Pioneering the Space Frontier: A Selected Bibliography

By Saunders, Robert S., Jr. | National Forum, Summer 1992 | Go to article overview

Pioneering the Space Frontier: A Selected Bibliography


Saunders, Robert S., Jr., National Forum


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.

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