A frequent request here on Cosmic Chicago are book recommendations to learn more about space. I read about 20-30 space related books a year, new and old, covering everything from spaceflight to astronomy to memoirs because it’s a subject I love. But given that the topic of space can be a lot to digest, recommending reads is a challenge when I need to name just one.
I usually provide three books in response to every request- a beginner’s guide that is comprehensive but won’t intimidate anyone, something slightly more serious and thorough to be used as a reference, and then a book that either deals with a personal aspect of a subject or is a fictional narrative.
This first space reading challenge, hopefully this becomes an annual thing, will help you understand more about the numerous aspects of space and space travel. Throughout the year, every book in the challenge will be accompanied by additional coverage that highlights interesting aspects of each book, including: interviews, photo tours, movies, destination guides, and citizen science suggestions.
‘Go, Flight!: The Unsung Heroes of Mission Control‘ by Rick Houston (2015)
The Blurb: “The flight controllers, each supported by a staff of specialists, were the most visible part of the operation, running the missions, talking to the heavens, troubleshooting issues on board, and, ultimately, attempting to bring everyone safely back home. None of NASA’s storied accomplishments would have been possible without these people. Interviews with dozens of individuals who worked in the historic third-floor mission control room bring the compelling stories to life.”
‘Totality: Eclipses of the Sun’ by Mark Littmann, Fred Espenak, Ken Willcox (2009)
The Blurb: “A total eclipse of the Sun is the most awesome sight in the heavens. Totality takes you to eclipses of the past, present, and future, and lets you see–and feel–why people travel to the ends of the Earth to observe them. An absolutely indispensable resource for anyone who plans to observe an eclipse.”
‘Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe’ by Mike Massimino (2016)
The Blurb: “Taking us through the surreal wonder and beauty of his first spacewalk, the tragedy of losing friends in the Columbia shuttle accident, and the development of his enduring love for the Hubble Telescope—which he and his fellow astronauts were tasked with saving on his final mission—Massimino has written an ode to never giving up and the power of teamwork to make anything possible.”
‘Chasing Hubble’s Shadow: The Search for Galaxies at the Edge of Time’ by Jeff Kanipe (2006)
The Blurb: Chasing Hubble’s Shadows is an account of the continuing efforts of astronomers to probe the outermost limits of the observable universe.
‘Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space’ by Carl Sagan (1997)
The Blurb: “Future generations will look back on our epoch as the time when the human race finally broke into a radically new frontier–space. In Pale Blue Dot Sagan traces the spellbinding history of our launch into the cosmos and assesses the future that looms before us as we move out into our own solar system and on to distant galaxies beyond. The exploration and eventual settlement of other worlds is neither a fantasy nor luxury, insists Sagan, but rather a necessary condition for the survival of the human race.”
‘Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13’ by James Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger (1994)
The Blurb: “In April 1970, during the glory days of the Apollo space program, NASA sent Navy Captain Jim Lovell and two other astronauts on America’s fifth mission to the moon. Only fifty-five hours into the flight of Apollo 13, disaster struck: a mysterious explosion rocked the ship, and soon its oxygen and power began draining away. Commander Lovell and his crew watched in alarm as the cockpit grew darker, the air grew thinner, and the instruments winked out one by one. The full story of the moon shot that almost ended in catastrophe has never been told, but now Lovell and coauthor Jeffrey Kluger bring it to vivd life.”