To Utopia and Back: The Search for Life in the Solar System. Norman H. Horowitz. W.H. Freeman & Company.

To Utopia and Back: The Search for Life in the Solar System Book Cover To Utopia and Back: The Search for Life in the Solar System
Norman H. Horowitz
W.H. Freeman & Company

The possibility of life on other planets has captured the imagination of scientist and layman alike for generations. Even now, ten years after the Viking spacecraft first landed on Martian soil and transmitted full-color photographs of the desolate, lifeless landscape back to Earth, speculation still persists. But should it? Or should the Viking’s findings have resolved the question of extraterrestrial life with scientific certainty?

Now in this fascinating and highly readable work, the former head of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s bioscience section for the Mariner and Viking missions takes readers on an illuminating journey through the solar system in search of life. In preparation for the journey, Dr. Horowitz first gives readers an elementary course in biology, lucidly explaining the chemical and biological conditions necessary for any life form to survive and evolve, as well as the criteria for habitable planets. Then, it’s off to Mars – and a insiders look at one of the most extraordinary chapters in modern scientific inquiry: the six Mariner and Viking missions during the years 1965-1976.

The author reports first-hand on the micro-biological experiments that were designed to test for life in the hostile Martian environment and what they revealed. You’ll discover what the missions told us about the composition of the Martian atmosphere, its icecaps, dark areas, and deserts, and ultimately it’s ability to support life. You’ll also get a unique look at the highly charged political atmosphere that surrounded the flights, with many details and facts revealed here for the first time. In a separate chapter, the author extends the lessons learned from our explorations of the planets to the rest of the solar system.

To Utopia and Back is a book that looks at the often fictionalized and romanticized subject of extraterrestrial life through a scientist’s trained eye, examining all relevant evidence. While some may dislike its conclusions, few will find it anything but absorbing reading.

Norman H. Horowitz is the former chief of the bioscience section for the Mariner and Viking Missions at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. He is currently a Professor Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, where he was a Professor of Biology for nearly three decades. In addition to the exploration of Mars, his research interests include the genetics and biochemistry of Neurospora, molecular evolution, biological water requirements, and iron transport in fungi. A winner of the NASA Public Service Medal in 1977, Dr. Horowitz is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology.