(…) The second book is Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes. There is perhaps no better book illustrating the amazing images sent back by JPL’s spacecraft over the last 40 years. Worthy of any coffee table, sumptuous is the best word I can think of to describe this book. The photos themselves can only be viewed in wonder, as the stark beauty of the Moon and planets is brought sharply into focus and color. The vast majority of photos printed in this book are actually mosaics that have been painstakingly pieced together and digitally processed into a single seamless image. The level of work necessary to achieve this is too long to describe here, but rest assured the results are wondrous. From the high contrast images from the Lunar Orbiter in 1966 and 1967 (with the multiple image lines we are all familiar with virtually absent) to the beautiful blue of Neptune with white clouds streaking above its surface, each photograph is practically a work of art.
Almost forgotten among these high-profile missions was a probe called NEAR (for Near Earth Asteroid Rendezevous) Shoemaker. Engineered by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics laboratory and launched in 2000, JPL provided navigation and communications support. The last object of Shoemaker’s observation was asteroid 433, known as Eros. It began orbiting Eros in February 2000 and one year later made a controlled descent to its surface, taking pictures all the way and sending them to Earth. They are in this book too.
Arthur C. Clarke wrote the forward to the book, and was so moved by the photographs he saw, he exclaimed, “These images are a spectacular reaffirmation that we are privileged to live in the greatest age of exploration the world has ever known.” Beyond will give you a renewed appreciation for the amazing work being performed at JPL (and APL) as well as the beauty of our solar system.