The Earth Gazers: On Seeing Ourselves by Christopher Potter, Pegasus Books, 2018; 400 pages; $28.95 hardcover.

This is a very readable and enjoyable volume, one that provides an appealing perspective concerning those space travelers who peered through windows to take in the view of Earth from the vacuum void.

Divided into three parts, the book’s chapters take the reader on a historical arc, anchored with details about visionary aerospace pioneers, Charles Lindbergh, Robert Goddard and Wernher von Braun, then underscores the pioneering Apollo astronauts and the resulting impact on humankind.

We are reminded in the book of astronomer Fred Hoyle’s prescient thought in 1948: “Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from the outside, is available…a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.”

What I found enlightening is Potter’s coverage of atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair. It was O’Hair that filed a lawsuit with NASA in regard to the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis as they circled the Moon. The case was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court for lack of jurisdiction.

In many ways, this book is a wakeup and recall call, perhaps underscored by the author’s dedication of the volume: “To my father, who woke me up to watch the first moonwalk. I wish I had shown more enthusiasm at the time.”

Potter himself, toward the book’s end, comes to grips with the call of space exploration. “There is something utopian about all our visions of space exploration, and something both dispiriting and fantastical about the motivation for space travel that tells us that we must find another home because we will at some point have to give up this one…”

The reader will find a sizable, descriptive helping of past space exploits and the history behind them, and more to the point, how these transcendent experiences have helped shape the space sagas yet to play out.

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