The Asteroid Hunter: A Scientist’s Journey to the Dawn of our Solar System (Hardcover)

The Asteroid Hunter: A Scientist’s Journey to the Dawn of our Solar System By Dante Lauretta Cover Image
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A “brilliant account of a 21st century real-life fantasy” (Sir Brian May) of space exploration and a lesson in fragility in the quest to return an asteroid sample and unlock the mystery of formation of life on earth, braided with the remarkable life story of the OSIRIS-REx mission leader, Dr. Dante Lauretta. 

On September 11, 1999, humanity made a monumental discovery in the vastness of space. Scientists uncovered an asteroid of immense scientific importance—a colossal celestial entity. As massive as an aircraft carrier and towering as high as the iconic Empire State Building, this cosmic titan was later named Bennu. Remarkable for much more than its size, Bennu belonged to a rare breed of asteroids capable of revealing the essence of life itself. But just as Bennu became a beacon of promise, researchers identified a grave danger. Hurtling through space, it threatens to collide with our planet on September 24, 2182.

Leading the expedition was Dr. Dante Lauretta, the Principal Investigator of NASA's audacious OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission. Tasked with unraveling Bennu's mysteries, his team embarked on a daring quest to retrieve a precious sample from the asteroid's surface — one that held the potential to not only unlock the secrets of life's origins but also to avert an unprecedented catastrophe.

A tale of destiny and danger, The Asteroid Hunter chronicles the high-stakes mission firsthand, narrated by Dr. Lauretta. It offers readers an intimate glimpse into the riveting exploits of the mission and Dr. Lauretta's wild, winding personal journey to Bennu and back. Peeling back the curtain on the wonders of the cosmos, this enthralling account promises a rare glimpse into the tightly woven fabric of scientific exploration, where technical precision converges with humanity’s profound curiosity and indominable spirit.


About the Author

Dr. Dante Lauretta is a Regents Professor of Planetary Science and Cosmochemistry in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and the Department of Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona. Since 2011 he has served as the Principal Investigator for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission. In addition, he is a co-Investigator on Japan’s Hayabusa2 asteroid sample return mission, the European Space Agency’s Hera planetary defense mission, and Director of the Arizona Astrobiology Center.

Dr. Lauretta is a distinguished academic researcher and has published over 200 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals and co-edited several academic books. His research has been featured on the covers of Science, Nature, Nature Astronomy, Nature Geoscience, and Sky and Telescope. He has won numerous awards for his work including the NASA Silver Achievement Medal and holds two Guinness World Records. Asteroid 5819 is named Lauretta in recognition of his scientific contributions.

Praise For…

“Lauretta’s account of a historic mission is an impressive combination of fascinating science and human inspiration.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"[Lauretta] is a talented storyteller, spinning a gripping narrative out of scientists’ efforts to overcome unforeseen obstacles under intense pressure. Armchair astronomers should consider this a must read." —Publisher's Weekly, starred review

"It's rare that a book with such an epic premise delivers on the excitement teased by its cinematic title. The Asteroid Hunter joins this elite club with its story of the OSIRIS-REx mission, definitively relayed by Dante S. Lauretta"—Scientific American

"[Dante Lauretta] confronted personal, technical, and bureaucratic challenges and steered the OSIRIS-REx mission to success. The Asteroid Hunter invites readers to join him on that adventure. It is worth the trip."—Science Magazine

"[A] deeply personal tale of space exploration, written by the leader of one of NASA’s most daring robotic missions."—American Scientist

"The Asteroid Hunter works on several levels. It is a marvelous adventure story and a real-life space thriller about a bold exploratory mission. It is a marvelous examination of the process involved in conducting a science mission. It presents the scientific, technical and bureaucratic challenges to be overcome. It is also a delightful personal story, revealing the hopes and aspirations of a man with a personal mission to unlock the secrets of the origins of our universe. It is an exhilarating book."—National Space Society

"Muscular tale of bravado and conquest is the story one expects from “The Asteroid Hunter,” but it isn’t the most interesting story in the book. Instead, what makes Lauretta’s memoir compelling is the vein of fragility that runs through it.”—Washington Post

"This very enjoyable, insightful and moving volume is must reading for all that hunger to understand the rough and tumble cosmos at large – along with the delicate nature and audacity of human spirit necessary to tangle with the unknown." —Leonard David's Inside Outer Space

"[A] detailed, personal, and highly poignant inside look into one of the most daring and successful robotic space missions ever attempted. What a ride!"—Daily Kos

“Like all the best scientists, Dante is an artist.  His creative vision for the NASA OSIRIS REx mission eventually led to a perfect rendezvous with the near-Earth asteroid Bennu - Dante tells the story of the rocky road which led him to pilot this extraordinary mission, in a way which constantly draws us in, and vividly communicates to us the stress and excitement of every step.  This book is a brilliant account of a 21st century real-life fantasy - essential reading for anyone with a nagging curiosity about how and why we came to be here on planet Earth.” —Sir Brian May

"A beautifully written, first-hand report from the scientific leader of an awe-inspiring NASA mission, aimed at the pioneering delivery of material from an ancient asteroid to Earth. While the book educates us about the technological heights of human ingenuity, the returned asteroid material would teach us about our cosmic roots within the solar system and the organic molecules that sourced life on Earth."—Avi Loeb, Professor of Science at Harvard University and bestselling author of Extraterrestrial

"In this captivating, behind-the-scenes account of the OSIRIS-REx NASA asteroid sample return mission, PI Dante Lauretta provides an unmatched portrayal of the joys and challenges from an insider's perspective. A fascinating read."—Sara Seager, Professor of physics and planetary science at MIT and award-winning author of The Smallest Lights in the Universe

"Human frailty and courage are at the heart of this unflinching book and this daring mission to understand what a rubble pile in space can tell us about life–its origins and its pageant here and now. The Asteroid Hunter explores the chancy beauty of a mission and its incredible team, its dedicated leader and the cosmos itself."—Christopher Cokinos, award-winning author of Still as Bright: An Illuminating History of the Moon from Antiquity to Tomorrow and The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars

“This intimate account of the triumphs and tragedies of space exploration will enthrall anyone who has ever dreamed of traveling the stars. The Asteroid Hunter is a high-stakes travelogue to an otherworldly object, and Dante Lauretta is the perfect guide: perceptive, driven, and wide-eyed at every new wonder.”—Melissa L. Sevigny, author of Under Desert Skies

“Just outstanding! A thrilling, behind the scenes, insider account of how a historic space mission was conceived, won, built, and flown."—Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission and author of Chasing New Horizons

"In Asteroid Hunter leading planetary scientist Dante Lauretta provides a detailed, personal, and highly poignant inside look into one of the most daring and successful robotic space missions ever attempted. What a ride!"—Jim Bell, Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University and author of The Interstellar Age and Art of the Cosmos

The Asteroid Hunter is an inspiring memoir of the boldest mission NASA has ever flown: the journey to the most dangerous asteroid in the solar system, which contains the secrets of how life began on Earth. Dante Lauretta’s poetic account of the thrilling journey establishes him firmly in the pantheon of great explorer-authors of our time. The Asteroid Hunter is a work no space enthusiast should miss.”—David W. Brown, author of The Mission

"In The Asteroid Hunter, Dante Lauretta tells the story of a space mission designed to bring back a handful of dirt from the dawn of the Solar System. The book has much of  the pacing and suspense of a good thriller. Lauretta has to run the gauntlet of endless NASA reviews with many rejections, the death of his mentor and original leader of the project, and the challenge of solving a thicket of technical challenges. It takes as long to see a NASA space mission from concept to conclusion as it does to raise a child and  Lauretta experiences a scientific version of the highs and lows of parenting. The final  chapter will not be written until labs around the world have scrutinized the OSIRIS-REx samples, but The Asteroid Hunter makes it clear to a general audience why scientists spend years on projects where success is never guaranteed. The thrill of learning about our origins and the camaraderie of the mission team keeps them going."—Chris Impey, Distinguished Professor of Astronomy, University of Arizona and author of How It Began: A Time-Traveler's Guide to the Universe

“An autobiography, an action-adventure story, a how-to manual on creating a space mission, and an introduction to solar system science all rolled up into one book that ends with a piece of the early solar system delivered softly to our home planet, its secrets to be revealed.”—Jonathan I. Lunine, the David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences, Cornell University

Product Details
ISBN: 9781538722947
ISBN-10: 1538722941
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: March 19th, 2024
Pages: 336
Language: English

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