The Mission: A True Story (Hardcover)

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"An extraordinary tale, extraordinarily told." –Megan Abbott

A masterful, 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.

About the Author


David W. Brown is a freelance writer whose nonfiction appears frequently in The Atlantic, The New York TimesScientific American, and Smithsonian. His other publishers include The New YorkerVox, and Foreign Policy. He is an Antarctic expeditioner, an endurance runner, a former Army paratrooper, and a veteran of Afghanistan. He is a graduate of Louisiana State University and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Arkansas at Monticello. The Mission is his fourth book. Brown lives in New Orleans. 

Praise For…


“Magnificent. ... This book cannot answer the question of what—if anything—lurks in Europa's dark abyss, but it masterfully reveals with remarkable clarity what lies within the hearts of the men and women determined to find out.”
— Scientific American

“Brown is a nimble, gifted writer, downright Dickensian in his pointed descriptions and irreverent humor… Brown’s language drew me in to the world of interplanetary science and made me a part of it. The Europa Clipper mission is scheduled to launch in 2024 and, thanks to The Mission, I will be looking up, dreaming of Europa’s oceans, and those plumes, and waiting for news of what we find there.”
— Air Mail

"With deftness and vigor, David W. Brown brings to life the intricate science, the historical heft and, most exquisitely, the beating hearts at the center of his sprawling, immersive story. With rich characters, an epic struggle and a Herculean resolve, The Mission is an extraordinary tale, extraordinarily told."
— Megan Abbott, bestselling author of Dare Me and Give Me Your Hand

“Europa is the sparkly jewel of the Jupiter system and learning its mysteries is a delight, but it's the people and their dreams and their stories that shine in The Mission. David W. Brown deftly weaves together the science, the history, and the politics to write the definitive account of one of NASA’s most exciting upcoming missions.”
— Dr. Mike Brown, Caltech astronomer and author of How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming

"Absolutely riveting from the very first page. David W. Brown is a beautiful writer who brings this incredible story to life in sharp, surprising prose. It is a true pleasure to read."
— Aryn Kyle, award-winning author of The God of Animals and Boys and Girls Like You and Me

"This is one of the most impressive works of nonfiction I’ve ever read. It defies genre in many ways. It’s science, yes, but it’s driven by characters—brilliant, real-life scientists with contagious determination. David W. Brown turns complex planetary science into lyrical, accessible prose... It was compulsively readable and astonishing in scholarship." 
— Erin Entrada Kelly, Newbery Medal-winning author of Hello, Universe


“An enthusiastic account of an interplanetary probe to a distant moon... NASA continues to accomplish great feats, and more are in the offing, including this book’s subject: the 2024 launch of a multibillion-dollar spacecraft to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa. ... Brown engagingly describes the cutthroat NASA political landscape... A delightful slice of NASA life.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Brown skillfully braids biography, science, obsession, and accounts of bureaucracy-wrangling into this mesmerizing tale of 'good, bare-fisted science.' Salted with pop culture references and humor, Brown’s fascinating outing will entertain anyone curious about space exploration.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Brown leaves no door closed as he covers the science, logistics, personalities, and politics of this extraordinary NASA mission. His extensively researched, humorous, raucous, dramatic, and pop-culture-and science-fiction-laced immersion in planetary science will have readers hanging on every word.”
Booklist

“This true story has not been previously written about in such detail. … An engaging read for all, especially for anyone curious about the details of space exploration.”
Library Journal


Product Details
ISBN: 9780062654427
ISBN-10: 006265442X
Publisher: Custom House
Publication Date: January 26th, 2021
Pages: 480
Language: English