Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pg. 99: Robert Zimmerman's "The Universe in a Mirror"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Robert Zimmerman's The Universe in a Mirror: The Saga of the Hubble Space Telescope and the Visionaries Who Built It.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Hubble Space Telescope has produced the most stunning images of the cosmos humanity has ever seen. It has transformed our understanding of the universe around us, revealing new information about its age and evolution, the life cycle of stars, and the very existence of black holes, among other startling discoveries. The Universe in a Mirror tells the story of this telescope and the visionaries responsible for its extraordinary accomplishments.

Robert Zimmerman takes readers behind the scenes of one of the most ambitious scientific instruments ever sent into space. After World War II, astronomer Lyman Spitzer and a handful of scientists waged a fifty-year struggle to build the first space telescope capable of seeing beyond Earth's atmospheric veil. Zimmerman shows how many of the telescope's advocates sacrificed careers and family to get it launched, and how others devoted their lives to Hubble only to have their hopes and reputations shattered when its mirror was found to be flawed. This is the story of an idea that would not die--and of the dauntless human spirit. Illustrated with striking color images, The Universe in a Mirror describes the heated battles between scientists and bureaucrats, the perseverance of astronauts to repair and maintain the telescope, and much more. Hubble, and the men and women behind it, opened a rare window onto the universe, dazzling humanity with sights never before seen.

This book tells their remarkable story.
Among the early praise for the book:
"Spectacular images of the cosmos from the Hubble Space Telescope have become so routine that it's easy to forget the astronomical community's despair in 1990, when NASA discovered that the main mirror was improperly shaped. In The Universe in a Mirror, Robert Zimmerman brings the visionaries behind this most remarkable of instruments vividly to life, taking us artfully through the decades--long minefield of lobbying, funding, design, construction, delay after the Challenger explosion and launch--and then through the Hubble's near-death experience as astronomers realized to their horror that its mirror was ground to the wrong shape. His meticulously researched but engaging prose makes it clear how remarkable an achievement the telescope actually was, and how easily it might not have happened at all."
--Michael D. Lemonick, contributing writer to Time and lecturer at Princeton University

"For everyone who knows something of the story of the space telescope and its travails, this book provides a fascinating look behind the scenes. An excellent contribution to the history of technology."
--Robert P. Kirshner, author of The Extravagant Universe

"Quite a story. I really liked this book."
--John Huchra, Harvard University

"Zimmerman demonstrates the importance of vision, perseverance, politics, and good luck in getting this national telescope constructed, fixed, and operated. He also illustrates, somewhat poignantly at times, the human costs and disappointments that came up along the way."
--J. Michael Shull, University of Colorado at Boulder
Read an excerpt from The Universe in a Mirror, and learn more about the book and author at the Princeton University Press website and Robert Zimmerman's website.

Zimmerman is an award-winning science writer and historian whose work has appeared in Natural History, the Wall Street Journal, and Astronomy, among other leading publications. His books include Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel and Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8.

The Page 99 Test: The Universe in a Mirror.

--Marshal Zeringue