01 October 2019 Reviews

The NASA Archives: 60 Years in Space

In a market full of space-related books, it is a challenge for authors and publishers to differentiate their creations from the many other offerings. One way is to produce a very large and very well-appointed tome which, in this case, should come with a health warning: “do not attempt to lift one-handed”.

This ‘weighty experience’ measures 34cm by 73cm (open), incorporates 470 very-large-format pages and weighs no less than 5 kg. In lieu of the suggested health warning, this massive volume comes in its own cardboard carry-case (though one feels it should come with its own coffee table!).

The book is a self-styled “visual celebration of humankind’s unstoppable urge to travel away from Earth to worlds beyond” and includes more than 400 historic photographs and “rare concept renderings”. Although it covers the 60-year history of NASA (which dates from 1958), there is detailed photographic coverage of what was arguably the Agency’s ‘finest hour’ with Apollo. It reminds us, however, that Apollo did not occur in a programmatic vacuum, being preceded and superseded by other manned programmes and, indeed, many programmes of automated exploration.

Following an introductory ‘section zero’, the text is divided into five sections, each with several chapters. In addition to sections by seasoned space writer Piers Bizony, it includes essays by historian-authors Roger Launius and Andrew Chaikin. However, given the sheer size of the book (not something you’d prop up in bed!) and the distraction of the large format photos, one wonders how many owners will actually read the text. It’s a difficult balance, but perhaps this hefty volume is one small step too far.

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