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.
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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.