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Lost in Space: The Fall of NASA and the Dream of a New Space Age Hardcover – January 13, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0375421501 ISBN-10: 0375421505 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this sprawling and sometimes polemical account, Klerkx, formerly associated with the SETI Institute, excoriates what he sees as NASA's present-day loss of vision. During the Apollo program, NASA's goal was manned space exploration. But over the last 29 years, the agency has scaled down its vision, content to send unmanned missions to the other planets and keep human beings in earth orbit with the short-lived Skylab, the troubled shuttle fleet and the "money-gobbling" International Space Station. Klerkx draws out some of the threads in the tangled web that connects the perpetually feuding NASA fiefdoms, NASA's major suppliers (and major congressional contributors), like Boeing, and the politicians who write the checks. He believes that private-sector entrepreneurs will wrest future space exploration away from the self-serving NASA bureaucracy, which too often views space in terms of military and strategic applications. Klerkx presents the nouveaux riches businessmen investing millions in space-related projects, like Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Elon Musk, founder of Paypal, as well as eccentric visionaries like Robert Zubrin and his Mars Society. The Columbia disaster hangs over Klerkx's tale like a dark shadow.. Some readers may think Klerkx is still under the spell of his boyhood dream of being an astronaut and giving short shrift to arguments against human space exploration. But readers who share Klerkx's dream will be captivated by his vision of what needs to be done to resume manned space flights and of what humankind is capable of achieving.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

What happened to the promising Space Age of 30 years ago? Klerkx offers a compelling if biased critique of NASA and its benefactors in Lost in Space. He delves into insider politics, showing how NASA bows to its major suppliers and congressional contributors. The result? Instead of Klerkx's claimed colonies on Mars, we have an unfinished, increasingly costly space station. The narrative generally flows well, even with some confusing acronyms, heavy financial issues, and erroneous history. The bigger issue is Klerkx's bias. Although he researched NASA's competitors and focused on two private endeavors, he did not interview NASA officials, weakening his indictment of the agency. Still, he's largely correct about the direction of our current Space Age efforts: spend your down payment on that Mars home elsewhere.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (January 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375421505
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375421501
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,403,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on December 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
Greg Klerkx, a journalist who has covered NASA at times, offers in "Lost in Space" a quirky, idiosyncratic perspective on the U.S. space effort. It is one of several works that periodically appear taking NASA to the woodshed for failures, both real and perceived, that have prevented the accomplishment of a grand vision of space exploration. Of course, that "grand vision" is highly idiosyncratic and Klerkx's vision is certainly idiosyncratic as well. For Greg Klerkx, the grand vision of space exploration should lead to a renaissance for our species as we become a multiplanetary species, but it has been subverted by the military-industrial complex, government bureaucrats, and small minded politicians.

For Greg Klerkx, NASA is little more than a poorly-run government bureaucracy more concerned with self-preservation than in extending the space frontier. He invokes conspiracies too often to explain what has happened in spaceflight since the Apollo program, and condemns the relationship between NASA and its predominant contractors. Klerkx celebrates the private space entrepreneurs who have been pursuing the X-Prize, the Mars Society's analogue for Martian habitats at Devon Island, and MirCorps' efforts to privatize the Mir space station in the 2000 time frame. Through those efforts, Klerkx believes, NASA's monopoly on space activities may end. And it cannot come too soon for the author of "Lost in Space."

"Lost in Space" represents the view of a small but vocal group of space advocates who bemoan the current state of space activities in the United States. Brought up on the promises of Apollo in the 1960s, Moon habitats and space stations where tourists could travel, and possibilities for an endless frontier beyond Earth, these folks lament what might have been.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Snyder on February 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
Why have we never sent a man to Mars? Why don't we have an operational space station, much better than the ISS, in place now? Why no continuing manned moon presence?

Klerkx asks and answers these questions and more in his scathing critique of the post-Apollo NASA here. It's a good read, and contrary to some reviews, arguably it NEED to be polemical, as NASA isn't listening -- and that itself is one of Klerkx's points.

I can agree that one can excoriate NASA without necessarily saying private enterprise is the answer to everything in space. And, I did find the book a bit disjointed at times. Nonetheless, it's a very good read.

And, as to the reviewer who claims Klerkx jumped on the post-Columbia bandwagon -- what's wrong with that? It's called striking while the iron is hot.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a decent book that presents the opposing view to NASA's perspective on space travel. It does get long winded at times and could benefit with some editing. It is corageous in that it is one of a very few books that will state that NASA is lost and has no real direction.
I was born in 1968, so I missed the interesting space missions. I remember as a kid watching the first Space Shuttle launch and being completely unimpressed. I could never really put my finger on my fascination with the Apollo program and my boerdome with the Space Shuttle until now. This book has been a real eye opener for me as a space enthusiast and a tax payer!
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jason Miller on January 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover the usual right stuff glorification of an organization whose efforts to build on the thrill of Apollo have disappointed me and apparently also the author. The track record Klerkx puts together in this book of NASA's dealings with big contractors like Boeing is shocking, and it really throws into question whether NASA has what it takes to send people back to the moon or anywhere else. The stories of the entrepreneurs are interesting and the whole book moves along very nicely, without too much technical gobbledegook. A really interesting read, although it's pretty long, so give yourself some time!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dick H. Fredericksen on January 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Ho, hum! Another book about space. Looks like it's by one of the 'blame NASA' crowd. Ardently peddling his own bit of vaporware, most likely." That was my reaction when I first heard of this book. Just the same, I bought it and read it, and now I'm glad that I did. Just in case you don't read to the end of this review, I'll put my conclusion up front: READ THIS BOOK.

Klerkx does represent that NASA, after its heroic age leading up to the Apollo moon landings, got hardening of the mental arteries. Struggling just to survive as a sinecure for government bureaucrats and a jobs program for engineers, it became less and less venturesome, less and less innovative. As budgets and head count fell away, it became increasingly the captive of corporate aerospace giants. Today, among many space enthusiasts, it is regarded as a roadblock rather than an ally. Klerkx presents their case.

As a longtime space enthusiast myself, I encounter this point of view all the time. Its advocates are a dime a dozen. What makes Klerkx different is that he's a trained journalist and makes a stronger case than I would have thought possible. It helps that he writes well -- he knows how to interview people and make their lives interesting to the reader. Just incidentally, he writes grammatically. Even the typos are rare in this book. I would have to read it clear through a third time to find any, and I could probably count them on the fingers of one hand.

The book interviews a lot of people, many of whom once worked for NASA, but were axed in budget cuts, or becamse disillusioned and quit. Obviously their stories share a bias, but there are too many of them to brush off easily. Some had illustrious records in the glory days. Some have pursued outstanding second careers.
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