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Book Reviews
Asteroids IV, Patrick Michel et al (Eds), University of Arizona Press, 2015, 895pp, hardback, $75, ISBN 978-0-8165-3213-1
7th April 2017

It’s impossible not to notice that this is a doorstop of a book! It’s more than two inches thick and weighs two and a half kilograms. That’s not a particularly scholarly assessment, but it makes this quite a tome. Well within the collective living memory of the space exploration community, asteroids were viewed simply as a bunch of rocks in a conveniently labelled ‘asteroid belt’ between Mars and Jupiter. Because the technology had not been made available to visit and image their surfaces, they remained a part of the solar system that, in earlier days, could have acquired the ‘Here be Dragons’ label. Now, with spacecraft orbiting asteroids, mining companies sharpening their pick-axes and the Earth-impact hazard widely recognised, asteroids have entered the public domain. As the Foreword to this volume states, “asteroids matter”. Asteroids IV provides “the latest scientific foundation” upon which future scientific research and comm...

World Launcher Review 2015-16, Alan Perera-Webb et al (Eds), CST/Seradata, 2015, 208pp, softback, £250/$400 from
7th April 2017

Although this is more of an industry report than a book, in the words of its subtitle it offers “a comprehensive guide to the world’s launch vehicles and launch market”. Its eight sections cover the launch market itself, vehicle technology and reliability, commercial launch providers and commercial spaceports; others provide overviews of current and proposed launch vehicles, including a class of ‘very small launch vehicles’ which it defines as having a capability to launch “under 100kg” to low Earth orbit (LEO). The publishers, and their staff who act as authors here, have decades of experience in the space launch market and are well-placed to compile the review. Commercial Space Technologies (CST) is, among other things, a broker for Russian and ex-Soviet launches and Seradata publishes the SpaceTrak satellite and launch vehicle database used by the space industry. For those requiring a reference source for the launch vehi...

Moonshots and Snapshots of Project Apollo – A Rare Photographic History, John Bisney & J L Pickering, Univ New Mexico Press, 2015, 252pp, hardback $55.00, ISBN 978-0-8263-5594-2
7th April 2017

The photographic story begun in a sister book on the Mercury and Gemini projects continues in this volume with the Apollo missions. As co-author J L Pickering writes in his introduction, “when I think of an iconic photo from Apollo 1, unfortunately that of the charred spacecraft comes to mind”. So, in the spirit of making the book different, the authors selected a “gag photo” of the three astronauts praying round a model of the command module. The astronauts themselves had given a copy to programme manager Joe Shea with a note that read: “It isn’t that we don’t trust you, Joe, but this time we’ve decided to go over your head”. Sadly, divine intervention was absent when their capsule caught fire in a launch pad test. The book features rarely seen photographs of each of the Apollo missions as well as Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, and is printed on high-quality gloss paper. Looking at the best-known mission, Apollo 11, the...

Skylab 1 & 2 – The NASA Mission Reports, Dwight Steven-Boniecki (Ed), Apogee, 2015, 344pp, £32.95, ISBN 978-1926592-27-5 [softback]
2nd January 2016

Skylab 1 & 2 Today, any mention of ‘the space station’ automatically invokes the International Space Station (ISS), but it was not always so. In the early 1970s, when the Apollo lunar landings were still fresh in the mind, a NASA space station called Skylab was making news. This book commemorates the Skylab 1 and 2 missions, the first being the launch of Skylab itself, the second being the 28-day mission of the first crew (Pete Conrad, Joe Kerwin and Paul Weitz). This volume is the latest in Apogee’s long-running series of NASA Mission Reports and comprises facsimiles of press kits, post-mission reports and technical debriefings. As the Skylab station suffered significant damage to its solar array and meteoroid shield on launch, there is also a copy of the investigation board report. At a time when the continuing success of ...

Suborbital: Industry at the Edge of Space, Eric Seedhouse, Springer-Praxis, 2014, 184pp, £19.99, ISBN 978-3-319-03484-3 [softback]
24th April 2015

Suborbital No-one with any interest in space can have failed to notice the rise of the commercial suborbital tourism market – or at least the promise of same. More than a decade since the Ansari X-Prize was won, Virgin Galactic has still to fly a fare-paying passenger, which means that books on the ‘Newspace’ industry and space tourism have been heralding this new age for quite a while now. A difference with this book is its leaning towards the training and medical aspects of the field, which reflects the author’s experience and interests. In fact, the page “about the author” is almost as interesting as the book itself: an astronaut training consultant with medical qualifications, Seedhouse “supported his studies by winning prize money in 100 km running races” (yes, hundred kilometre!).  Among other things, he set the North American 10...

Partnership in Space: the Mid to Late Nineties, Ben Evans, Springer-Praxis, 2014, 497pp, £24.95, ISBN 978-1-4614-3277-7 [softback]
24th April 2015

Partnership in Space This is the fifth book in what the publisher calls Ben Evans’ “History of Human Space Exploration miniseries” – hence the rather specific and confined subtitle. For those who enjoy space history, it’s important to say from the outset that Evans is a self-confessed “space enthusiast” and not a professional historian, engineer or technologist.  You will find no references and chapter notes in this book, although there is a bibliography and an index (mostly of names). Who is the book aimed at? Probably other self-confessed space enthusiasts. In his preface, Evans himself seems ambivalent: the reader, he says, “may love or hate my book…but I have derived great joy from researching and writing it”. However, he is right when he says that the story of “our adventure in space is not simply about who spe...