Archive for the ‘Space Book Reviews’ Category

Book Review: Off-Earth Ethical Questions and Quandaries for Living in Outer Space by Erika Nesvold; MIT Press (2023); 304 pages, Hardcover: $27.95

This is a thought-provoking, even controversial for some readers!

Erika Nesvold, an astrophysicist, has worked as a researcher at NASA Goddard and the Carnegie Institution for Science.

As a developer for Universe Sandbox as well as cofounder of the nonprofit organization the JustSpace Alliance, Nesvold is also the creator and host of the podcast Making New Worlds.

The book rests on a stated premise: Can we do better in space than we’ve done here on Earth?

An issue is that we don’t, shouldn’t, or can’t leave our ethics back here on home planet Earth.

As stated by the publisher, Off-Earth includes historical and contemporary examples from outside the “dominant Western/US…and privileged narrative of the space industry.”

What that translates into is the author’s narrative on the potential ethical pitfalls of becoming a multi-planet species.

Bottom line: We won’t be departing our earthly problems and start afresh – even by taking in that space suit, airlock and cramped habitat smell.

Here’s an extract from the book, courtesy of MIT Press titled “The Thorny Ethics of Planetary Engineering – Whenever someone waxes poetic about terraforming alien worlds, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the ethical implications of the proposal.”

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For more information about this book, go to:

Image credit: Lightroom

A new show has opened at London’s Lightroom that offers a unique new perspective on humankind’s past and future voyages to the Moon.

The Moonwalkers: A Journey With Tom Hanks is a collaboration between the movie actor, Chris Riley (writing), Andy Saunders (Apollo Remastered imagery), Anne Nikitin (music) and 59 Productions.

The world premier took place on December 5 in London, a work that tells the stories of the Apollo missions in intimate detail. Joining Hanks at the premiere, the three-person Artemis II crew.

Image credit: Lightroom

Powerful projection

The Moonwalkers also provides an insight into the impending return of crewed surface missions by going behind-the-scenes of the Artemis program, including interviews between Tom Hanks and Artemis astronauts.

Lightroom’s powerful projection and audio technology transforms the immense space into a vehicle for a spectacular immersive voyage to our closest celestial neighbor – the Moon.

Image credit: Lightroom

The Moonwalkers is a combination of storytelling by Tom Hanks, co-written by Chris Riley, along with a splendid score from Anne Nikitin, and visuals from the seminal book by Andy Saunders: Apollo Remastered.

Images are projected at huge scale at Lightroom, London. The 800-speaker system pulsates during the Saturn V launch sequence. Once at the Moon, panoramic images envelop the viewer.

For more information, go to this sites:

Original NASA footage and breath-taking images from Andy Saunders’ Apollo Remastered.
Image credit: Black Dog & Leventhal


Book Review: Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson; Simon & Schuster (2023); 688 pages, Hardcover: $35.00

I can’t help but start this book review without making note of this recording:

Walter Isaacson has done us all a favor by exploring a work in progress, the persona of Elon Musk.

In story sleuthing fashion, the author followed Musk for two years, interviewing not only the subject matter at hand and up-close, but family members, coworkers, friends – and “foe-fighters” too.

As explained on the book jacket, this volume ponders a key question: “are the demons that drive Musk also what it takes to drive innovation and progress?”

Musk has previously characterized himself as not a “chill, normal dude.”

Isaacson paints that picture too, but also spotlights the Jekyll-and-Hyde-like temper and other atmospherics that drives the ambitious hunger of Musk to not only challenge and change our world but also eye renovation of the Red Planet.

Image credit: Elon Musk/SpaceX

This volume is comprised of 95 segments, well-written slices of Musk’s past, be it PayPal, Tesla, artificial intelligence, Twitter, underground boring, ex-wives to the sky-high Starlink constellation and his risk-taking reach for escape velocity via the SpaceX’s Falcon booster series and Starship.

Isaacson is a masterful writer. This book, like the author’s portraits of Steve Jobs, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Einstein, is absolutely first-rate.  

In the book’s acknowledgments, Isaacson reports that Musk “did not ask to, nor did he, read this book before it was published, and he exercised no control over it.” Thank God and/or Musk’s lawyers.

So enough said…and start reading this book knowing full-well Elon Musk is a work in progress, arguably a person wearing a customized sandwich board: “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”

Image credit: Columbia Records

















To prove that point, take a look at this PBS Frontline documentary:

“Elon Musk’s Twitter Takeover” at:

Also, go to this resource provided by the book publisher, Simon & Schuster:

“Elon Musk: The Ultimate Inside Story” at:

And you’ll enjoy “Walter Isaacson: Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Einstein, Da Vinci & Ben Franklin/Lex Fridman Podcast #395” at:

For more information on this book, go to:

Interstellar – The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Our Future in the Stars by Avi Loeb; a Mariner imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (2023); 256 pages, Hardcover: $28.99.

Avi Loeb is a provocative Harvard astrophysicist and this expressive, articulate, witty book details his fervor for thought-provoking views about our neighbors beyond Earth.

The book’s introduction immediately draws a line in the sand and challenges the reader. “I am convinced that we are tantalizing close not only to learning that terrestrial life is not the only life in the Solar System, and that human civilization is not the only civilization to exist or have existed. I am also convinced that most of humanity is not ready.”

Professor Loeb also underscores a predicament. He says we’re closer to a “D-class” civilization, or one that is vigorously trashing our world, creating unsustainable conditions that are necessary to prolong life and our hold on this planet. We must learn to lean into science, he writes, to survive and strive. In doing so, humanity can attain an upward trajectory while stepping into humanity’s interstellar future.

The book’s goal is to make and keep you excited about that future, Loeb adds. And within the volume’s 10 diverse chapters, a reader receives healthy doses of enthusiasm about what’s ahead.

Image credit: Galileo Project/Avi Loeb

Loeb is the longest serving Chair of Harvard’s Astronomy Department. He also heads the Galileo Project, an endeavor to bring the search for extraterrestrial technological signatures of other star folk from “accidental or anecdotal observations and legends” to the mainstream of crystal-clear, confirmed and systematic scientific research.

In up-to-date prose, among the many themes, Loeb dives into Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP). I don’t want to set off a spoiler alert, but the author calls for reimagining first contact and offers eye-opening, speculative thoughts on that topic.

Interstellar – The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Our Future in the Stars is a mind-meld of philosophy, physics, and cutting-edge science. Loeb blueprints a radical approach to our search for ET – and how best to brace for the reality of what’s ahead.

In a closing part of the book, Loeb points out that you are not alone, but be aware, he notes that “not only are we not at the center of the cosmic stage, not only did we come late to the stage, but life as we know it among matter as we know it does not even represent most of the stuff that is presented on that stage.”

Be prepared to roam the Universe like never before. Do your utmost to grasp Loeb’s spirited and optimistic view of our cosmological destination as we ascend the ladder of civilizations.

For more information on this book, go to:

Updates on the Galileo Project and its on-going initiatives can be found at:




Immersive Mars Issue of Tech Briefs:

Mars: Past, Present, Future; NASA’s New, Resilient Approach to Moon, Mars Exploration; Robotic Exploration of Caves on Mars; Developing High–Fidelity Martian Regolith Simulants; Astronaut Smart Glove for Mars EVA Spacesuits; Earthly Twin Offers Test Bed for NASA’s Peserverance Mars Rover; and 3D–Printed Mars Habitat Simulated on Earth.






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There are many challenges the space sector faces in this era of enhanced commercial space activity.

The Aerospace Corporation has issued a 2022 Space Safety Compendium – Guiding the Future of Spaceflight, edited by Samira Patel and Josef S. Koller

The publication covers policy implications of issues within five core mission areas, as well as two crosscutting areas:

— space operations assurance

— space situational awareness

— satellite launch and reentry

— cyber and spectrum security

— human space flight safety

Dominate: commercial space

“The space sector is undergoing an unprecedented period of growth that expands the scope of what is possible in space and who is involved,” the report notes. We have shifted away from the 1960s and 70s model of centralized, government-led space activities to a new model that increasingly leverages the dominating commercial space market.”

Furthermore, the report points out that new actors in space represent a wide array of international actors, partnership and business models, and commercial entrants. “They have expanded the scope of missions and capabilities in space that include everything from commercial human spaceflight to growing industrial activity such as mining and pharmaceutical development.

Keeping space safe

The new report asks: How do we keep space safe so that Earth and its inhabitants continue to benefit?

“We are seeing increasing uncertainty in regulation and, in some cases, not even a clear picture of which U.S. government agencies bear the responsibility of handling which issues. There is also friction between regulators and new actors as regulations could become more burdensome for new
entrants, giving a competitive advantage to those who have long been in space,” the report states.

To access a copy of 2022 Space Safety Compendium – Guiding the Future of Spaceflight go to:


Explore Mars, Inc. has announced the release of the Report of the Ninth Community Workshop for Achievability and Sustainability of Human Exploration of Mars (AM IX), held on June 14-16, 2022 at The George Washington University in Washington, DC.

AM IX assembled a diverse, select group of professionals from different fields to identify activities that are required for a comprehensive human and robotic mission strategy that provides the basis for a sustained and growing human presence on Mars starting in the 2030s.

For that to happen, this report looks in human health and performance, Mars science priorities that leverage human presence, operational strategies for transit and surface operations, and technology solutions, many of which can be tested on Earth, in low-Earth orbit, in lunar orbit, or on the surface of the Moon.

During the three-day workshop, as well as virtual meetings over the Summer and fall of 2022, participants developed a summary of recommendations as well as detailed appendices.

For the full report — The Ninth Community Workshop for Achievability and Sustainability of Human Exploration of Mars — go to:

The Atlas of Space Rocket Launch Sites by Brian Harvey with Gurbir Singh, Edited by Paul Meuser, Cartography by Katrin Soschinski; DOM Publishers; (2022); 272 pages; Hardcover: € 98.00  incl. MwSt., excl. shipping costs.

This is a seminal work, a unique and fascinating overview of all major launch sites on the globe. All 25 major global launch sites – from Eurasia, Asia-Pacific and the Americas – even several rocket departure points you may not have heard about previously.

Loaded with some 500 images, this volume features 100 exclusive maps to pinpoint the world of launch sites that operate in weather conditions from cold arctic conditions to hot desert and equatorial jungle.

As editor Meuser explains: “With most places hidden away in jungles, deserts, or amid the Central Asian steppes, these places exist for the most part out of the eye of the general public.”

Some information on the book’s marvelous-detailed launch sites was easy to access, while some sites have been forgotten or are still shrouded in secrecy, Meuser adds.

This comprehensive Atlas comes with descriptions of each site that include an outline of the history of the site in question, why and how it came to be situated in its location, its current use and future prospects, and its distinctive features.

Author Brian Harvey and co-author Gurbir Singh spotlight the steps of space travel in an unprecedented way; a richly documented text offers insights that have never been previously presented.

“The purpose of this book is to tell the architecture of launch sites in an accessible way,” writes Harvey. The book situates launch sites in their context, history, evolution, development, changing use, and future prospects, he adds.

To that end, this volume fits the task and provides far more, particularly given its selection of specially captioned and distinctive photos.

The reader will treasure this book that portrays the rich legacy of well-known and not-so-familiar launch sites, and appreciate more than ever how humankind has echoed rocket countdowns around the planet to open up outer space for an array of purposes.

For more information on this book, go to:

The Astronaut’s Guide to Leaving the Planet: Everything You Need to Know, from Training to Re-entry by Terry Virts; Workman Publishing Company (2023); 176 pages; Softcover: $14.99.

When it comes to tips on departing the Earth, consider getting advice from a person that has been up there. That’s the case with author Terry Virts, a two spaceflight veteran that chalked up over 7 months in Earth orbit, commanded the International Space Station, and also performed three spacewalks.

While the book is targeted for 10 years old and up, in the “kids” category – elder “mission controllers” with aspiring astronauts on their hands will find this volume enchanting, informative, and a superb read.

Its pages are filled with advice, tips and tricks for confronting space microgravity. Virts explains becoming an astronaut: “And it only happened because I didn’t listen to others who told me I could never be an astronaut,” he writes. “So no matter what your dream is in life, always remember – don’t tell yourself no!”

Sample pages

Divided into 10 sections — including “The Journey to Launch: Training,” “Don’t Look Down: Spacewalking – to “Re-entry” and “The Next Mission” – the book includes a helpful guide to astronaut lingo and is well indexed.

The volume is illustrated by the talented Andrés Lozano and is sprinkled by color images.

You’ll find an interesting read regarding a Virtz return-to-Earth in a Russian Soyuz capsule. Also, there’s plenty of counsel on living, eating, sleeping, and yes, that ever-present question of how best to alleviate your toil without too much trouble.

Readers of all ages, young and youthful in spirit, will find The Astronaut’s Guide to Leaving the Planet: Everything You Need to Know, from Training to Re-entry offering valuable insights for off-world space travel.

For more information, go to:

Also, go to the Terry Virts website at

While space travel by private citizens is still evolving and making headlines, it seems likely commercial space travel by off-the-street astronauts could conceivably become more routine in the years ahead.

A new RAND report focuses on how and when the spaceflight industry should be regulated at a federal level.

Voluntary standards related to commercial spaceflight that could affect participant safety have been introduced, “but significant work remains,” the report notes.

Polaris Dawn crew members (left to right): Anna Menon, mission specialist and medical officer, Scott Poteet, mission pilot, Jared Isaacman, mission commander, and Sarah Gillis, mission specialist.
Image credit: Polaris Program/John Kraus

Five key factors

For one, the readiness of the commercial space industry for regulation, or for further development of voluntary consensus standards, does not only depend on the progress of adopting standards and meeting metrics.

The report explains that regulatory readiness depends also on five key factors:

— access to, and understanding of, the regulatory process;

— security of regulatory support;

— the effectiveness of the regulatory support for the technology;

— environmental effects, costs, and security issues related to the regulation;

— and the ability to pass the regulation.

To read this new RAND report — Assessing the Readiness for Human Commercial Spaceflight Safety RegulationsCharting a Trajectory from Revolutionary to Routine Travel” – go to: