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Professor seeks out newer worlds with 'Voyager'

September 01, 2010

As you set forth by air, land and sea this Labor Day holiday, consider the impulse to explore that which guides your feet and captures your attention. It’s the same drive that caused Magellan to circumnavigate the globe and NASA scientists to launch probes into space – and has propelled ASU Regents’ Professor Stephen Pyne to publish ”Voyager: Seeking Newer Worlds in the Third Great Age of Discovery.”

A ”meditation on the nature and meaning of exploration itself, disguised as a chronicle of the life and times of a space mission,” a New York Times review notes, Pyne's book takes readers on the roller-coaster ride through time, as well as space, offering “a rich mix of history, science and fine writing. Sometimes it seems as if Captain Cook and Prince Henry the Navigator themselves are aboard the busy spacecraft.”

Why Pyne’s focus on the Voyager mission? While discovery is a uniquely human activity, the Voyager missions stand as iconic testaments, “grand gestures.” Moments of exploring, Pyne says, “that more than any other capture the general imagination, that fuse place, time, discovery and yearning in ways that seem to speak to an era’s sense of itself. If they do not inform an age, they do display the vital attributes of an age as nothing else can.”

Voyager, he argues, was of the same ilk as Magellan’s journey in the First Age of Discovery and Alexander von Humboldt’s cross-continental trek across South America in the Second Age of Discovery. Voyager was a defining symbol of the Third Age of Discovery, the exploratory tale of which transcends time and weaves the thread of all human endeavor into the distant future. Pyne’s work raises “fascinating questions about the human impulses embedded in the space program and about how Voyager’s journey may change our sense of who we are.” 

“Voyager” leaves you asking, as you pack your bag for Hawaii and the probes themselves exit the solar system, where humanity, or the tools of humans, will take us next?

“For space geeks, a sweet read; for everyone else, an eye-opener.” – Time Magazine

Pyne will speak about his book and his own literary voyage at 11:40 a.m., Sept. 15, in Coor Hall 174, hosted by the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at ASU. Professor Pyne will be available to sign copies of his book between 12:50 p.m. and 1:15 p.m.

For more information about this event:;

Pyne is an award-winning environmental historian, a MacArthur Fellow, and researcher in the Center for Biology and Society in ASU's School of Life Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He is also the author of "Year of the Fires," "The Ice," and "How the Canyon Became Grand." He is the recipient of the Robert Kirsch Award from the Los Angeles Times.

To read reviews of “Voyager,” published by Viking Press:

New York Times

Washington Post

The Economist


Wall Street Journal

Time Magazine,9171,2005846,00.html