Archive for the ‘Space Book Reviews’ Category

Space Race 2.0 – SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, NASA, and the Privatization of the Final Frontier by Brad Bergan; The Quarto Group/Motorbooks  (2022); 176 pages; Hardcover: $40.00.

This is a splendid read, chocked full of impressive images that showcase the entrepreneurial get-up-and-go that is opening up space to private exploration.

Science journalist Brad Bergan has authored a perspective on the private space sector, a business that is providing cargo and supply services, as well as lofting astronauts to low Earth orbit…and eventually beyond.

This is a well-written and nicely packaged product – a ground floor look at what the future holds. As Bergan notes, the pace of Space Race 2.0 “is and will be relentless, as countless scientists, engineers, and politicians join hands with a few billionaire space barons to signify humanity’s first solid steps into a wider universe.”

The book’s contents are divided into 8 sections, from healthy servings of Elon Musk at SpaceX to Richard Branson as the space knight, along with Jeff Bezos and his empire of dreams to detailed looks at the long road to reusability and sustainability, the race itself, and the future of conflicting realities.

There’s a festival of little-seen photos included in this volume, documenting both successes and missteps. The reader will also find a section on China’s emerging role in shaping the second space race.

“Until very recently, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the second Space Race would be a friendly, if at times rude, rivalry between major aerospace firms vying for contracts with NASA and other major space agencies,” the author notes. “But in the last several years, a new power has rapidly accelerated its own growth into space exploration…that new power is the Middle Kingdom: China.”

Bergan offers illuminating and distinctive thoughts in the book, asking what will sustainable practices mean in space? Also, the author pointedly observes that much like the first Space Race, the international dynamic of Space Race 2.0 is likewise serving as “an extended domain for mounting tensions between rival nations.”

Once again, this informative and nicely packaged book is well-worth reading, both a retroflection on private space growth and where it stands today, as well as what’s in the offing and challenges ahead.

For more information on this book, go to:



A new report — The SpaceTech Economy – Ready for Liftoff — advises that the Global SpaceTech Ecosystem – worth $386 billion in 2021 and $1 trillion+ by 2030 “has seen a sharp maturity curve in the last few years, but there is belief it is set to move to an accelerated growth path in the coming decade, driven by the confluence of “five megatrends.”

To access this free report issued by Intro-act, Inc., go to:

Credit: RAND

RAND researchers have issued a new report: “Chinese and Russian Perceptions of and Responses to U.S. Military Activities in the Space Domain.”

Their findings are based on a systematic review of a variety of Chinese and Russian primary sources to gain insights into internal Chinese and Russian perceptions of developments in U.S. military activities related to space and counterspace doctrine, exercises, and organization.

Washington, Beijing, and Moscow appear to be caught in an action-reaction cycle that perpetuates justifications for continued military actions in space based on previous adversary activities, is an output from the report.

One report observation: “As China and Russia increase cooperation in space, such as remote sensing, satellites, a potential joint lunar base, and even missile early warning, will this drive a further convergence of a common perspective of U.S. space activities and greater coordination on the international stage?

To access the full report – “Chinese and Russian Perceptions of and Responses to U.S. Military Activities in the Space Domain” — Go to:

Credit: NewSpace Global (NSG)/Multiverse Media Group

A new report, “Cislunar Market Opportunities – In-Space Business within the Earth-Moon System,” provides a well-researched, in-depth analysis of this emerging economy.

As explained in the report, a cislunar economy will involve a much more expansive, interconnected, and sustainable paradigm for space development.

“Instead of disposable satellites operating independently of other spacecraft, there are interactions among spacecraft that can remain active indefinitely,” notes the report. “Instead of satellite businesses that serve only users on Earth, there are spacecraft businesses that provide services that enable other spacecraft to fulfill their purpose.”

One key message of the report is that in most every sector of in-space development, there are companies with significant funding and capabilities.

CisLunar econosphere graphic presented by Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance, depicts the various space vehicles, habitats, and other elements involved in creating
a cislunar economy
Credit: NewSpace Global (NSG)/Multiverse Media Group

“Furthermore, most of the companies either have systems in space or have launch dates for their first missions,” the report points out.

Five focus areas

The 161-page report is divided into five sections:

Chapter 1. An overview of the sector.

Chapter 2. In-Space Infrastructure in Earth Orbit – satellite servicing and life extension, in-space assembly and manufacturing, propellant depots, orbital platforms, space tugs, transfer vehicles, space debris removal and more.

Chapter 3. Lunar Markets – commercial robotic missions, resource extraction and utilization, communications and navigation satellites, power systems, science and technology R&D, sponsorships and promotions and data storage.

Chapter 4. Human Cislunar Activity – Commercial space stations, NASA’s Artemis program and other commercial opportunities.

Chapter 5. The Decade Ahead – A look at how the cislunar economy will develop in the 2020’s.

Published by NewSpace Global (NSG), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Multiverse Media Group, NSG is a leading market analysis firm specializing in emerging commercial space opportunities since 2011.

For more information about “Cislunar Market Opportunities – In-Space Business within the Earth-Moon System” and acquiring the full study, go to:

Credit: Amazon Prime Video

As you read this, there are a trio of robots alive and well and purging Mars of its secrets: NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance rovers, as well as China’s wheeled Zhurong machinery.

All this get-up-and-go on the Red Planet owes a major thank you to two earlier robotic explorers: NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity that landed on the planet in 2004.

Both had expected lifetimes of about 90 days, a warranty that was greatly surpassed.

Of the two, Spirit was first to expire. After March 22, 2010, mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) were not able to regain contact with Spirit. NASA officially concluded its recovery efforts May 25, 2011.

The Opportunity Mars rover was declared dead to that world on February 13, 2019 more than eight months after the robot fell mute during an intense dust storm. Final calls to awaken the rover yielded no response.

Good Night Oppy is a film that primarily focuses on the story of Opportunity, a live-long-and-prosper robot that survived for 15 years trekking about on Mars. But the film is far more than a travelogue of technology clunking its way on that distant world.

What has been captured is an emotional link between humans and automatons, the thrill of exploration, and even heartbreak given Opportunity’s last picture show. The robot was a product of years of teamwork, tenacity, and determined will to open up Mars to a new set of scouting eyes. Following its airbag-bouncing landing, Opportunity delivered on every expectation and delivered so much more.

Good Night Oppy premiered at the recent Telluride Film Festival, now moving to theatrical release from Amazon on November 4, followed by its availability on Amazon Prime Video starting November 23.

Ryan White is the film’s director, and co-writer. White and colleagues have produced a truly moving account of the unexpected fifteen-year sojourn of Opportunity and the surprising bond that formed between the robot and the team of scientists and engineers operating the probe, wheeling and dealing with what Mars threw at them.

Featuring photo-real special visual effects and animation by Industrial Light & Magic and the voice of Angela Bassett, Good Night Oppy charts Oppy’s unforgettable journey – and delivers on the promise that Mars still has much to tell us.

Go to this Good Night Oppy Official Trailer at:

Missions to Mars – A New Era of Rover and Spacecraft Discovery on the Red Planet by Larry Crumpler; HarperCollins; (2021) 336 pages; Hardcover: $35.00.

There is nothing like reading a first-rate book on Mars expertly written by a person that’s moved across the Martian landscape – that is, through the eyes of a robotic surrogate.

This book is an enthralling read. It is beautifully packed with photos and engaging text, telling the story of how to think of Mars as “Coyote Mars,” as the author coins it, an eternal “trickster” that’s both a wise figure but mischievous in coughing up its truths.

Larry Crumpler was one of the long-term planning leads for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Project, the effort that landed Spirit and Opportunity on the Red Planet. He helped control the daily communications between the space agency and the dual mini-rovers that roamed the planet to draw together key scientific data.

“There are probably just a few of moments in human history when a small group of humans stood on the margins of a vast new world, and it is no stretch of the romantic imagination that the arrival of two rovers on the surface of another planet was surely one of them,” Crumpler explains.

Divided into three parts – Knowing the Unknown; Roving a New World; and Becoming Martians – Crumpler has written 12 chapters that sweep across a plethora of subjects, concluding with “Future Mars: Mars Exploration Next.”

Crumpler notes that the question of life on Mars, past and possibly there now, has the planet “stringing humans along and doing the bait-and-switch.”

Credit: NASA

The reader will find a rich, wonderful and vibrant narrative about Mars pre-machinery to “wheels on the ground,” what has been discovered so far, as well as the ups, downs and demands of life as a scientist taking part in opening up the frontier of Mars for exploration and discovery.

As the author notes, taking the cue from the author, playwright and poet, Oscar Wilde: “An optimist will tell you the glass is half-full; the pessimist, half empty; and the engineer will tell you the glass is twice the size it needs to be.”

One cleaver aspect of this volume is how best to do geology on that faraway world. Crumpler contrasts the geologist in the field…and a rover on Mars. He details the “time-honored way that geologists go about understanding the history of a place.”

Mars is currently a world of telepresence, a planet inhabited solely by robots. The book spotlights both the NASA Curiosity and Perseverance activities, as well as the Ingenuity helicopter’s first powered flight on another planet.

Taking on the when and why humans will set boot on Mars, Crumpler points to the difficult tasks ahead in planting a human presence on the Red Planet.

“Mars is a difficult place to get to and to explore,” Crumpler adds. “One thing that we can probably be assured of, given the complete and utter fascination that Mars has held for humanity over the course of civilization, is that we will get there. When finally we do arrive, the humans will begin the long and no doubt exciting journey of leaving tracks on the red planet on foot.”

For more information about Missions to Mars – A New Era of Rover and Spacecraft Discovery on the Red Planet, go to:

How can we measure the space economy?

Almost 80 countries have a satellite in orbit. Yet even though the services derived from space activities are increasingly important to society, international comparability of space economy statistics remains limited. The newly revised Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Handbook on Measuring the Space Economy aims to encourage and facilitate data collection among both incumbents and new actors.

This second edition of the Handbook on Measuring the Space Economy responds to the needs of policymakers from multiple economic sectors that are reflecting on such changes in their measurement strategies.

Evolving landscape

It takes account of the evolving landscape of space activities, technologies and user needs surrounding two core observations:

SpaceX Falcon 9 liftoff.
Credit: SpaceX

  • Increasingly, a wide diversity of actors is involved in space activities: Government actors more than ever pursue strategic objectives in the space economy in tandem with commercial actors. A better tracking of the effects of public and private expenditure in the space economy is required if the overall impact of such trends is to be assessed.
  • Studying the economics of space activities has become professionalized but measuring the space economy remains a challenge: The range of space activities has evolved significantly over the past ten years. Critical infrastructures such as telecommunications and an increasing number of commercial digital applications now depend heavily on space capabilities. In advanced economies, the space economy is becoming more complex and the line between space and non-space activities is increasingly difficult to assess.

Chapter call outs

The Handbook is structured according to the following chapters:

Chapter 1: Introducing the OECD Handbook on Measuring the Space Economy

Chapter 2: Progress in concepts, definitions and measurement of the space economy

Chapter 3: Monitoring the evolving cast of space actors

Chapter 4: Using industry surveys to better understand the space economy

Chapter 5: Strengthening assessment of the impacts of the space economy.

To access the Handbook, go to:

Life in Space – NASA Life Sciences Research During the Late Twentieth Century by Maura Phillips Mackowski, University of Florida Press (May 2022); 375 pages; Hardcover: $35.00.

This well-researched, well-written, and meticulously documented account of a somewhat concealed side of NASA offers a revealing look into the agency’s research in the space life sciences – and opportunities unfulfilled. 

The book consists of 10 chapters, such as “Working in the Space Environment,” “Radiation and the Science of Risk Reduction,” “Design and Redesign: The Many Space Stations of NASA,” and “The Vision for Space Exploration.” There is also an extensive and in-valuable notes/reference section that is priceless.

In the introduction, the author says upfront: “Space life sciences had to struggle for an acknowledged and appreciated place at the Agency’s table, principally because NASA was formed purposely as an evolution of a predecessor engineering research agency, the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA).”

Mackowski has written a bold story about NASA’s ambitious space life science program, but more importantly, why it is essential if dreams of lunar outposts and planting footprints on Mars are to become historical “done that” checkmarks in the future.

NASA’s space shuttle program brought with it a more diverse astronaut corps – gender, age, and nationalities. “This created a broader pool of human test subjects, making space research more applicable to Earth medicine. It also presented new challenges as the Agency worked to equip and maintain flight crews and manage programs carrying out increasingly ambitious research,” Mackowski writes.

The reader will find new insight into one opportunity lost and still lost-in-space – a high-tech centrifuge and work on artificial gravity. Keeping astronauts healthy, the author explains, meant re-looks into old ideas of artificial gravity, based on decades of learning about the medical impacts of microgravity.

A fascinating read is available on details dealing with troublesome radiation and risk reduction steps. “Fortunately for NASA’s life sciences budget, radiation was a danger no one knew much about but everyone wanted to understand,” the author points out.

This book is a significant volume of history, but also underscores what the future holds in carrying out productive life science research and what investigations are missing-in-action.

The volume builds upon the excellent quality of Mackowski’s research and writing in the past. She is a research historian based in Arizona and author of Testing the Limits: Aviation Medicine and the Origins of Manned Space Flight.

In publicizing this work, take note of a comment from John B. Charles, retired chief scientist of NASA’s Human Research Program: “Mackowski’s research is exhaustive, her analysis is spot-on, and her conclusions give us pause as we consider when and if to send our fellow humans deeper into space on longer missions with greater risk and less support from Mission Control than ever before.”

For more information on this book, go to:

The End of Astronauts – Why Robots Are the Future of Exploration by Donald Goldsmith and Martin Rees; The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (April 2022); 192 pages; Hardcover: $25.95

My guess is that the reader will either hate or love this book! However, the authors provide a provoking argument for space exploration sans astronauts.

Just a few pages into the book, in an introduction, there’s this forewarning: “Readers who disagree with the conclusions in this book will, we hope, enjoy considering which arguments carry more weight than others.”

That said, this volume is a tour de force of well-written, compelling rationales. The authors believe that beyond low-Earth orbit, space exploration should proceed without humans.

The book is divided into 9 chapters: Why Explore?, Organizing Space,  Near-Earth Orbit, The Moon,  Mars, Asteroids, Space Colonization, The Global Costs of Space Exploration, and Space Law. So pick your favorite destination/topic and brace yourself.

An epilogue covers perspectives on space exploration in 2040—and far beyond, followed by an appendix of key events in space exploration, as well as notes and a further reading section.

The United Kingdom’s Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees, was previously Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge.

Well-regarded science writer, Donald Goldsmith, has written more than a dozen books, including Exoplanets, The Runaway Universe, The Hunt for Life on Mars, Supernova, and, with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Origins.

At its core, the book notes that human journeys into space fill us with wonder. But the thrill of space travel for astronauts comes at enormous expense and is fraught with peril. More to the point, as surrogate automatons become increasingly competent, this question becomes more potent: does our desire to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars justify the cost and danger?

Goldsmith and Rees weigh the benefits and risks of human exploration across the solar system. In space, humans require air, food, and water, along with protection from potentially deadly radiation and high-energy particles.

And all that comes at a cost more than ten times that of robotic exploration.

Automated explorers have shown the ability to investigate planetary surfaces efficiently and effectively, operating autonomously or under direction from Earth. They note that the performance of robots and AI is progressively improving – while our bodies do not.

The reader will find much to ponder in this book, chock-full of up-to-date observations and eye-opener viewpoints. Sure, some of you will have a “bone to pick” about the need for human space travel…others will see the “nuts and bolts” of how space exploration will be done in the future.

For more information on this book, go to:

Additionally, give a listen to an Irish radio program – Futureproof – to hear Goldsmith and Rees explain why twenty-first-century human spaceflight may not be in the cards. Go to:

NASA Missions to Mars: A Visual History of Our Quest to Explore the Red Planet by Piers Bizony; The Quarto Group/Motorbooks (April 2022); 198 Pages; Hardcover: $50.00

This large-format book is strikingly illustrated and offers the reader a wonderful resource in detailing NASA’s exploration of the Red Planet.

Space historian Piers Bizony has put together an extraordinary volume of humankind’s outreach to and fascination with Mars. “This book is a family-friendly, nonacademic, almost purely visual celebration of what we have achieved in terms of Martian exploration and what we might yet achieve in years to come,” the author explains.

The book is divided into four sweeping and eye-catching sections: Red Planet Visions – Aliens, empires and invasions; First Contact – Discovering Mars as it really is; Robot Explorers – Searching for life, past or present; and Human Martians – Strategies to settle a new world.

In a foreword to the book, Andrew Chaikin contributes a special essay underscoring his passion for the Red Planet; he served as an “interplanetary intern” at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1976 and took part in the first successful mission to land on Mars – NASA’s Project Viking.

The reader will find mission histories, and achievements of the early rovers Sojourner, Opportunity, and Spirit, as well as excellent updates on the Curiosity and Perseverance machines, both now busily wheeling about on Mars.

This book is a treasure trove of imagery from NASA archives, including photos that document the testing phases in readying hardware for launch to the faraway world. There’s also coverage of spacecraft dispatched to Mars by other nations, such as China’s successful landing of its Zhurong rover.

The striking images of Mars from orbit and surface photos serve as prelude to the book’s final section that offers a look at future plans for human exploration and habitation of the planet.

For more information about the book, go to: