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NASA Space Shuttle

NASA Space Shuttle Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review April 2011 Title NASA Space Shuttle
Author Dr. David Baker Publisher Zenith Press
Published 2011 ISBN 978-0-7603-4076-9
Format 196 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $28.00


Zenith Press has released another interesting new title in a distinctive format - the title looks like one of those do-it-yourself auto repair manuals that are produced for specific cars by make, model, and year. This title parallels that format somewhat with this release subtitled 'Owners' Workshop Manual'. Of course this isn't a workshop manual as the 196 pages wouldn't cover the OMS motor much less the entire airframe and the numerous subsystems that allow the craft and its crew to operate safely in orbit. The sub-sub-title 'An insight into the design, construction, and operation of the NASA Space Shuttle' accurately sums up the title.

This title provides a nice insight to the history of this unique spacecraft as it reaches the end of its operational life. Few people really understand how much of an engineering achievement the Space Shuttle is even today to take an aluminum structure the size of a DC-9, put it into orbit, provide life support, airlock, navigation, orbital maneuvering, and cargo hauling capability and then glide the whole thing back to Earth so that it could be reset and relaunched again. First flown into space in 1981, only NASA was able to achieve numerous manned missions with the Shuttle over the subsequent 30 years, not without danger and mishap. The Russians also flew their Buran space shuttle into orbit unmanned, then cancelled the program afterwards. While several nations do fly manned missions into space, the Space Shuttle was the one and only manned spaceplane that was reusable. The US Air Force's X-34B will be the only remaining spaceplane left after the Shuttle's last flight.

Take a look at the table of contents:

  • Introduction
  • Genesis
  • The Shuttle Flies
  • Anatomy of the Shuttle
  • Thrust for the Shuttle
  • Flying the Shuttle
  • Living on the Shuttle
  • Coming Home
  • The Missions
  • Appendices

The author provides a good background and coverage of the complexities of the Space Transportation System (STS) and specifically the Space Shuttle as part of that larger system. Working in NASA between 1965 and 1984, the author not only understands the space program, he was one of the 'rocket scientists' that supported Gemini, Apollo and the Space Shuttle program in its development and early flights. With this background, you're getting a look from the inside of the program as well as his experience in authoring over 80 titles covering spaceflight technology.

While the Shuttles will no-doubt end up in museums, you will never see them in their complete settings ever again and titles like this will be very useful in looking back into the history and higher-level details of this unique spacecraft. This is a nicely written title with great photography that will interest space enthusiasts as well as modelers who are looking for some good views in and around the Space Shuttle.

My sincere thanks to Zenith Press for this review sample!