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Book Reviews
2001: The Heritage and Legacy of The Space Odyssey, Frederick I Ordway III & Robert Godwin, Apogee Prime, 2014, 138pp, $17.95, ISBN 978-1926837-32-1 [softback]
21st July 2014

2001 Heritage and Legacy To say that “2001: A Space Odyssey” is a seminal science fiction movie is a bit like suggesting that the early astronauts were brave men.  So many people have written about the effect the film had on them as youngsters, how it turned their thoughts towards a career in space technology and how it will remain a classic for the foreseeable future that it seems as if nothing can be added to the debate. However, in recent years a number of books have been published in celebration of the more technical aspects of the film, from model-making to art direction and general attention to detail.  One of the best, from the same publisher – Apogee Prime – is Adam Johnson’s “2001: The Lost Science”, which is illustrated from the Frederick I. Ordway collection (Ordway was the senior science advisor ...

America’s Great Endeavour: The Missions of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, Robert A Adamcik, Apogee Prime, 2013, 366pp, $29.95, ISBN 978-1926837-27-7 [softback]
21st July 2014

America's Great Endeavour In the world of space-related publishing, it seems there is always room for another book on the Space Shuttle.  Most of them cover the Shuttle as part of a multi-orbiter programme, often picking the ‘best bits’ from the 135 missions with little regard to which of the Orbiters conducted those missions. This book takes a different tack. Following his previous book on a Space Shuttle, “Voyages of Discovery”, Robert Adamcik has chosen Endeavour as his next Orbiter.  “America’s Great Endeavour” will appeal to those who like blow-by-blow mission detail and an apparent fetish for chronology (e.g. “Finally, at 11:02 AM EDT, 38 minutes later than originally planned…” and “With that the crew ended their day at 5:09 PM EDT.”) .  In fact, 25 of the 30 chapters detail each of Endeavour’s 25 miss...

Meeting the Challenge: The Hexagon KH-9 Reconnaissance Satellite, Phil Pressel, AIAA, 2013, 295pp, $30.50, ISBN 978-1-62410-203-5 [hardback]
21st July 2014

Meeting the Challenge Hexagon was America’s last film-based photoreconnaissance satellite, developed in the 1960s and ‘70s and not declassified until 2011.  The author, however, made the decision to write this book in 2004 and set about obtaining permission from the CIA to publish it and, effectively, to get the Hexagon programme declassified.  He writes of the difficulty in getting people to remember what they did in a programme without recourse to technical records, let alone persuading them to write it down: “Trying to get started to fill up an empty page was very hard”, he says.  Nevertheless, he succeeded and this book is both a record of a fascinating space programme and a tribute to the people at the Perkin Elmer Corporation who worked on it (Appendix F even includes a list of names by department). From the...

Space Shuttle Legacy: How We Did It and What We Learned, Roger D Launius et al (Eds), AIAA, 2013, 375pp, $38.50, ISBN 978-1-62410-216-5 [hardback]
21st July 2014

Space Shuttle Legacy The Space Shuttle operated from 1981 to 2011, a 30-year period that was unprecedented in the annals of spaceflight for so many reasons that have been well documented in thousands of books published over the years.  Now that the Shuttle Orbiters are museum pieces, it is time to look back at the legacy of the Shuttle and the lessons learned in its design and implementation as a space transportation system. In 15 chapters, a gamut of well-known, predominantly American authors consider various aspects of the Shuttle from technical to cultural, infused throughout with the analytical hindsight of the historian.  Following introductory chapters on spaceplanes and design aspects in the context of the US political system, the book gets down to engineering: the main engines, the thermal protection system,...

Ablative Thermal Protection Systems Modeling, Georges Duffa, AIAA, 2013, 431pp, $92.00, ISBN 978-1-62410-171-7 [hardback]
21st July 2014

Ablative TPS Modeling It is a fact of life for space exploration and development that returning a spacecraft to Earth is a challenge because of frictional heating in the planet’s atmosphere: all such spacecraft need a thermal protection system or TPS.  Given the relative lack of opportunities for testing in the real environment (i.e. the relative lack of re-entry missions), it is understandable that computer modelling has become a crucial aspect of TPS design.  This textbook addresses the need to understand the subject of TPS modelling. As the author says in his Preface, “the sum of physical knowledge [required for such study] is broad”: thermodynamics, gas kinetics, radiative transfer, physical and chemical reactions, fluid mechanics and so on.  Although other books study these areas in detail, this one synthesis...

Comparative Climatology of Terrestrial Planets, Stephen J Mackwell et al (Eds), University of Arizona Press, 2013, 610pp, £29.50, ISBN 978-0-8165-3059-5 [hardback]
22nd April 2014

Comparative Climatology This massive tome features the work of four editors and no less than 69 “collaborating authors”, which in itself makes its existence somewhat high on the surprising scale. The facts that its graphical illustrations are augmented with an 80-page glossy colour section and yet it sells for under £30 are little short of amazing… and all that before one even discusses the title! The book itself, which is the 38th volume in the University of Arizona Space Science Series, is all about comparing the climates of the terrestrial planets (Earth, Mars and Venus) with a view to learning more about our own.  As James Hansen writes in his Foreword, “Comparative climatology of the terrestrial planets, including their evolution, provides a broad perspective that helps us understand consequenc...