We're living in a sci-fi world, but we hardly seem to notice it. Recounting the history of our most successful space program, the editors of Air & Space
magazines reawaken the reader's attention to the fantastic in Space Shuttle: The First 20 Years
. Featuring hundreds of beautiful, enlightening, and sometimes funny photographs (many never before published), the book has compelling visual appeal for all ages. Uniquely focused on the personal experiences of the astronauts who lived and worked aboard shuttles and space stations, the text is largely made up of interviews and written reminiscences of these often-inspiring adventurers. The subjects roam from the mundane (What did Mir
smell like?) to the reverent (What's it like to see the effects of war from space?). The two main parts of the book are each arranged chronologically: first following the missions from 1981 onward, then looking closely at the experience of space travelers, from training through launch and recovery. To the editor's credit, they don't shy away from retelling the story of the Shuttle program's most defining moment--the 1986 Challenger
disaster. Though it's every bit as chilling to read about many years later, the context of later dedication to safety and noncommercial uses heightens the value of the sacrifice. A glossary, detailed mission list, and thorough illustrated guide to shuttle operations round out the book, making it a valuable reference and an important reminder that our species has achieved something heroic. --Rob Lightner
From Library Journal
This amazing book documents the history of the space shuttle program by collecting anecdotes and reminiscences from the astronauts and some remarkable pictures of the shuttle and Earth from space. Compiled by the editors of Air&Space/Smithsonian magazine, the 77 well-edited, first-person accounts are honest and compelling. The astronauts tell funny stories, describe their first experiences in zero gravity, and reveal their fear of failing in their missions. Many complain that the busy schedule during flights left no time to gaze out the window at Earth. Selected from the NASA archives, the numerous color photographs some previously unpublished complement the astronauts' recollections and show amazing views of Earth and the astronauts working in and outside the shuttles. Because this work provides firsthand accounts of the shuttle program, it will be valuable to historians of manned space flight. But casual readers will also be captivated by the astronauts' unique descriptions of the flights, especially the personal details that are usually omitted from books about the shuttle, such as Dennis R. Jenkins's more technology-focused Space Shuttle. Highly recommended. Jeffrey Beall, Univ. of Colorado Lib., Denver
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