Archive for the ‘Space Book Reviews’ Category

Credit: PublicAffairs

The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos by Christian Davenport, PublicAffairs, New York 2018; 320 pages, hardcover, $28.00.

Christian Davenport is a staff writer at the Washington Post covering the space and defense industries for the financial desk, joining the Post in 2000.

You’ll find a very enjoyable, behind-the-scenes look at the well-heeled, big-buck billionaire entrepreneurs who are reshaping the commercial space program. Space Barons, of the likes of Elon Musk of SpaceX and leader, Jeff Bezos, along with Richard Branson and Paul Allen-are taking innovative tactics to reshape and rekindle private space activities.

Davenport has used his sharp-eyed, journalistic talents to tell a compelling story about a “new Space Age” – one that is being propelled by the dollars of the world’s richest people to curb governmental monopoly of utilizing space. The volume also portrays the rivalry between space startups, as well as how they are upsetting the established aerospace community: old space, versus new space.

As the author notes, “Musk, the brash hare, was blazing a trail for others to follow, while Bezos, the secretive and slow tortoise, who was content to take it step by step in a race that was only just beginning.”

The book is divided into three parts, including a tell-all timeline that runs from September 2000 to September 2017 showing the growth of entrepreneurial space progress – and failure. In the book’s notes section you’ll also find useful resources for each part of the book.

This is a must-read volume that is not only well-written but offers a treasure-trove of facts that underscore the trans-formative times we live in…as private sector space reshapes low Earth orbit, a return to the Moon, planting humans on Mars and setting sail for destinations beyond.

For more information about this book, go to:

Special bonus!

Wednesday, April 4, 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm Eastern Time

The Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) invites you to a discussion with Christian Davenport speaking on The Quest to Colonize the Cosmos: How Billionaires are Changing the Space Industry.

The event is being held at CSIS Headquarters, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, D.C. and will be available via webcast live from this page:

Credit: Jack Schmitt



Now available as the third installment of Apollo 17 astronaut and geologist, Jack Schmitt’s Apollo 17: Diary of the 12th Man.

The new addition is Chapter 9, “The 12th Man”, with other chapters to follow.

Challenger at Taurus-Littrow.
Credit: NASA

This chapter chronicles the moments after touchdown in December 1972 of the Challenger Lunar Module in the Valley of Taurus-Littrow; safing the spacecraft systems and preparing it for an extended stay; the first views of the surface from the windows; donning the space suits; and Schmitt’s recounting of becoming the 12th man to step out onto the lunar surface.

Neil Armstrong became the first man to step on the Moon on July 20, 1969, followed by Buzz Aldrin, Pete Conrad, Alan Bean, Al Shepherd, Ed Mitchell, Dave Scott, Jim Irwin, John Young, Charlie Duke, and, number 11, Gene Cernan.

To view Schmitt’s new chapter, Go to:

Note: As with the previous installments, the chapter will be accessible from three areas of the website: On the main home page as a “Post” until replaced by the next installment; in the right sidebar under the listing “Recent Posts”; and in the right upper sidebar under the “Pages” heading “1. Apollo17: Diary of the 12th Man” as each chapter is uploaded. The new addition is Chapter 9, “The 12th Man.”

Special thanks to Ronald A. Wells, PI, Tranquillity Enterprises. (Latin cognate!)

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.

For more information about this book, go to:



I am very excited to learn that my book – Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet – will be available in Chinese and published there in July of 2018.

The volume has already been translated into Portuguese, Greek, German, Japanese, Italian and Dutch.


International outreach

Here are some links for our international readers to my book Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet in these languages:

The book is also available in Greek. We will post that direct link when we have it.
If you want to read these international websites in English, your browser should have a clickable link to translate them for you.

TV series

As the companion book to the televised season 2 of Mars on the National Geographic Channel, take a look at the upcoming six-episode season of the National Geographic global sci-fi hybrid scripted/unscripted series slated to premiere in the spring of 2018 here:

There are special holiday prices for the book via National Geographic by going to:





National Geographic’s online shop has lots of holiday discount specials, including my book, MARS: OUR FUTURE ON THE RED PLANET.

Also, stay tuned in 2018 for season 2 of Mars on the National Geographic channel.


For a sneak peek at all things Mars that requires further investigation and consideration, go to:

Or try this link –

and search for the book – “Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet”

As I post this, it’s selling for $21 on their site, rather than the cover price of $30. That’s about the same price as on – or support your local book store who might have specials too.

Thanks for your inquires and interest!
~ Leonard David

The Indian Space Programme – India’s incredible journey from the Third World towards the First by Gurbir Singh; Astrotalkuk Publications, 2017, 600+ pages, 140+ illustrations, 8 appendices, 20+ tables and 1000+ endnotes; $55.00 softcover.

This book is an incredible resource and is an impressive, heavily researched volume. A unique piece of work, the book outlines how India has capitalized on space technology to foster the country’s progress into the 21st century.

Indeed, this month is viewed as the birth of the Indian Space Program. Fast forward and decades in the making, India’s space program has made impressive strides in space, from weather and Earth-monitoring satellite launches to lunar missions and orbiting Mars with the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan.

Gurbir Singh has written an informative, fact-packed volume that’s unprecedented in its scope – be it describing the founders of India’s space program, the emergence of India’s spaceport, Sriharikota, to the inner-workings of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and its on-going strides in developing an array of boosters.

As Singh notes, “from a standing start in 1963, India has demonstrated the power of space-based technologies to transform a nation. Developing countries will remain developing countries unless they engage in modern space technologies.”

How is the citizenry of India benefiting from the country’s space program? How did India get to the Moon and Mars? What are the prospects for India’s ambitions in space for human spaceflight, military and science? In space, will India compete or collaborate with China, the United States and Russia? These are important questions and dutifully addressed in this very readable and engrossing book.

Singh has done a masterful job of pulling together unique material and photos for a popular reader. It’s a wide-ranging view of India’s space program – its past, current status and ambitions ahead.

For more information regarding this book, go to:

Book Review: International Space Station: Architecture Beyond Earth by David Nixon, CIRCA Press, 2017, 400-pages +, $75.00 hardcover.

This is an incredible gift of a book that tells the history of the International Space Station, through the lens of its architectural design. Written by David Nixon, an architect with a particular interest in designing for space exploration, this impressive volume is the result of seven years of research.

As detailed in the book, In 1984 President Ronald Reagan kick-started the space station effort in 1984. Broken down into time chunks, this work describes the station’s evolution: Diversity and vision (1984-1988; Ambition and grandeur (1984-1988); Crisis and resolution (1989-1993; Anticipation and preparation (1994-1998); and Endurance and achievement (1999-2011).

“The International Space Station is the most ambitious habitat contrived by mankind to support its existence beyond Earth,” Nixon writes. It has become of vital importance to enable humanity’s leap across the solar system.

Credit: David Nixon

While modular infrastructure is one thing, the political, diplomatic, and financial glue needed to hold the facility together is also explained in the book. The author has pieced together an impressive portrait of the inner and outer workings of the ISS. The reader will not go wrong here by reading this volume and gaining a full appreciation of the orbital outpost’s conception, development and then assembly in Earth orbit. ISS is an incredible engineering feat, a story well researched and documented by Nixon.

“This book is a starting point,” the author writes, “and I hope that it will stimulate others into delving more deeply into the station’s fascinating story before the trail begins to grow cold.” While the mega-project’s life may be secure until 2024, the author notes its future after that is murky, perhaps headed for a deep, destructive dive into the Earth’s atmosphere and scattered into ocean waters.

NASA astronaut, Nicole Stott, a resident aboard the sprawling facility, offers her thoughts in a nicely written “A home in space” essay early in the book.

Credit: NASA

There are many fascinating twists and turns in this great book – made that way by a variety of architectures considered over early planning years. All those decision points are nicely detailed by Nixon – adding to the value of this volume.

I’m not aware of any book on the ISS that comes close to what Nixon offers here. After reading his words and eyeing some 250 color and 150 black and white illustrations, you’ll see the ISS in a different light as it crosses the night sky!

By the way, hat’s off to CIRCA for publishing this book. CIRCA is a new press, founded in London by David Jenkins, who over the past twenty-five years has conceived and edited critically acclaimed books on architecture and design for some of the world’s leading publishers.

For more information on this unique book, go to:



Credit: Penguin Random House


A heist story set on the Moon – early PR for Andy Weir’s new novel: Artemis.

The bestselling author of The Martian returns with a new near-future thriller.

According to Penguin Random House:

“Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.”

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down, explains the PR blurb. “But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.”

New Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) techniques are enhancing the resolution available for studies of the crater.
Courtesy: David A. Kring/Lunar and Planetary Institute


The Barringer, or Meteor Crater in Arizona is arguably the world’s best preserved and most dramatic looking impact crater.

Because of its similarity to lunar terrain, NASA used the crater during the Apollo era as a site for testing equipment that would be used on the lunar surface and for training astronaut crews.

Expanded edition

Courtesy: David A. Kring/Lunar and Planetary Institute

A new free volume — Guidebook to the Geology of Barringer Meteorite Crater, Arizona — is available courtesy of the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI).

They have released a greatly expanded edition of David Kring’s Guidebook to the Geology of Barringer Meteorite Crater, Arizona (a.k.a. Meteor Crater).



The book is being distributed electronically as a complimentary download so that it is available to the entire planetary science community.

100 years of exploration

This volume summarizes over 100 years of exploration at the crater and describes how impact cratering processes excavated the bowl-shaped cavity, distributing over 175 million metric tons of rock on the surrounding landscape.

Courtesy: David A. Kring/Lunar and Planetary Institute

As a leading authority on the crater, Kring explores both the geologic processes that shaped the crater and the biological effects the impact event may have had on an ice-age community of mammoths and mastodons.



Field training and research program

This excellent guidebook now contains over 150 figures with more than 200 photographs of the crater and samples from the crater. A large portion of the expanded material in the second edition is based on research conducted by students in LPI’s Field Training and Research Program at Meteor Crater.

To download your copy of this important and essential guidebook (164 MB), go to:

Credit: Purdue University Press

Book Review: Calculated Risk – The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom by George Leopold, Purdue University Press, 416 pages (Hardcover); U.S. $29.95.

Today, back on July 21, 1961, Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom piloted a suborbital mission of Project Mercury, boosted by a Mercury-Redstone 4 rocket that was topped by an escape tower and the Liberty Bell 7 single-seater capsule.

Credit: NASA

That pioneering flight lasted all of 15 minutes and 37 seconds, reaching an altitude of 118 miles, with Grissom splashing down safely in the Atlantic. However, explosive bolts unexpectedly fired and blew the hatch off, causing water to flood into the spacecraft.

Grissom’s dramatic rescue and a possible reason for the hatch blowing is one of numerous gems in this outstanding, well-written book by George Leopold, a veteran technology journalist and science writer who has covered the nexus between technology and policy for over thirty years.

Purdue University Press published this book as part of its Bicentennial Legacy Project. This volume is also under the Purdue Studies in Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Grissom in Gemini-3 spacecraft.
Credit: NASA

This book chronicles the life of the late Gus Grissom, Purdue’s first astronaut and details his Gemini 3 mission, the first manned Project Gemini flight that he flew with John Young in March1965. In an unofficial nod to the sinking of his Mercury craft, Grissom named the first Gemini spacecraft Molly Brown after the popular Broadway show The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

Sadly, Grissom was one of the three astronauts killed in the January 27, 1967, Apollo 1 launch pad fire.

Calculated Risk draws from interviews with fellow astronauts, NASA engineers, family members and friends of Grissom to place his career in the context of the Cold War and the history of human spaceflight.

George Leopold has written an engaging and fact-filled account of Grissom’s life that spotlights the late astronaut’s professionalism and daring in the context of the Cold War and the history of human spaceflight.

For more information, go to:

Griffith Observatory Event