I normally do not get too geeked out about books on space exploration. However, I just read The Space Shuttle: Celebrating Thirty Years of NASA’s First Space Plane by Piers Bizony and I was very impressed.
In the beginning of the book, Bizony briefly discusses the theoretical roots of the shuttle that began as far back as the 1930s. He then describes the two space-plane concepts that predated the shuttle and how these concepts influenced the shuttle design. Bizony also touches on how NASA engineers balanced the needs of space travel with the political realities of the late 1960s and early 1970s when the shuttle took its final form.
The book is divided into seven chapters (entitled stages in the book) that describe the different phases of the shuttle missions. In each chapter, Bizony includes a brief synopsis of what occurred with the shuttle program in the time period discussed. Two of the most interesting discussions center on the investigations behind the Challenger and Columbia disasters.
The bulk of the book revolves around the space shuttle missions. Bizony provides a brief paragraph on each mission. These descriptions pack a lot of information in a small space. For instance, in 1993 an Endeavor crew (mission STS-61) repaired the Hubble Space Telescope in five space walks. Bizony claims this was the mission that single-handedly rebuilt NASA’s damaged reputation after the Challenger disaster. He makes this claim because the images sent back to Earth from the repaired Telescope wowed the world.
Alongside the mission synopses are some astounding photographs. Bizony incorporates 900 color photographs in the book’s 300 pages. These photos include ones from inside the various space shuttles during missions, astronauts on space walks, astounding images of Earth, and astronauts and cosmonauts in the International Space Station.
In short, this book is visually inspiring and a tribute to the thirty years of the space shuttle program.