Monday, January 28, 2013

Christa McAuliffe Day: Books About Space

On this day in 1986, the Challenger exploded shortly after lift-off. All the crew members were killed, including Christa McAuliffe, a school teacher chosen to be a part of the mission. Today is Christa McAuliffe day, and in honor of her, and the entire Challenger crew, I offer a list of books about space and space travel.


Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone. When the space program was starting, women who were accomplished pilots wanted to be astronauts. Although they proved they could perform just as well as the men eventually chosen, sexism kept them out of outer space. Even after women were allowed, for many years, it was as scientists and mission specialists, not as pilots.

Mission Control, This is Apollo: The Story of the First Voyages to the Moon by Andrew Chaikin, illustrated by Alan Bean. Chaikin walks the readers through each space mission from Mercury through Apollo 17, detailing what the mission was supposed to accomplish, how it worked, and how it was a building block towards future missions. Alan Bean was on the Apollo 12 and walked on the moon. He is also a painter, and his painting illustrate this gorgeous book.

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach. In this adult text, Roach answers all the questions we've ever asked about the nitty gritty details of space travel. (How bad does it smell after a few weeks in a capsule? How do you poop in zero gravity?) In addition to finally getting the answers we always wanted, Roach makes a compelling case for continuing to explore in space.

The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch. From conception to today, Rusch follows the adventures of Spirit and Opportunity. Initially designed to last 90 days, Spirit and Opportunity would land on Mars and do the experiments that humans couldn't do. 8 years later, Opportunity is STILL going.


Laika by Nick Abadzis. This moving graphic novel tells of the story of Laika, the dog sent into space by the USSR on Sputnik II, the scientists working on the space program, and the people who cared for the dog. Using recent revelations, Abadzi lays to rest many of Laika's myths and tells us the cold, hard truths about her amazing journey.

T-Minus: The Race to the Moon by Jim Ottaviani, illustrated by Kevin Canon and Zander Canon. Alternating between the US and the USSR, this graphic novel looks at many of the successes and failures of each country's space programs. the myriad of people involved, and the crucial race to be the first to land a man on the moon.

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. This omnibus edition brings together Adams's entire series about hapless Arthur Dent, an earthling who manages to hitch a ride on a passing space ship moments before the Earth is destroyed. With his new friends, he learns the ins and outs of hitching through space (it's helpful to always bring a towel) while exploring the answer to the greatest question.


Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi. It's something that all new crew members on the Universal Union's flagship ship learn-- never go on an away mission. Away missions on this ship have unusually high death rates. When things go wrong, the captain gets a far-off look in his eye and will suddenly wax poetic, you'll find yourself saying things you never would say normally, and random black boxes of science suddenly work, but only at the very last moment. Meta-fiction and loving satire, you don't have to be a fan of cheesy sci-fi to enjoy this title.

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad, translated from the Norwegian by Tara Chace. NASA decides to start sending people back to the moon, and holds a lottery for 3 teens to go, in a bid for corporate sponsorship. Once there, the teens learn there was a reason the original moon missions were stopped, for something is out there, and it's up them to see if it's still there, and to survive it if they find it.

Losers in Space by John Barnes. In a society where everything depends on your fame level, 9 teens decide to up their ratings by stowing away on a mission to Mars, but when the something on the mission goes wrong, the teens must find a way to survive. It would be easier if they had any sort of skills. And if one of them weren't a sociopath.

There will be more space lists throughout the year, but what are your favorites, fiction and nonfiction?

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