From School Library Journal
Grade 5–7—Though possibly of interest as a sketchy update for the likes of Ron Miller's Rockets (Lerner, 2007), Steve Otfinoski's Rockets (Marshall Cavendish, 2006), or older surveys, this overview of the history of rocketry largely covers well-scouted territory. Tucking a few uncommon details into, particularly, the early chapters, Skurzynski begins with the development of gunpowder bombs and rockets in China, goes on to explain the ideas of pioneers like Konstantin Tsiolkovksy and Robert Goddard, then recaps the Space Race and highlights of the Space Shuttle Program. After a quick look at the commercial rockets under development by Elon Musk's SpaceX Corporation (but none of his several private competitors), she closes with a highly selective list of alternatives to chemical rockets: the space elevator, solar sails, ion engines, and magneto-plasma propulsion. Further marred by a hard-to-read main text printed in low-contrast gray against a patterned background, and also an incorrect claim that the solar wind is composed of photons, this book may draw some readers with its attractive photos and packaging, but doesn't make a significant contribution to space exploration's history or ongoing initiatives.—John Peters, New York Public Library
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Beginning 2,000 years ago when Chinese scientists developed gunpowder and fireworks, this concise title outlines the history of rocket technology, all the way up to twentieth-century marvels, such as the R-7 rocket that launched Sputnik into orbit, and today’s latest research. Throughout, Skurzynski lucidly explains challenging concepts, such as Newton’s laws of motion, and she shows the intricate connections between historical events and scientific breakthroughs, particularly in passages about World Wars I and II and their aftermath: “However unpleasant it might sound, the Cold War stimulated the development of space and satellite technology,” reads one quote from a Russian space engineer. Sci-fi’s important role in shaping modern rocket science will intrigue kids, who will also enjoy reading about young people’s cutting-edge contributions, including a magneto-plasma rocket MIT students made from a Coke can and a plastic water bottle: “They built it for fun, but . . . it worked! This is how exciting future technologies are born.” Amply illustrated with a mix of captivating photos and archival art, this will inspire interest in a wide audience. Grades 6-9. --Gillian Engberg
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