08 January 2023 Reviews


Here are two interesting offerings from the MIT Press ‘Essential Knowledge’ series, which promises “accessible, concise, beautifully produced pocket-size books on topics of current interest”. For space-related subjects, they represent the breadth of scope of the series with one broad overview of a subject (spaceflight) and one more focused review of a specific space application (GPS).

Many authors would baulk at the notion of presenting the topic of ‘spaceflight’ in 200 small format pages and, knowing Neufeld as a professional space historian, it is little short of amazing that he managed with only 11 pages of chapter notes and a two-page bibliography.

But somehow he covers the gamut of spaceflight - from “dreams and military imperatives” and the “Cold War space race”, via science, exploration and the space infrastructure, to “Astroculture” and human spaceflight - in six pithy chapters.

The account is predominantly an American view, but this is due to the brevity of the series concept. Moreover, space aficionados are not going to learn much from this book, especially if they know a little history, but they are not the target audience.

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