Review by Alexandra Witze
What with Mars rovers that tweet and space telescopes with Facebook fan pages, one might think space exploration today is just another part of modern life. In this new book, however, environmental scholar Pyne reminds readers of the rich cultural history that underlies humankind’s exploration of the cosmos.
To frame his story Pyne chooses the twin Voyager missions, launched in 1977 to study Jupiter and Saturn but later extended for a “Grand Tour” that also took in Uranus and Neptune. The probes, he argues, symbolize a Third Age of exploration — the first being the 15th century ocean voyages pioneered by the Portuguese and the second the land-based exploration of the 18th century, driven in large part by rivalry between England and France.