Archive for the ‘Space Book Reviews’ Category

Best space and sci-fi books for 2020

By Staff

Space is Open for Business – The Industry That Can Transform Humanity by Robert C. Jacobson; Self-published, Release Date: July 2020; Available by pre-order.

The space industry is experiencing a renaissance, led by private companies who have pushed the boundaries and continue innovating at a rapid pace, explains space investor and entrepreneur, Robert C. Jacobson.

The author underscores the fact that we are “in the middle of a critical turning point: the NewSpace revolution needs public interest, increased investment, improved government policy, and widespread collaboration to propel forward and reach its full potential.”

Divided into seven parts, the reader will enjoy Jacobson’s thoughtful guide to the evolving space industry, such as “Investing in the Cosmos,” “Joining the Movement,” and “The Blueprint of Evolution.” The book offers insightful looks at many of the space entrepreneurs of today that are indeed shaping NewSpace.

“Space is, in fact, a culmination of many disciplines, and it works in tandem with various industries,” the author explains. “The sector’s growth depends on merging different fields with cutting-edge technologies, fantastical ideas with logical applications.”

I found this volume an uplifting read. In addition, Jacobson offers a “non-exhaustive list” of the immediate, necessary changes needed to propel NewSpace forward and achieve its unlimited potential. Culled together are a series of key steps to do so.

“Smart policy, technology and innovation adoption, increased space-entrepreneurship, and timing will all affect the industry’s trajectory,” writes Jacobson.

Space is the unlimited business plan, the author believes. Space can transform the world in ways not possible by the bounds of terrestrial business endeavors. If you can dream it, it may be possible in this space-future.

The book concludes with a comprehensive set of references that adds to this book’s unique contribution to the evolving and expansive world of NewSpace.

For more information on Space is Open for Business – The Industry That Can Transform Humanity go to:

The U.S. Secretary for Defense has released the Defense Space Strategy, which identifies how Department of Defense will advance spacepower to be able to compete, deter and win in a complex security environment characterized by great power competition.

The Department of Defense (DoD) is embarking on the most significant transformation in the history of the U.S. national security space program.

Space is now a distinct warfighting domain, demanding enterprise-wide changes to policies, strategies, operations, investments, capabilities, and expertise for a new strategic environment. This strategy identifies how DoD will advance spacepower to enable the Department to compete, deter, and win in a complex security environment characterized by great power competition.

For the summary of this report, go to:

Also, a fact sheet is available at:

NASA cover artwork credit: Alberto Bertolin/Jacobs Technology Inc.

After LM – NASA Lunar Lander Concepts Beyond Apollo, John Connolly (Editor) 2019; 277-pages, Free NASA PDF.

This NASA-published volume traces the history of human lunar lander concepts developed since Apollo’s Lunar Module (LM).

Credit NASA

Editor John Connolly has spent 33 years at NASA, primarily leading development of lunar surface systems, including landers. Given the details provided in this book, his bookshelves are surely bowed by the number of study volumes he has collected and gone through!

This notable volume tells the story of physics, technology, and the desire to return humans to the lunar surface through technical descriptions, imagery and looks at subsystems of more than 100 lunar lander concepts created by NASA and its contractors since the Apollo program. 

The concepts are grouped by the human exploration timelines that defined the post-Apollo period, starting post-Apollo and continuing through the Space Exploration Initiative and the Vision for Space Exploration, and concluding with the many lander designs created to support NASA’s Constellation program.

Readers will better appreciate the common “trades” that are explored in crewed landing systems, including propellant types, pressurized volumes, structural mass fractions, mass margins, crew size, and special accommodations for ergonomics and other human factors. 


“There is a reason why the Apollo LMs, and many of the subsequent lunar lander designs featured in this book, look the way they do – their shape and form is a response to the simple physics that governs the tasks they are asked to perform,” Connolly explains.

As this document was being compiled in 2019, NASA has once again begun planning a return to the Moon, and new lunar lander designs are being generated.

Compared to Apollo, Connolly notes, crews are projected to be larger and stay times longer.

“However, it is expected that the landers will look much like the designs in this document,” he adds, because lunar lander design is a response to the simple physics that governs the tasks they are asked to perform.

Lander Design Analysis Cycle-4
Credit: NASA

“Design is also a living thing. New crewed lander designs will continue to emerge up until the point that humans return to the Moon, and even beyond, Connolly writes. “New players from different countries and commercial providers will create new designs based on new technologies and new requirements.”

“Until some breakthrough technology or new physics principle is created, each lander will respond to the current physics of lunar landing,” Connolly explains in the concluding pages of the volume.

“There may come a time, generations from now, when future engineers are paging through a digital copy of this catalog and reflecting on the early work of lunar lander designers. “Those Apollo guys were really smart, given that they started with nothing as a reference. The Lunar Module – now THAT was a great lunar lander design.”

After LM – NASA Lunar Lander Concepts Beyond Apollo is free to the public and available for download at:

What steps are necessary to establish a cislunar sustainability paradigm?

A new publication underscores the fact that, as more nations become spacefarers and cislunar traffic increases, established and emerging players should employ lessons learned from operations in low Earth orbit and geosynchronous Earth orbit “to be better caretakers of the expanded orbital neighborhood.”

The report — Cislunar Stewardship:  Planning for Sustainability and International Cooperation – is available from the Center for Space Policy and Strategy, part of The Aerospace Corporation, a nonprofit organization that advises the government on complex space enterprise and systems engineering problems.

Basic assumptions

Why is cislunar space important? The report notes that, between now and mid-century, some basic assumptions about the state of space operations are reasonable.

— Geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) will continue to be valuable and actively used.

— The number of operational satellites, especially in low and medium Earth orbits (LEO and MEO), will increase.

— Space operators will become more numerous and more diverse.

— Orbital debris will continue to be a significant concern.

— A greater variety of cislunar orbits will be used for an assortment of space applications, including communications, navigation, space domain awareness, scientific remote sensing, and human exploration.

Illustration of several types of cislunar orbits: halo and Lyapunov orbits about the five Lagrange points; distant
retrograde orbits.
Credit: Jonathan Aziz/Center for Space Policy and Strategy

Gravitational and policy stability

“Space operations are expanding beyond the geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) to other parts of the Earth-Moon system. As this trend continues, space operators will find preferred orbits and seek to leverage points of relative gravitational stability,” the report explains. “These locations can enable lower-energy transits or provide useful parking places for various types of facilities (e.g., fueling depots, storage sites, and way stations with access to the lunar poles). As cislunar activity grows, a policy framework should be developed to promote the sustainability of operations in these locations.”

To access the report — Cislunar Stewardship:  Planning for Sustainability and International Cooperation – go to:

Apollo 17’s Harrison Schmitt
Credit: NASA

The sixth installment of Apollo 17 Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt’s saga, Apollo 17: Diary of the 12th Man has been published on his website.

This new chapter of the diary – “Contact!” — is now online and recounts the events of the 6th day of the Apollo 17 mission, America’s last deep space manned mission of the 20th century.

At 200 feet altitude, a clear view of both the Challenger shadow with landing struts deployed.
Credit: NASA

“It includes wakeup activities; my entry into [Lunar Module (LM)] Challenger to begin the Challenger’s activation; a complete activation of Challenger’s systems; Descent Orbit Insertion-1 (DOI-1) while still docked with the CSM; preparation for undocking from America; undocking; preparation and implementation of DOI-2 by Challenger; and, of course, Powered Descent on to the lunar surface in the valley of Taurus-Littrow,” Schmitt explains in his author’s note.

The switches for the LM rendezvous radar settings.
(Base photo NASA/ALSJ/Paul Fjeld)

Complex flying machine

“The reader is taken through the real checkout procedures activating the LM in lunar orbit, and riding with the astronauts down to the lunar surface,” explains Ronald Wells, editor-in-chief of the revealing and instructive website.

The ground track of the flight trajectory of Challenger into the valley of Taurus-Littrow coming from the right.
(Base photo NASA AS17-M-0595)

It has been illustrated with photos of the actual LM instrument panels that Jack Schmitt and Gene Cernan operated in flight, “so the reader hopefully will get a very good idea of how complex flying the LM actually was by seeing all the switches that they had to operate,” Wells told Inside Outer Space. “This very important chapter, of course,” he adds, “is a must read for the Artemis astronauts in training to return to the Moon!”










To view “Contact!” by Apollo 17’s Harrison H. Schmitt, a fascinating read with excellent endnotes, go to:

How best to gauge the value and use of space-based capabilities and our reliance on space, sector by sector?

A new study released by The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS) delves into uses of more than 2,200 active satellites that support earthly infrastructure, economies, and national security systems.

The study explains that, with the help of space-based services, utility companies synchronize energy flows across the grid, stock market exchanges record transactions, oceanographers track endangered whales, while scientists monitor the climate and farmers increase crop yields.

Use of satellite services for agricultural applications.

Communications satellites let air traffic controllers manage planes in crowded airspace, remote-sensing satellites reveal what is happening on Earth’s surface in near real-time, and weather satellites give us a better chance of having an umbrella when we need it.

Frenzy of technological change

“In this frenzy of technological change and policy debate,” the study explains, “it is important to remember the immense value that space provides.”

Use of GPS for product shipping and delivery.


“Space-based communications, navigation, weather, and remote sensing services make our daily lives better, and contribute to saving Space-based services have become fundamental to daily life, but there’s more going on in space than you may realize,” the volume explains. “How does our modern world rely on space?”


On the horizon

As for new space-based services…there is more to come.

“Just as it was difficult to foresee the myriad uses of GPS in the late 1980s, it’s hard to imagine how this fresh flood of commercial space data will affect the economy, the military, and daily life,” the study points out.

To access this informative report — The Value of Space – go to:

A new freely-available anthology released by the European Astrobiology Institute (EAI) delves into probing questions about microbial life on Mars and elsewhere to all the way to the Fermi Paradox: Where are they?

The anthology, titled Strangest of All (a nod to H. G. Wells’s War of The Worlds), was edited by the author, editor and scientist Julie Novakova – an award-winning Czech author of science fiction and detective stories.

The book contains reprint science fiction stories by G. David Nordley, Geoffrey Landis, Gregory Benford, Tobias S. Buckell, Peter Watts and D. A. Xiaolin Spires, plus a bonus story by the editor.

Strangest of All is the first of major outreach projects coming from the EAI.

The anthology can be downloaded for free in several formats.

Go to:

The Life and Science of Harold C. Urey by Matthew Shindell, The University of Chicago Press; December 2019; Hardback; 248 pages, $27.50.

This impressive biography is a well-researched and enjoyable read – a wonderful account of Harold Urey’s pioneering work, including his contributions in cosmochemistry and lunar science.

The author offers an intriguing look at Urey’s scientific contributions, but also insight into the scientist’s struggles with faith and tangles with political forces in America.

Within the book’s seven chapters, the author explores Urey’s maturation from farm boy to wartime chemist, followed by his Nobel Laureate status to a “Manhattan Project burnout.”

For all you space-based readers, you’ll find a marvelous account of Urey’s cosmic encounter coming to grips with the formation and evolution of the solar system. The chapter — “To Hell with the Moon!” – is a thoroughly absorbing story of the scientist’s move into planetary science and his early modeling of the Moon and solar system development.

The scientist was not a fan of NASA when it was established in 1958. Nor was he interested in planting human footprints on the Moon. “Urey’s lack of enthusiasm may have stemmed at least partially from the fact that the majority of the scientists and administrators who made up the new NASA were either atmospheric scientists, military personnel, or engineers,” Shindell writes. Still, Urey later became an important and early voice in putting forward a scientific agenda for lunar exploration.

Harold C. Urey

Why the relationship with NASA turned sour, I’m not going to elaborate here, but the author offers impeccable detail and quotes a telling passage from Urey, written in 1976 that the Moon was quite a disappointment and explaining that the Moon seems to be an “incidental object of some kind with no theory for its origin that is generally accepted.”

The Life and Science of Harold C. Urey is a thumbs-up tome. The epilogue wraps up the Nobel Prize winner’s life in science, followed by a great set of notes, list of archives, oral history interviews, and bibliography.

Urey died in early January 1981.

On a personal note, decades ago, I bumped into Harold Urey while digging into a substantial cache of Ranger and Surveyor lunar documents held in the library stacks at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in La Jolla, California. He was a professor at large at UCSD and I treasure that moment of conversation with that grand man.

For more information on The Life and Science of Harold C. Urey, go to:


Soviet Space Graphics: Cosmic Visions from the USSR by Alexandra Sankova (in collaboration with the Moscow Design Museum), Phaidon; April 2020; Hardback; 240 pages, $39.95.

This book is a well-timed retro-fire into space history – and an absolute wonderful read.

The volume offers insight into the Soviet sociopolitical landscape, a behind-the-scenes view of how space played in the minds of space visionaries behind the Iron Curtain over the decades.

“Yuri Gagarin: Let’s Go!” illustration by S. Alimov.
Credit: The Moscow Design Museum

This is a book that offers a view of more than 250 covers and interior illustrations that depict first-time discoveries and scientific prowess, but laden with futuristic visions of where space exploration can take us.

Up front disclosure: I’m a relic from the impact of Cold War-era Russian space imagery. The space propaganda machine by the USSR was in full-throttle when I was much younger, as U.S. rockets and spacecraft seemed lost in space, missed their mark or crapped out on arrival.

Illustration by V. Viktorov depicting space dogs Belka and Strelka.
Credit: The Moscow Design Museum

Yes, America had its successes, but it was all high-drama and this book reflects the Space Race running full-steam. As this volume exemplifies, making use of the period’s hugely successful popular-science magazines, the imagery rocketed out of the Soviet Union were an essential tool for the endorsement of state ideology.

As explained in the book: “As the competition heated up, so did the response in the media. In the USSR, popular science magazines were a vital tool in the motivation and engagement of the general public, documenting in great detail and vivid color both the realities and fantasies of the state’s advancements on the West.”

Illustration by R. Avotin.
Credit: The Moscow Design Museum

This wonderful book features images from the surreal to the sublime, colored in communist sentiment. The magazine images portray the boldest of space exploration ideas – many of them alive and well even in the 21st century.

The volume is divided up into unique chapters, from Educate, Encourage, Dream to Cosmic Pioneers, Alternative Worlds and Future Visions. Lastly, there’s a very informative section on the magazines from which the book has drawn its captivating material.

Again, this is a unique and enjoyable read that deserves attention…not only for the reader to romp around in the past, but serves as a historic bookmark in pioneering the space frontier of today.












For more information on this book, go to: