JOURNEY TO THE PLANETS by Patricia Lauber
Kirkus Star

JOURNEY TO THE PLANETS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A far more imaginative and exciting presentation than Seymour Simon's shorter but similarly structured (and to give Simon due credit, briskly informative) Long View Into Space (1979). At the start of Lauber's journey, and it's a compelling start, beautiful photos of earth as seen from space, then closer and closer details of particular areas, involve readers in a search for signs of intelligent life as it might be conducted by observers from space. This leads to an examination of the conditions for life on earth and then to a basic geological briefing--all accompanied by spectacular photos. (A photo of the Himalayas, showing how collisions of two plates crumpled the earth's crust, looks like a closeup of leaves or something smaller.) Then there's a review of how ""astronomers think"" the solar system began, which prepares us for a review of its parts. Reading Lauber's description of conditions on the harsh, airless moon, and viewing the reinforcing photos, you imagine how it feels to be there. She inspires a spirit of inquiry among readers as she reviews different theories of the moon's formation (incorporating how scientists arrived at the conclusions); what Mariner 10 discovered about Mercury; how false assumptions about Venus were cleared up--and how conditions on Venus limit the extent of our probes; etc. Mars is approached in terms of whether there is life there, then examined according to the questions, answers, and speculation resulting from progressive explorations. Jupiter and its moons and rings are vividly described (""Europa looks like a billiard ball with cracks""; ""When the first pictures of Io were received, watching scientists were astounded. 'It looks like a pizza!' one of them said""), as is the puzzle of Saturn's rings: ""Scientists think that just as sheep dogs keep a flock together, these two moons may keep material within the F ring."" And so a sense of discovery accompanies us all the way to Neptune and Pluto (the last of which may not be a planet at all), which were discovered when ""astronomers were trying to find out why Uranus sometimes speeded up and sometimes slowed down."" A stimulating experience for the eyes, mind, and imagination.

Pub Date: May 18th, 1982
Publisher: Crown