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Book Reviews
Apollo 11 Owners’ Workshop Manual, Christopher Riley & Phil Dolling, Haynes, 2009, 196pp, £17.99, ISBN 978-1-84425-683-9 [hardback]
7th March 2011

For those who remember the days of balancing a Haynes owners’ manual between the engine block and the carburettor, trying to turn the pages without obliterating the text with too many oily fingerprints, this book might come as a surprise. Apollo 11 Eagle: good runner, one careful owner, variegated paint job…but an owners’ workshop manual? Well aware of the incongruity involved, the authors decided instead to “tell some of the remarkable engineering stories that led to the vehicles that carried men to the Moon”. “There was never going to be enough room to write a nut-and-bolt guide”, says Chris Riley in his acknowledgements. “There are over five-and-a-half million parts in a Saturn V alone!” The layout of the resulting book is therefore fairly standard for a book on Apollo. ...

An Introduction to Space Weather, Mark Moldwin, Cambridge Univ Press, 2008, 134pp, £29.99/$55.00, ISBN 978-0-521-71112-8 [softback]
7th March 2011

The concept of “space weather” has been around for some years now and there are several examples of its detrimental effects on orbiting satellites and terrestrial infrastructure, such as electrical grids. One of the earliest recognised “anomalies”, as the satellite industry likes to call them, was that concerning the Galaxy IV satellite, which apparently failed as a result of excessive solar radiation in May 1998. It came to public attention because it carried some 90% of North America’s pager traffic and several major broadcast networks. The only bright side was that the general public stopped taking communications satellites for granted, at least for a while. This is an undergraduate textbook “aimed at non-science majors”, according to the blurb. What this means in practic...

America’s Future in Space: aligning the civil space program with national needs, National Research Council, National Academies Press, 2009, 89pp, £19.99, ISBN 978-0-309-14036-2 [softback]
7th March 2011

This report, from the US National Research Council’s “Committee on the Rationale and Goals of the US Civil Space Program”, is the result of deliberations designed “to advise the nation on key goals and critical issues in 21st century US civil space policy”. And you get pretty much what it says on the tin: four chapters, four appendices, four colour photos…well, actually one or two more, but it’s a more of a well-produced briefing document than a fully-fledged book. In fact, the first few pages form an executive summary and the final twenty include committee member/staff biographies, a “Statement of Task”, meeting agendas and so on. Although the premise of the report, which recognises the “new national and international context for space activities”, is well-founded, one could say that a few too...

America in Space: NASA`s First Fifty Years, Steven J Dick et al (Eds), Harry N Abrams Inc, 2007, 351pp, $50.00 £25.95, ISBN 978-08109-9373-0 [hardback]
7th March 2011

It was always predictable that a number of books celebrating NASA`s first half-century would be published, as it was that at least some of them would be large-format tomes like this one. Measuring 28cm x 37cm and weighing over 3kg, it certainly fits the category of large format, and the fact that it is edited by NASA`s Chief Historian and other notables should vouch for the content. Actually, the written content is not that significant, because this is predominantly a picture book. It is divided into four sections, entitled `In the Beginning”, `The First `A” in NASA”, `One Small Step…” and `Voyages in Space and Time”, each of which has a one-page introduction. Apart from a Foreword, by Neil Armstrong, and Afterword, the text is otherwise limited to photo c...

Ambassadors from Earth: Pioneering Explorations with Unmanned Spacecraft, Jay Gallentine, Univ Nebraska Press, 2009, 500p, £24.99/$24.95, ISBN 978-0-8032-2200-5 [hardback]
7th March 2011

Professional historians are generally dismissive of ‘popular histories’ such as this one, and in some cases you can see their point of view. Mostly, however, they are rightly jealous of an author’s easy style and ability to entertain as well as educate. “Ambassadors from Earth” manages to straddle the gulf between history and entertainment pretty well: it certainly has the style - some might say ‘in excess’ - but is also backed up by some painstaking research. It has 21 pages of “sources” and a 12-page double-column index, no less. However, it is let down visually by the poor quality of photo reproduction on that nasty yellow paper that American academic publishers ...

A Dictionary of the Space Age, Paul Dickson, Johns Hopkins, 2009, 260pp, £26.00, ISBN 978-0-8018-9115-1 [hardback]
6th March 2011

I’ll admit it: I have an affinity for space dictionaries. I have several on my shelves written since the early days of the Space Age, and this one will join them as another example of our desire to understand and explain the technical language in which we find ourselves immersed. This dictionary has been compiled by a non-space writer with an abiding interest in words and their meaning, and that is at least one prerequisite for a dictionary writer. One wonders, however, whether interest is enough. It is a far more difficult task today than it was in the 1960s, when the Space age was young, and there are so many aspects to the terminology. I would argue that a space dictionary writer needs a reasonable grounding in the technology, not simply a writer’s ability to use a multitu...