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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Book Review: The Lunar Exploration Scrapbook

The Lunar Exploration Scrapbook
A Pictorial History of Lunar Vehicles
By Robert Godwin
Apogee Books, Burlington, Ontario, Canada
ISBN 978-1-894959-69-8

The first thing I noticed about Robert Godwin’s The Lunar Exploration Scrapbook was its beauty. This is a beautiful book, if a book can be beautiful. It is full of glossy, color photos of both conceptual and actual lunar vehicles. It would make a great coffee table book for the space enthusiast (or just the space interested).

The name was well chosen, if not witty, as this book really reads like a scrapbook. It takes you back through the history of designing lunar rockets, habs, spacesuits, and rovers much like a photo album might take you back through your families past. Each piece of lunar engineering history has a brief overview along with drawings and photos. More like a web site than a book, there is no real flow from page to page, other than chronological. This is not a book most people will read cover to cover.

As I spent more time with this book, what began to sink in was the amount of effort that went into the race to the moon. Unlike a traditional biography or history book, this “scrapbook” subtlety conveys the engineering challenge that was the exploration of the moon. With each vehicle design, both failed and successful, I realized that the Apollo mission was not a forgone conclusion. There were many trade-offs, debates, good designs that fell by the wayside, and simply bad ideas involved in allowing twelve men to go to the moon, explore it, and return safely home again.

So I would recommend this book for the space lover, history buff, and engineering nerd (I am all three so I can say it). It looks lovely on you coffee table, especially opened to page 94.

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