Pathways of Discovery

Planetary Science--A Space Odyssey

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Science  11 Feb 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5455, pp. 997-1005
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5455.997

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Planetary science and the scientific revolution bootstrapped each other into prominent places in intellectual history during the 15th and 16th centuries. In his Pathways of Discovery essay, David J. Stevenson of Caltech begins with this "first epoch" of planetary science, including the likes of Galileo using homemade telescopes, as he tells an expansive story of scientific discovery. While taking readers on a veritable tour of the solar system, he also recounts highlights of the ongoing "second epoch" of planetary science and its fantastic tools, such as interplanetary satellites and the Hubble Space Telescope. According to Stevenson, the best is yet to come for the field as its practitioners continue to discover extrasolar planets and join the quest to answer one of the most important questions there is: How did life first arise?