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About From Jars to the Stars
From Jars to the StarsDU pointing control-1952Dick Woolley and the OSO-1Deep Impact stacking, April 2004
From Jars to the Stars uses the development of three spacecraft to show how much -- and how little -- has changed in more than a half century of space exploration. At top, members of the University of Colorado Rocket Project inspect a sun-seeking pointing control in 1950. Ph.D. students David Stacey, just left of the rocket nose, and the pipe-smoking James Jackson, immediately right of it, would become Ball Brothers Research Corporation's first two employees six years later. Such devices launched the Ball Brothers Company of Muncie, Indiana's improbable foray into space. At center, legendary Ball engineer Dick Woolley checks out BBRC's first Orbiting Solar Observatory (atop its third-stage rocket at Cape Canaveral), which launched in March 1962. At bottom, Ball Aerospace mechanical engineer Lorna Hess-Frey and colleagues mate the dual Deep Impact spacecraft in April 2004, nine months prior to launch. Credits: Merle Reisbeck (top), Ball Aerospace.

By Todd Neff

Winner of the 2012 Colorado Book Award for History

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6x9 | 328 pages
85 illustrations
ISBN 978-0-9829503-0-8
Cover and Book Design by
David Barringer Jars to the Stars page
The Boulder Book Store

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Book Description:
From Jars to the Stars: How Ball Came to Build a Comet-Hunting Machine, tells the remarkable story of Ball Aerospace— descended from the maker of Ball jars—and its Deep Impact comet mission. The book, winner of the 2012 Colorado Book award for History and a finalist for the American Astronautical Society's 2010 Eugene C. Emme Astronautical Literature Award, delivers a rare inside look into the backgrounds, characters and motivations of the men and women who create the spacecraft on which the American space program rides.

From Jars to the Stars is a timeless story about science, engineering, politics and business intertwining to bring success in the brutal business of space. It is a readable, lively account of some of mankind’s great modern achievements.

The book focuses on the $330 million Deep Impact mission, which smashed an impactor spacecraft into the comet Tempel 1 on July 4, 2005 when the icy wanderer was as far away from Earth as the sun. But Deep Impact is only part of the story.

From Jars to the Stars puts the mission into the greater context of humanity’s continuing search for its origins via the senses of scientific spacecraft. Based on interviews with more than 100 people and exhaustive documentary and archival research, From Jars to the Stars explores the improbable beginnings of Ball Aerospace, focusing on the story of a group of University of Colorado students who, starting in 1948, built a “sun seeker” for the noses of sounding rockets studying the sun. The device set precedent for nearly all modern spacecraft, and grew into both Ball Aerospace and the University of Colorado’s formidable space-science laboratory.

From Jars to the Stars also describes the effort behind Ball’s first spacecraft, the Orbiting Solar Observatory launched in 1962. The Ball orbiter prepares the ground for Deep Impact, showing readers how much—and how little—changed across four decades of American space exploration.

From Jars to the Stars goes on to show how Ball Aerospace evolved into an organization capable of building a comet hunter. The story pays special mind to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the world leader in interplanetary space exploration and Ball's partner on the mission.

The Deep Impact team nearly faltered: NASA was twice on the verge of scrapping the mission as technical and money problems mounted. But against the odds, and with a telescope that came up blurry in space, Deep Impact met its mark. The surviving flyby spacecraft sent home images and data of an explosion that shed new light on comets, which, scientists believe, are a key to understanding how the solar system evolved and where we came from.

The book shows vividly that robotic space missions are indeed manned: the people just happen to stay on the ground.