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Mankind Beyond Earth: The History, Science, and Future of Human Space Exploration Hardcover – January 1, 2013

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


An important book by a visionary with his feet planted on the ground.

(Kirkus Reviews)

Finally, a give-it-to-me-straight account of why space exploration matters. In Mankind Beyond Earth, Claude A. Piantadosi folds together science, politics, and culture to demonstrate why a civilization without a spacefaring future is doomed to extinction.

(Neil Degrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History, author of Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier)

In this engaging book, Claude A. Piantadosi presents a concise and accurate history of how our nation's space program arrived at its current uncertain juncture, supplementing it with powerful insights into a wide range of fields, from planetary science to human physiology. This is a compelling work from a scientist committed to expanding the human exploration of our universe.

(Michael L. Gernhardt, NASA astronaut, manager of the Environmental Physiology Laboratory at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center)

Recommended for readers intrigued by the real-life requirements of space exploration.

(Library Journal)

This nicely written volume will appeal to the general public and space enthusiasts who want to learn about the hazards of human space exploration.


Piantadosi's goal throughout the book is to explain to the lay audience why spaceexploration is difficult and important. He achieves this first goal in a clear manner,very accessible to someone without a technical background.

(Lisa Messeri MetaScience)

Piantadosi assembles and presents the best of the vast amount of information we have accumulated… it will kindle in many a sense of excitement for some of the great adventures still awaiting us as a nation.



A whole generation has grown up with tales of the glory of man's excursion into space, and this fact-filled and stimulating book ties the story together and extends it to further exploration of the Moon again and Mars.

(Bruce D. Butler, University of Texas Medical School at Houston)

Mankind Beyond Earth offers a wide-ranging analysis of the challenges facing human space exploration. Using examples from polar expeditions, aviation history, undersea voyages, and space missions, Claude A. Piantadosi shows that exploration is unforgiving to those who fail to plan. Piantadosi details the barriers that must be surmounted for humans to leave Earth for long voyages. He supports his case with information from diverse disciplines, including microbiology, radiation physics, botany, astronomy, and physiology. He also makes a strong argument for the United States to refocus on exploring the Moon and to use Moon exploration both for scientific discovery and as preparation for longer trips to Mars.

(Jay C. Buckey MD, former payload-specialist astronaut, professor of medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (January 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231162421
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231162425
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,480,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Carl Sagan said that mankind would have to explore space to survive. Yet budget and programme cuts mean NASA has to pay Russia $62.7 million per astronaut they carry to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz vessels. Written from an American point of view, but ultimately the view of humanity's future, this factual book reassesses the benefits and difficulties of space exploration.

Robots are cheaper and easier to send as explorers than to send all the support systems required by fragile humans. Yet manned space missions have given spinoff benefits, such as Teflon, better prosthetics, telemedicine, better preserved foods, better kidney dialysis machines and advances in aviation safety. Space science has given us satellites, so improved communications, forecasting and views of changing climates - and detection of near-flying asteroids. Research will benefit humanity, whether in the field of pure physics or seeing if a biodome can grow enough food to support life on the Moon.

Claude Piantadosi supports returning to the Moon, as a testing ground for the survival systems we will need to explore Mars. He analyses problems at NASA, explaining that when innovators get stifled by red tape and budget cuts they skip off to private industry. We have come an awe-inspiring distance since the start of the twentieth century, when heavier-than-air flight was first achieved by the Wrights. We have landed a robot on Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and Mars Rovers trundle across that planet and send back data.

Biomedicine explores how we can live under stressful conditions, such as a year or more in space. We see comparisons with Tibetan and Andean populations, each of which has found a different physiological adaptation to altitude.
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Format: Hardcover
I am a huge reader of science texts. I've read all the popular books and I like to delve into the less well known. I've honestly never heard of Professor Piantadosi nor have I read his work before.

The author looks at the history of space exploration and the barriers facing us in the future. As he says, space travel is not just about technology, it also about biology. He makes the point more than once that it is also about finances and politics. He starts off showing the passion of the people who made it to the moon and explains the difficulties they faced.

As we go through the book, he explains the importance of sustenance, waste removal, air for breathing, propulsion, distances, the effects of radiation on physiology and technology and so much more. Who will be the people exploring, what will they explore and how will they do it.

Some people may not like his style of writing. Like many scientific texts, it's written in a mostly informal essay style. While everything he says is related, he tends to jump around a bit. In the space of just a few pages, he explains the measurements we'll use in space (not just KM and light-year but AU and parsec), biomedicine, stress and the effects of radiation. Stuck in there is a great discussion of the people who live above 12,000 feet and how they have adapted to that life.

I say same people may not like it, but I found the entire thing to be fascinating. I've never seen some of the concepts explained as well as the author does it. There are a lot of topics I have never seen addressed for the layman.

This book is sort of like National Geographic for the Space Explorer. Maybe even a little popular mechanics thrown in for good measure.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this book, but you may not. The author is a scientist of broad interest who tells you much more than you need to know to weigh alternative ideas for exploring outer space. For example, there are four ways to die from lack of oxygen and the book gives concise but thorough descriptions of the physiology of each one. Someday an astronaut may have a heart attack (ischemia) in space, or die from cytotoxic or stagnant hypoxia due to disease or genetic defect. But you'd think a book on space travel would concentrate on not having oxygen because space is a vacuum and other planets don't have oxygen atmospheres and maybe your spaceship or spacesuit sprang a leak or your oxygen recycling system broke down (hypoxic hypoxia, if you’re keeping track). The book has a similarly comprehensive account of how radiation affects tissues instead of describing only the most significant short-term dangers of cosmic rays outside the Van Allen belt.

It’s not just physiology that gets this treatment, the author will launch into general discussions of physics, chemistry, geology, scientific history or anything else that interests him with the least excuse. Ever wondered about how we got those International Geophysical and International Polar years? Or what the “Antarctic stare” is? Then this is the book for you. But if you’re looking for a focused discussion of the technology of space travel, you might get frustrated. Think of a late-night rambling discussion with a very smart guy who has thought a lot about exploration of outer space, who has a strong pedantic streak that is tolerable because he actually knows what he’s talking about and it’s interesting stuff.
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