The Mission: A True Story by David W. Brown


A “magnificent” (Scientific American), genre-defying narrative of the most ambitious science project ever conceived: NASA’s deep space mission to Europa, the Jovian moon where might swim the first known alien life in our solar system.

In the spirit of Tom Wolfe and John McPhee, The Mission is an exuberant master class of creative nonfiction that reveals how a motley, determined few expanded the horizon of human achievement. When scientists discovered the first ocean beyond Earth, they had two big questions: “Is it habitable” and “How do we get there” To answer the first, they had to solve the second, and so began a vivacious team’s twenty-year odyssey to mount a mission to Europa, the ocean moon of Jupiter.

Standing in their way: NASA, fanatically consumed with landing robots on Mars; the White House, which never saw a science budget it couldn’t cut; Congress, fixated on going to the moon or Mars-anywhere, really, to give astronauts something to do; rivals in academia, who wanted instead to go to Saturn; and even Jupiter itself, which guards Europa in a pulsing, rippling radi­ation belt-a halo of death whose conditions are like those that follow a detonated thermonuclear bomb. The Mission is the Homeric, never-before-told story of modern space exploration, and a magnificent portrait of the inner lives of scientists who study the solar system’s mysterious outer planets.

David W. Brown chronicles the remarkable saga of how Europa was won, and what it takes to get things done-both down here, and up there.