In the span of a single lifetime, a momentous transformation in human consciousness has quietly taken hold: We are beginning to think of our home t as the Earth but as the Solar System. Thanks to the photographic output of a small squadron of interplanetary spacecraft, a picture of the visual splendor and variety of the Solar System is emerging. Each of these spacecraft is following the traditions blazed by the great Earthbound explorers, but when its destination comes into view, we can longer call that dramatic moment landfall. Hence Planetfall (the moment of visual contact with the planets). Michael Benson's masterful book Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes gave us a magnificent view of the Solar System culled from millions of photographs taken by unmanned spacecraft up to the end of the twentieth century. Since then, probes built with more powerful cameras and greater maneuverability have looked deeper into the turbulent clouds and wheeling satellites of Jupiter; roamed the boulder-strewn red deserts of Mars; studied Saturn's immaculate rings; and chronicled vast upheavals erupting from the Sun itself. And of course, they've shown us the surface of the ravishing Earth from space as well, a blue-white orb with a disturbingly thin atmosphere, as it plunges deeper into ecological crisis. These new images are the subject of Benson's Planetfall, a truly revelatory photographic book that uses it's large page size to reproduce the greatest achievements in contemporary planetary photography as they have never been seen before.
Michael Benson, a writer, filmmaker and photographer, is widely recognised as one of the world's leading authorities on astronomical imagery. His Award-winning book Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes (Abrams, 2003) saw print in five languages and the exhibition based on it has been shown at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, and across America in a version toured by the Smithsonian Institution. His subsequent book, Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle (Abrams, 2009) was heralded in the New York Times as an extraordinary aesthetic and literary achievement: If you don't have your own Hubble Space Telescope, this book is the next best thing.