is a really interesting final chapter on the "golden record," a very good note from the author on why she wrote the book, a very helpful glossary, good book recommendations and a fan-tastic list of websites, some of which I've checked out already and had to make myself stop before I spent all afternoon on them! Boys, this book is not just for astronomy nerds, not just for science geeks but for everyone! Go check it out. It's epic!

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A Voyager spacecraft--can you find the golden record?

All right, guys, you can stop here if you'd like but if you wouldn't mind, the Iron Guy would like to add a PS to my review and it's about what may be the most incredible fact of all. Try to wrap your brains around this--the two space probes that are still zipping through space at 35000 mph and still sending us data from outside from interstellar space were built with, equipped and still operating with 1970's technology!! Think about that for a moment. Would you use a computer from the 1980's? Or trust a phone or tablet that was more than five years old? Yet we are still hearing from equipment that was built before 1980. For crying out loud, the info on the Voyagers is recorded on eight track players!! Go ask your grandparents about those if you want to get a perspective on how ancient that technology is.

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Yes, boys, go ask your grandparents about eight track players (don't ask the  Iron Guy how he knows about them!)

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

My brain is exploding over that eight track! Such a crazy thought, that information like that could have been stored on something which seems to old fashioned now. I agree that this looks like an epic book, though!