Friday, January 16, 2015

New Space Books in the New Year!

Since the holidays are over and I'm finally settling in to 2015, it's time for another "Space Publication Critical Evaluation" or SP[A]CE. I'm reviewing two books today, both about space, but each exploring a very different topic.



New Space Frontiers by Piers Bizony

The subtitle of this book is "Venturing Into Earth Orbit and Beyond". I tried to like this book, I really did. You may notice the now [maybe] defunct Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser gracing the cover, and with the recent commercial crew decision which choose the Boeing and SpaceX designs over Sierra Nevada it points to the need for timeliness in publications about vehicle designs. In my opinion, real-time discussions about space vehicles and such should be just that - real time, not hard cover books with pretty dust jackets at a price of $35. Consumers who are interested in this information are looking for internet articles and maybe timely magazine articles, not already out-of-date coffee table books.

That being said, after chapter 1 the book moves in a different direction. Subsequent chapters lay out ideas about civilian space stations, moon bases, and interplanetary adventures - the details of which may be a little far fetched, but content that is more suited for longer term audiences. Some of these ideas would make great elementary or junior high "space report" references.

The book does contain some great photographs and graphics of future space endeavors, and the layout makes for easy reading or browsing. I felt compelled to sign my copy and hand it off to a high schooler gearing up to enter engineering school - maybe it will provide some motivation for her in the coming years.

New Space Frontiers receives 2/5 stars overall, 5/5 Hubble Space Telescopes for pretty pictures and engaging layouts, and 2/5 orbital mechanics equations for lack of timeliness and hard science.



The Art of Space by Ron Miller

First impression: what a neat book! To be honest, I would never have picked this book up for myself. I'm really no artist, and generally prefer to study real pictures to better understand new discoveries or detailed space missions. Sadly, I would have missed out on an amazing experience.

When you sit down with a book like this hard science goes out the window because it has to. But allowing yourself to temporarily suspend that innate need for accurate depictions enables you to get more "feels" from space. Not surprisingly, my favorite pieces in the book were pictures that included astronauts and/or cosmonauts or were created by them. I especially loved a piece by Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Dzhanibekov depicting three cosmonaut shapes approaching the rocket that will take them to space. He's quoted in the book, "The start of the cosmic trip is one of the most intense moments. They are the last minutes on the earth before a long flight." The three silhouettes are looking up in awe at their rocket bathed in light. In that moment man and machine meet with an uneasy, but required trust.

Overall I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book, and I think it is a great addition to any space nerd's collection. Sometimes art can tell stories words can't.

The Art of Space receives a solid 4/5 stars overall, 5/5 Hubble Space Telescopes for amazing interpretations of astronauts and space, and -/- orbital mechanics equations because art doesn't give a crap about orbital mechanics equations.


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Full Disclosure: I was provided with review copies of The Art of Space and New Space Frontiers from Zenith Press. Also, these reviews are entirely my opinion, feel free to make your own!