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Review of Mission to Pluto: The First Visit to an Ice Dwarf and the Kuiper Belt

carson_mission to plutoMission to Pluto: The First Visit to an Ice Dwarf and the Kuiper Belt [Scientists in the Field]
by Mary Kay Carson; photos by Tom Uhlman
Intermediate, Middle School    Houghton    73 pp.
1/17    978-0-544-41671-0    $18.99

In 2015, after nine years in transit from Earth, the New Horizons spacecraft successfully flew past the dwarf planet Pluto. The data sent back — including amazingly crisp images of never-before-seen surface details — has opened a new window onto the science of the outer solar system. Carson’s description of the mission, crafted from firsthand accounts and images provided by members of the scientific team, takes readers through the decades-long process of getting a multi-million-dollar NASA mission funded, built, and launched — at times in spite of politics, budget cuts, and waxing and waning public interest in space. The technical details are fascinating, since the engineering constraints for getting a light, fast, cheap machine all the way to Pluto were daunting. Equally astonishing are the scientific advances that occurred during this period: four new moons of Pluto were discovered (two in 2005 and two in 2012), and it was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006. Carson augments this account with facts about Pluto and the solar system, the schematics of the spacecraft, and the history of Pluto’s discovery by an amateur astronomer. The emotional moment when the first New Horizons data arrived — which Carson and Uhlman witnessed — is captured in the photographs included throughout the book. This data provided new information about Pluto’s composition, topography, age, and even possible recent geologic activity. The mission isn’t over yet: readers can check out the appended websites to follow New Horizons into the Kuiper Belt…and perhaps beyond.

From the March/April 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Danielle J. Ford About Danielle J. Ford

Danielle J. Ford is a Horn Book reviewer and an associate professor of Science Education at the University of Delaware.

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