Archive for the ‘Space Book Reviews’ Category


Apollo’s Legacy: Perspectives on the Moon Landings by Roger Launius; Smithsonian Books, Washington, D.C., 2019; hardcover: 264 pages, $27.95

Space historian Roger D. Launius has authored this unique and notable book, one that recollects the triumph that was Apollo…but also Apollo’s less positive aspects.

“Each chapter of the book focuses on a major them in our memories of Apollo,” the author explains, “revealing the ways in which it has been seen as a positive endeavor, as well as the ways in which it remains rooted in a time and a place far removed from both our present concerns and our future priorities.”

That piece of prologue sets the reader up for an expertly written retro look at the “feel-good” triumph for America of astronauts on the Moon and high salutes to the U.S. flag.

But Launius then offers provoking chapters, such as: “Applying Knowledge from Apollo to This-World Problems,” “Apollo and the Religion of Spaceflight,” as well as delving into the surrealistic community of those calling Apollo fake news – individuals that deny the Apollo Moon landings.

The chapter on Apollo hoax accusations is chalk-full of insight. Launius reminds the reader: “More than half the world’s population was born after the last of the Moon landings took place in December 1972. Consequently, they had not lived through the excitement of the experience.”

The contents of this book are divided into 10 chapters, with a “Remembering Apollo” conclusion. The author suggests that Apollo increasingly seems to be viewed as a once-upon-a-time situation “for reasons that have receded far into the background.”

Launius goes on to say that in 100 years, “Apollo may be remembered as a singular event, glorious and revered but viewed increasingly as an undertaking without lasting significance.”

There will be those that will argue with that sentiment. Regardless, this volume is a beneficial and essential look at the Apollo space program, one that challenges the status quo of blindly embracing the space past while disregarding the framework of today’s human space exploration planning.  

For more information on this book, go to:



Early praise for Moon Rush – The New Space, published by National Geographic:

“We are in the middle of the ‘New Space’ era, and Moon Rush is the roadmap that shows us how we got here, where we are going, and why. Leonard David’s keen insight into space exploration puts the Moon into its proper context – as the next destination for humans as we take our first steps into the solar system.” — Colonel Terry Virts (ret.), NASA veteran of two spaceflights – a two-week mission onboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2010 and a 200-day flight to the Space Station in 2014-2015

Geologist Harrison Schmitt performs Moon tasks during Apollo 17 mission in December 1972.
Credit: NASA

“Written with Leonard David’s trademark wry humor and the product of thorough research, Moon Rush is a comprehensive, accessible and entertaining book addressing the value of a return to the Moon. Deftly tying together the rich past of U.S. and Russian lunar expeditions (robotic and human) with present developments and an optimistic view of the future, Mr. David lays out the geopolitical case for a return to the Moon for the United States, our international allies, and our competitors, with attention to human space exploration, planetary science, the discovery of lunar resources and the eventual development of a lunar economy.” — Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, President & CEO, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration; Member U.S. National Space Council Users’ Advisory Group

Credit: NASA

“Leonard David has now managed to make sense of the new rush to the Moon where scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and artists are looking to uncover its hidden secrets, utilize its precious resources, and continue finding inspiration from its otherworldly beauty. And he has done it by skillfully describing how these seemingly contrasting goals fit in humanity’s ‘unquenchable thirst to press onward and outward.’” — Dr. Angel Abbud-Madrid, Director, Center for Space Resources, Colorado School of Mines

A source of water on the Moon could help make future crewed missions more sustainable and affordable.
Credit: RegoLight, visualization: Liquifer Systems Group, 2018

“In Moon Rush, Leonard David has provided a comprehensive, clearly written, and convincing account of why the returning to the Moon, ‘this time to stay,’ will be the central feature of the world’s space activities of the next few decades. He suggests that ‘the United States is hungry to take to lead’ in that return. I hope that he is right about that, and that the country that sent 12 men to the Moon a half-century ago will once again be in the vanguard of a sustained global public-private effort to make the Earth’s off-shore island an essential element of this planet’s future.” — Dr. John Logsdon, Professor emeritus and founder, Space Policy Institute, George Washington University

Credit: NASA

“Leonard David explores multiple dimensions of our Moon: mythology, history, robotic and human exploration, science, technology, utilization, inspiration, education, strategy, national and international programs, governments, and new private space actors. It will enrich everybody’s own personal and collective lunar experience! This book is an amazing resource for learning, reflecting, and engaging towards our next steps to build a ‘MoonVillage’ sustainable community and settlement on our 8th continent, the Moon.” — Professor Bernard H. Foing, Executive Director, The International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG), European Space Agency Lead scientist for SMART-1 Mission, and EuroMoonMars program

The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility by Robert Zubrin; Prometheus Books, New York, 2019; hardcover:  395+ pages, $25.00

There is an on-going revolution in spaceflight. But where will this uprising in technological prowess take us?

Robert Zubrin has written a compelling account of the trajectory ahead for humanity. In 14 chapters (divided into a part 1: “How we can” and part 2: “Why we must”), the author puts forward a visionary account of how best to break the bonds of Earth and head for the stars.

“Great things are happening,” Zubrin says in an introduction that kicks off the book. “It’s a grand time to be alive. We are living at the beginning of history. We are present at the creation.”

There’s a new space race afoot; it’s not a replay of rival superpowers that ushered in the Cold War space race. Rather, competing entrepreneurs are the key to transforming our future in space.  The author underscores why the spaceflight revolution is a must: for the knowledge, for the challenge, for our survival, for our freedom, and for the future. In the book’s concluding chapter, Zubrin flags what now needs to be done, giving the charge to the reader to become a space activist.

The book is loaded with technical detail on pushing forward to the stars, as well as sweeping and captivating looks at terraforming, mining the asteroids for fun and profit, how to build a Moon base, and colonizing Mars. Zubrin does not skimp on provocative ideas and pulls no punches when critical of ideas promoted by NASA and others.

“Making history is not a spectator sport,” Zubrin concludes. “It’s your turn at the plate.” 

The reader will find this mind-stretching volume an absorbing look at the future of space exploration. A great glossary of terms and chapter by chapter notes for delving deeper into topics rounds out this impressive book.

For more information, go to:



Apollo Leadership Lessons: Powerful Business Insights for Executives by Dick Richardson; Authority Publishing 2019; paperback: 232 pages, $24.99.

As we close in on the July salute of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, you’ll find this book an inspiring read – one that captures hope and disappointment, villains and heroes, greed and sacrifice. At every step it’s a story of leadership.

With unique access to key leaders and NASA resources, author Dick Richardson has captured the leadership insights of America’s journey to the Moon and other space projects. These lessons are told through the lens of the people who were there–the executives, flight directors, and astronauts.

As the volume explains: “You may not go to the Moon, but this book will help you apply NASA’s leadership lessons to your company’s mission.”

Twelve chapters take the reader from Wernher von Braun and his adaptive leadership in action, John F. Kennedy’s ability to nurture a vision, the crisis of leadership due to the Apollo 1 pad fire to Apollo 13’s responsive innovation and the changing strategic intent of the Apollo-Soyuz project.

“Many of the leadership insights that came out of NASA are still there, sixty years later,” Richardson writes. “The people who grappled with tough situations, made difficult decisions, and led challenging teams left a lasting legacy from which we all continue to benefit,” he adds.

“Read the book. You may be spurred on to lead others to do things that are hard to do or even imagine. Whether in space or on earth, these are exciting and changing times, and you are a part of them,” explains David Leestma, astronaut and former director, Flight Crew Operations in the book’s foreword. “Dick Richardson is making a difference in helping leaders and his insights may make the journey easier and better.”

I concur.

This unique read is a real plus in helping the reader better appreciate the leadership principals and tactics employed by Apollo’s key decision-makers.

For more information on this book, go to:

Space Launch System (SLS) Credit: NASA/MSFC

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued Priority Open Recommendations: NASA.

In March 2018, GAO identified 18 priority recommendations for NASA. Since then, NASA has implemented 10 of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to better align its strategic sourcing practices with those used by leading commercial companies and improving controls over some of its information systems.

Credit Roscosmos/NASA


In April 2019, GAO identified one additional priority recommendation for NASA, bringing the total number to nine. These recommendations involve the following areas: monitoring program costs and execution as well as improving efficiency and effectiveness.

“NASA’s continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations,” the GAO document points out.

Among topics spotlighted in the report is developing a contingency plan for access to the International Space Station, as well as Space Launch System (SLS) Block I, as well as Exploration Mission (EM) 1 and 2.

To read the full GAO document, go to:

Credit: CSIS


The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) has issued a new report: Spaceports of the World (1957–2018)

Written by Thomas G. Roberts, program manager and research associate at the CSIS Aerospace Security Project, this report is accompanied by an interactive data repository.

With the rate of space launches projected to grow exponentially in the coming years, spaceports will become an increasingly important to the global space industry.

Which countries and private companies operate the world’s most active spaceports?

Active, inactive spaceports

This report analyzes ground-based space launches from 1957 to 2018, including brief histories of all active and inactive orbital spaceports, 10 year launch records for the 22 spaceports still in use today, and the current status of several proposals to create new facilities capable of supporting orbital space launches.

To download a copy of this very informative report, go to:

Below, use the play button to discover the history of ground-based space launches around the world. Click a spaceport to learn more about its launch history.

This interactive data repository is a product of the Andreas C. Dracopoulos iDeas Lab, the in-house digital, multimedia, and design agency at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Special thanks to Jacque Schrag for her work developing this tool.

Spaceports of the World

The Cosma Hypothesis: Implications of the Overview Effect by Frank White; Morgan Brook Media (March 2019; paperback: 269 pages, $19.95.

It takes a special kind of person to come up with a special kind of effect.

Frank White coined the term: “The Overview Effect” – the experience of seeing the Earth from orbit or the Moon – on humanity’s perceptions of our home world and our place in the cosmos.

White’s book, The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution, was first published by Houghton-Mifflin in 1987. This trailblazing work is now in its third edition, and is a seminal work in the field of space exploration and development. His just released new book is The Cosma Hypothesis: Implications of the Overview Effect.

In short, this impressive volume puts forward that our purpose in exploring space should transcend focusing on how it will benefit humanity. We should ask how to create a symbiotic relationship with the universe, giving back as much as we take, and spreading life, intelligence, and self-awareness throughout the solar system and beyond.

Given the wistful and wishful space futurism of the day – space tourism, mining space rocks, living on the Moon and occupying cities on Mars — White argues that developing a philosophy of space exploration and settlement is more than an intellectual exercise: it will powerfully influence policy and practices that are now unfolding.

The reader will enjoy pondering a number of themes in the book, from the appropriate approach to mining asteroids and the moon, the possible need to revise the UN 1967 Outer Space Treaty, to the role Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play in helping humans explore and develop the cosmos.

Of special interest are 16 content-specific task forces that are a healthy part of the New Human Space Program chapter – key issues arising out of human expansion into our “solar neighborhood.”

This heartfelt book is thought-provoking. Why has the evolutionary process brought humanity to the brink of becoming a spacefaring species?” The author concludes that our purpose, or ecological function, is to support the universe (Cosma) in reaching a higher level of life, intelligence, and self-awareness.

White adds: “As Cosma become more conscious, the universe will become a more welcoming place for Homo sapiens, and we will evolve together.”

In an author’s note, White requests that a reader can learn more about The Human Space Program, contact him at:

For more information on this book, go to:

Shoot for the Moon – The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11 by James Donovan; Little, Brown and Company (2019); 454 pages, $30.00.

This impressive book is a must-read this year given that it’s the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission – humankind’s first high-stepping trek to Earth’s Moon.

As a space aged old-timer I found author Donovan’s account a memory-jarring read, chock full of details that my fellow page-turners will truly enjoy.

The book is divided into 4 parts that add up to 17 chapters of brilliant reading. Be it “Cossacks in Space,” “Of Monkeys and Men,” to “You’re go, and “Descent to Luna,” Donovan doesn’t skimp on the triumph that was Apollo, how American spunk and spirit made it happen, and how the achievement was sparked by the U.S.-Soviet Union space race.

The connective tissue to Apollo – the single-seat Mercury and Gemini two-seater missions – is expertly detailed and is a solid contribution to the overall book. As the author also points out in the book’s early pages: “Rockets exploded. Systems malfunctioned. Men died. The murder of a visionary president whose bold challenge had fired the program only reaffirmed their dedication to finishing the job.”

Shoot for the Moon carries a number of fresh interviews with space controllers and engineers, as well as Apollo astronauts, further adding to this engaging and very well-researched volume. The book includes three segments of black and white/color images that provide a visual ramp-up to the Apollo 11 adventure.

Donovan is author of the bestselling books A Terrible Glory- Custer and the Little Bighorn, The Last Great Battle of the American West and The Blood of Heroes: The 13-Day Struggle for the Alamo – and the Sacrifice that Forged a Nation.

Being a Wild West historian, I’m thankful Donovan wrote this book of pioneering the space frontier.

For more information on this book, on sale March 12th, go to:

Also, go to this informative video at:



I am pleased to be part of National Geographic’s yearlong journey – Starstruck — exploring the past, present, and future of space exploration.

My new book for National Geographic – Moon Rush: The New Space Race – will be launched in May, a volume that explores the Moon in all its facets, from ancient myth to future “Moon Village” plans; inside information about how the United States, allies and competitors, as well as key private corporations like Moon Express and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, plan to reach, inhabit, and even harvest the Moon in the decades to come.


For more information on Moon Rush: The New Space Race, go to:

Official launch

National Geographic has officially launched Starstruck – a celebration of space across its global networks, magazines, books and more.

For starters, MARS: INSIDE SPACEX, premiered Monday, November 12, at 8 p.m. eastern, offering an unprecedented glimpse into SpaceX and Elon Musk’s plans to make Mars home.

For more information, go to:

Season 2 of National Geographic’s TV docudrama MARS premiered on November 12 at 9 p.m. eastern.

Credit: National Geographic
















For more information, go to:

Please check out my book — Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet — the companion book to the National Geographic Channel MARS TV series that takes a look at the promise, problems, and potential pitfalls as humans land on and learn to live on Mars.

Go to:

Credit: NASA

Apollo 11…and beyond

Culminating with the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing next July and a coinciding week of Apollo programming on National Geographic channel, Starstruck will rally National Geographic’s unrivaled portfolio of storytelling platforms around the spirit of space exploration, and the nostalgia, curiosity and feeling of limitless possibility that it brings.

Join in on all the National Geographic activities… and don’t forget to look up.

For more information, go to:

Credit: DIA Public Affairs

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has released “Challenges to Security in Space,” a report that examines the space and counterspace programs that could challenge U.S. or partner interests in the space domain.

The report notes that “space-based capabilities provide integral support to military, commercial and civilian applications” and that “longstanding technological and cost barriers to space are falling, enabling more countries and commercial firms to participate in satellite construction, space launch, space exploration and human spaceflight.”

Visualization: DIA, D3 Design • 1812-20432

Modern warfare

Among items detailed, the report notes that:

Chinese and Russian military doctrines indicate they view space as important to modern warfare and counterspace capabilities as a means to reduce U.S. and allied military effectiveness.

Both countries have developed robust and capable space services, including space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.


Visualization: DIA, D3 Design • 1811-20013

China and Russia are making improvements to existing systems including space launch vehicles and satellite navigation constellations. These capabilities provide their militaries with the ability to command and control their forces worldwide with enhanced situational awareness, enabling them to monitor, track and target U.S. and allied forces.

Reversible to non-reversible effects

The DIA report adds that Chinese and Russian space surveillance networks are capable of searching, tracking and characterizing satellites in all earth orbits. This capability supports both space operations and counterspace systems.

Both states are developing jamming and cyberspace capabilities, directed energy weapons, on-orbit capabilities and ground-based antisatellite missiles that can achieve a range of reversible to non-reversible effects.

DIA’s “Challenges to Security in Space” report is available here: