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Jars to the Stars Reviews

Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly (Fall 2015)
"Neff carries the reader on a journey identifying one technical challenge after another, introducing us to the chief players who met the challenge, and then providing their background, talents and the training they brought to the task, with enough personal vignettes to provide, indeed, an appealing and accessible 'impressionistic portrait.'" Read the whole review here.
-- David DeVorkin, Historian, National Air and space Museum

The Physics Teacher (December 2011)
"This is a wonderful source for students who want to gain some feeling and insight for the aerospace business and the aerospace frontier. The book is easy to read, and if you're a space jockey, this book is for you. The author, Todd Neff, was the science writer for the local Boulder newspaper. He has done an excellent job of bringing the flavor, excitement, frustrations, failures, and successes of a segment of the aerospace industry to the readers of his very fine book."
-- Albert Bartlett, Physics Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries (May 2011)
This aptly titled book describes how the Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company of Muncie, Indiana, evolved into the Ball Aerospace Company of Boulder, Colorado. Ball Aerospace is a big player in the orbiting satellite business and made the Deep Impact spacecraft that intercepted a comet and struck it--an outstanding engineering achievement. Writer/journalist Neff relates how Ball searched for a compatible evolving field of business activity to maintain its viability. Thus, this is not only a work on the history of space technology, but also the story of how a company that made jars for home canning and food preservation had to change to survive as refrigeration and year-round fresh produce became available throughout the nation. The book is, of course, also a history of the evolution of scientific satellites in the US from the Sputnik era to today. The author describes how the University of Colorado, NASA, and Ball cooperated to produce some of the most advanced and reliable scientific satellites in the world. This is a well-written book that successfully weaves people, organizations, science, and engineering together to make a very readable and valuable history. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers interested in space history, and in technology and corporate history.
-- A. M. Strauss, Vanderbilt University

The Space Review (Febraury 7, 2011)
Writes Jeff Foust, editor of The Space Review: "To the average person, the corporate name Ball conjures up images of mason jars with the Ball logo prominently stamped on their sides (a dated image, as the company no longer makes glassware, focusing primarily now on metal canisters like aluminum cans.) To people in the space industry, though, Ball has become well-known as a developer of instruments and spacecraft, a mid-sized venture bigger than startups focused on smallsats but much smaller than industry giants like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Much of the company’s aerospace fame has come from building NASA spacecraft, like the Kepler mission currently hunting for extrasolar planets and the Deep Impact mission that flew past comet Tempel 1, firing an impactor into the comet’s nucleus as it sped by. The development of that latter mission, including the struggles with technology and budgets, is skillfully recounted in Todd Neff’s From Jars to the Stars." Read the whole review here.

Science News (January 1, 2011)
"An engaging history recounts how Ball Brothers Co. Went from making mason jars to building the Deep Impact spacecraft."

Matt Young, The Panda's Thumb (January 1, 2011)
"Neff, a former science reporter for the Boulder Daily Camera, has crafted a book that follows the fortunes of Ball Aerospace from before its inception until they managed to strike the comet Tempel 1 on July 4, 2005. As Neff describes it, hitting that comet was a bit harder than hitting a bullet in flight, because the comet itself has no fixed orbit, but rather is buffeted significantly by the evaporation of gases as it approaches the sun.

I may have been interested in the book partly because Ball is located just around the corner, in Boulder, Colorado, and I have met a few of the protagonists, though not as many as I had expected. But the book has more than parochial interest, because it describes in microcosm the growth of the space industry from its beginning, in this case, in the rocket lab at the University of Colorado in 1951, to the successful completion of the Deep Impact probe, which struck the comet with a projectile and also detected the resulting explosion with spectrometers and other instruments.

Neff’s book is a good blend of science and technology, organization and management, and biography. As far as I can tell, he gets virtually all the science right and presents it clearly, and I thought he included just enough biographical detail to make the protagonists human. The most remarkable thing about the project, though, is the false starts, the changes of direction, and the seemingly superhuman effort put in by some of the protagonists." Read the whole review here.

Clay Evans, Boulder Daily Camera (Sunday, December 13, 2010)
"'All this grew from Ed Ball's dream of diversifying his family's aging Midwestern glass company,' Neff writes in the epilogue. 'His Boulder adventure had gone from analog machines to flying computers, studying the brightest object in the sky, dark matter, and everything in between.'

Execution-wise, Neff manages to pack an astounding amount of detail into the story and bring many of his real-life characters to life. . . . Neff is also a kind translator, delivering his high-tech tale in language appropriate for lay readers, with plenty of gee-whiz numbers to convey the astonishing Deep Impact mission... a comet racing along at 66,000 mph, the impactor "would vaporize against the comet at a relative speed of 23,000 mph... more than ten times the speed of a rifle shot."

The Deep Impact mission is the dramatic heart of "From Jars to the Stars," and any dedicated space buff will find plenty to chew on. But the story of Ball Aerospace and even the history of a growing Boulder will appeal to many local readers who would never stoop to space geekery." Read the whole review here.

Leonard David, Coalition for Space Exploration
"The award-winning author has done a masterful job in telling the story that there’s more to space exploration than space and exploration – it’s the people!" David writes. "Neff has captured the dedication and creativity of engineers, designers and others – the collective enterprise of imagineers who make space exploration happen." Read the whole review here.

Emily Lakdawalla, The Planetary Society
"How did a company best known for making the glass jars used for preserving jelly and pickles come to be the engineering firm that sent not just Deep Impact but also numerous other craft, including a long line of Orbiting Solar Observatories, to space? Todd Neff explains in an encyclopedic recounting of Ball Aerospace Corporation from its humble beginnings to the company that achieved the seemingly impossible goal of hitting a bullet with another bullet while watching with a third bullet in deep space." Read the rest here.

Donovan Hicks, retired CEO, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.
"I just finished reading 'From Jars to Stars.' I am not an avid reader but I couldn’t put the book down. You have done a wonderful job of capturing the historical chronology, the human joy and sacrifice and the scientific and engineering accomplishments of the 'best little aerospace company' in the industry. . . . Although 'From Jars to Stars' chronicles the Deep Impact mission, it could just as well of been written about almost any of the major scientific missions that Ball Aerospace has developed over its 50+ year history. They all have had a similar scientific genesis, development cycle and human joy and sacrifice." Read the whole review here.