There is perhaps no greater realm for humans to explore than outer space. It is the ultimate, infinite ocean awaiting the next generation of space travelers. Outer space promises to be the laboratory of the future, not just for exploration into the solar system and beyond, but a laboratory that could yield scientific and medical discoveries that would dramatically alter and improve the quality of life on Earth. The future of space exploration depends largely on an education that sparks people's imaginations and taps into their seemingly innate desire to explore the unknown. With that purpose in mind, we recommend the books annotated below. Each of these books provides a myriad of space and space-related issues that have been significant in the past and that offer promise for the future.
Bilstein, Roger E. Orders of Magnitude: A History of the NASA and NASA, 1915-1990. The NASA History Series, SP-4406. Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration Office of Management, 1989. Bilstein's work is one of the most concise one-volume histories of aeronautics and astronautics to date. Tracing the developments from 1915 to 1990, the author clearly depicts the astoundingly rapid advances in flight technology. Between the years 1915 and 1930, "astronautics" became fused with civilian and military aviation, a union that culminated in growing public interest and many appreciable advances in rocket technology. Orders of Magnitude includes an excellent sketch of the 1950s "supersonic era" and the push for an advanced American space program after the startling launch of Russia's Sputnik. This work continues the story through the Gemini and Apollo programs, the benefits of the lunar landings, the advent of the shuttle program, and the catastrophic Challenger explosion. The author includes a chapter entitled "New Directions" highlighting potential gains from commercial and military space programs, as well as significant breakthroughs from projects in applied science and technology.
Collins, Michael. Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1989. First published in 1974, Collins' work is one of the best accounts of the United States' early efforts to explore outer space. Written in a readable style, Carrying the Fire is a commendable account of NASA's early years from an astronaut's viewpoint. It clearly details the "spirit" of exploration that seemed to enthrall Americans throughout the 1960s. But in a new preface included in the 1989 edition, the author states his dissatisfaction with the American space program since the termination of the Apollo missions. Collins believes that the United States has failed to produce any clearly defined goals for space exploration. The author admits that the shuttle is indeed a wonderful machine, but he suggests that it should not be considered the final product of America's space program. As the shuttle cannot be employed for deep-space exploration, it should be used to construct a space station that could serve as the starting point for manned deep-space flights.
Harvey, Brian. Race into Space: The Soviet Space Programme. Chichester, England: Ellis Horwood Limited, 1988. Harvey traces the history of the Soviet space program from Tsiolkovsky to the present, and he stresses the similarities and differences between the Soviet and American space efforts. The author depicts a space policy centered on interplanetary travel as its main focus. But the history of the Soviet space program has been one of peaks and valleys. Like the American program it has experienced both serious failures and great successes. With the end of the Cold War, new information concerning the Soviet space program will most likely surface. Nevertheless, Harvey's book is an excellent starting point for understanding the Soviet Union's rich history in space.
Lang, Kenneth R. and Charles A. Whitney. Wanderers in Space: Exploration and Discovery in the Solar System. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991. The primary value of this work is that it reveals the splendor and marvelous mysteries of our solar system. Highlighting each planet or group of planets individually, the authors present many fascinating details that should intrigue even the most casual reader. Also printed in the work are numerous photographs of the planets.
Lewis, Richard S. Space in the 21st Century. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990. This book's primary focus is the space station and the benefits that could be obtained from long-term space exploration. Lewis traces the development of several proposed space stations through the years. He explains how a United States, or even multinational, permanent space station could become a reality within a few years. He also proposes that it is the manifest destiny of the human species to colonize the moon. From such a lunar habitat, flights into deep space could begin. Of special interest is the author's contention that the Moon could be mined for large supplies of helium-3, a potential source of clean energy that is not found on Earth. This resource, dubbed "astrofuel" by scientists, could also be used to supply the propulsion energy for deep-space exploration.
Murray, Bruce. Journey into Space: The First Three Decades of Space Exploration. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1989. Murray's account of America's space program differs from other histories of the subject. He introduces the history of space exploration from the viewpoint of one who lived through and participated in the heyday of the American space effort. Highlighting America's "golden age" in space, Murray suggests that America's space program of the last several years has been by and large without direction. He maintains that after the Moon shots of the sixties and seventies and the advent of the shuttle program, the American people lost interest in space exploration. The author warns that the United States must come to terms with its past, both the good and the bad. Murray recognizes the Challenger accident as a serious failure for the American program, but he maintains that with an innovative focus toward scientific discoveries and interplanetary travel a new golden age can begin.
Shipman, Harry L. Space 2000: Meeting the Challenge of a New Era. New York: Plenum Press, 1987. Shipman's study is a fairly detailed, one-volume work tracing the American space program from its early developments through the present. Clearly written and well organized, this study includes analyses of satellite communications, lunar mining, potential medical advances, and the monitoring of Earth's environment from space. Citing the 1986 Challenger accident as a major setback for the program, the author claims that America's future in space could still reach its highest potential. But the author does not carry the story too far into the future. Instead, he proposes goals for the U.S. space program for the 1990s. Of highest priority, according to the author, should be the completion of a space station that could be used in a number of ways, not simply as a way station for exploring the solar system.
Task Group on Planetary and Lunar Exploration, National Acadeny of Sciences. Space Science in the Twenty-First Century: Imperatives for the Decades 1995-2015. Vol. 6. Planetary and Lunar Exploration. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1988. This work chronicles the results of a study undertaken between 1984 and 1986 to determine the principle scientific issues that space science will confront between 1995 and 2015. Of prime importance in this volume is the evolution of the solar system and its relation to the universe as a whole. Included in the work are the four basic goals motivating planetary exploration: understanding the origins of the solar system, understanding the evolutions of the planets, learning what conditions lead to the presence of life, and learning how physical laws work in other solar systems. The study concludes that Mars, the most Earth-like planet in the solar system, should be fully explored primarily because an understanding of its evolutionary process will likely lead to a better understanding of how the Earth will evolve in the future.…