Archive for the ‘Space Book Reviews’ Category

Cover art design by Bryan Versteeg

Credit: NASA


Explore Mars, Inc. has issued its annual report — The Humans to Mars Report (H2MR) — presenting a snapshot of current progress in mission architectures, science, domestic and international policy, human factors, STEAM Education, and public perception regarding human missions to Mars.

The document highlights progress and challenges from year to year.

“The momentum that has been building for many years to send humans to Mars in the 2030s has continued unabated, and indeed grown, during the past year,” the report explains. “The decade of the 2020s is now upon us, and we can now truly say that instead of Mars being two decades away, it is now achievable in the next decade.”

NASA’s robotic Holy Grail mission, a Mars sample return effort to bring back to Earth Martian collectibles.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Findings and observations

The report contains a number of “findings and observations.” Among them:

— Stronger collaboration between NASA mission directorates will help assure that the science missions of the 2020s maximize both scientific goals as well as advance human exploration in the 2030s.

— Implementing next-generation orbiters and surface missions in the near future to prospect for resources (notably water ice) will reduce the overall cost of missions to Mars while providing significant science gains.

— A Mars Sample Return project would not only achieve revolutionary science, but would also allow scientists to assess the material characteristics of martian dust and its potential toxicity to human explorers, as well as to develop appropriate planetary-protection measures.

China’s three-in-one mission: An orbiter, lander, and rover.
Credit: Wan, W.X., Wang, C., Li, C.L. et al.

— Multiple additional year-long missions on the International Space Station with diverse populations in low Earth orbit that evolve to the duration of human Mars missions will be required. Consider sending astronauts directly from the ISS to Mars analogs to investigate how self-guided recovery impacts both health and productivity with realistic communications delay.

— As lunar activities are developed, such plans should be constructed in a manner that should feed forward to and therefore advance the goal of human missions to Mars in the 2030s and should not hinder achieving that goal.

— As long as valid security concerns by the United States and its international partners are sufficiently addressed, the role of China in future international efforts to reach Mars should be considered by Congressional and Administration policy makers.

To read the full report, go to:

Also, go to the group’s virtual conference this week, starting today, at:

In Pursuit of the Moon – The Hunt for a Major NASA Contract by Bill Townsend; iUniverse – a self-publishing imprint; 168 pages; 2019; Softcover; $13.99.

This is a tell-all story that’s rarely told. The author takes the reader deep inside the inner-workings of a real-life aerospace industry pursuit – vying for the ARES I Instrument Unit Avionics contract, released by NASA in 2007. Ares I was the crew launch vehicle that was being developed at the time by NASA as part of the Constellation program, a precursor to today’s Artemis adventure.

After forty-plus years with NASA, the author details his joining of Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado, in 2004, then taking thirty-five top-notch “Birkenstock-wearing engineers” to Huntsville, Alabama, to establish a new Ball Aerospace office designed to champion the chase for the contract. The competition was stiff – an entrenched cabal of aerospace contractors who had dominated NASA’s human space flight program for decades.

You can get a sense of the astronautical angst a person can go through just by noting the titles of this six-part book: “The Situation,” “Before the Storm,” “The Proposal,” “The Down Select,” “The Decision,” and “The Aftermath.”

“So, with the benefit of perfect hindsight,” what did we do well, and what could we have done better?,” Townsend writes.

This is an intimate look at how to work with a major government agency, NASA, and how the space agency behaves and conducts itself with its contractor base…sometimes in ways you would not anticipate.

For those not familiar with the aerospace industry, the author’s intent is to pry your eyes open to what really goes on. And for those in the aerospace industry, “perhaps there is a thing or two that you can learn from my telling of this story,” Townsend explains. Moreover, for those within NASA, he has some select words too!

Townsend has spent more than fifty years in the aerospace industry, a distinguished career with particular expertise in the management of major space flight programs. His reflections about the people, the places, and the paperwork makes it a worthy read for all those out there trying to shape a vibrant, yet-affordable space program for today.

For more information on this book, go to:


Extraterrestrials by Wade Roush; The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series; Cambridge, Massachusetts; 224 pages; published April 2020; $15.95.

This is an engaging and an excellent tutorial on life elsewhere – always anchored in that are we alone in the universe, and if we are not, where are they?

Containing 5 chapters, the book is very straightforward in its details: “Alien Dreams”; “Making SETI into Science”; “Extremophiles and Exoplanets”; “Answering Fermi”; and “Joining the Conversation.”

“Why the search connects us to the cosmos,” is the one driver of this volume, explains Roush, a freelance science and technology writer, columnist at Scientific American, and host and producer of the tech-and-culture podcast Soonish.

For starters, as one subtitle explains, we need to organize our ignorance.

So where is everybody? The author dives in on that Fermi Paradox with a first-rate number of scenarios, from the Drake equation to intelligent life is rare to the possibility that technological civilizations are uncommunicative.

If they are “out there” how best to prepare for contact? Roush responds by saying “let’s not spend too much time speculating about an inherently unknowable event.” But he suggests, prior to potential contact, we Earthlings should ask ourselves what we would contribute to an interstellar society and what we should do to prepare for that occasion.

This nicely written, reader-friendly book ends with a glossary of terms and a very useful notes section for the entire volume.

Again, this is an easy-to-read 101-explanation of the mind-bending excursion to contemplate the often asked, are we alone question…or perhaps start grappling with just how crowded is it in the universe.

For more information on this book, go to:

Also, go to “Life as We Don’t Know It – If we’re going to find extraterrestrials, we need to stop assuming they’ll think like humans,” by Wade Roush at:

as well as a podcast featuring Roush at:

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: