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Book Review:  The Space Shuttle

Reviewed by: Ariel I. Rayman
From Ad Astra Spring 2012
Title: The Space Shuttle: Celebrating Thirty Years of NASA's First Space Plane
Author: Piers Bizony
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 300
Publisher: Zenith Press
Date: October 2011
Retail Price: $40.00
ISBN: 0760339414

The space shuttle program has come to an end, and as author Piers Bizony puts it, "this book is a visual celebration of a flawed yet brilliant spaceship whose kind we may never see again in our lifetimes."

Bizony's work in the science, aerospace, and cosmology community is unprecedented and The Space Shuttle: Celebrating Thirty Years of NASA's First Space Plane is indicative of his love and knowledge of space. This retrospective look at the space shuttle program encapsulates Bizony's passion for the industry. The full-sized coffee table book is a magnificent journey through NASA's fleet of orbiters, depicting how the shuttle was developed and designed, and demonstrating how each mission evolved over time through trial and error.

Though the surviving winged orbiters are being decommissioned and retired to various museums across the nation, their legacy will be preserved through Bizony's work. With more than 900 stunning images, Bizony visually celebrates the space shuttle program's history with brief descriptions of each space shuttle mission. From the successful inaugural launch of STS-1 to the lessons learned from the tragedies of STS-51-L and STS-107, this book historically documents every one of NASA's 135 space shuttle flights.

In chronological order, Bizony regales the reader with space shuttle mission history from inception to final flight. From STS-1 to STS-135, Bizony provides the reader with details, albeit brief, of each mission to include the launch date, landing date, crew, mission milestones, and magnificent images captured during each flight. Bizony does not provide exhaustive accounts of each mission, but provides basic details that would satisfy most space shuttle enthusiasts. And what this book lacks in technical detail, it more than makes up with visual stimulation.

However, one major criticism that must be addressed is Bizony published this book before the space shuttle program's final flight. Bizony would have successfully accomplished his mission of releasing a comprehensive book of the entire space shuttle program had he waited to document STS-135. Though he provides a brief mission milestone, he does not include what was actually accomplished or when the flight launched and landed. Most importantly, the reader is left without any mission photographs. It would have been a fitting end to a fantastic book if Bizony captured Atlantis touching ground in the early morning of July 21, 2011 for the final time at Kennedy Space Center on Runway 15.

In a nutshell, The Space Shuttle: Celebrating Thirty Years of NASA's First Space Plane is suitable for the casual space fan who wants a fabulous collection of space shuttle mission images. The brief mission factoids and the failure to include the final mission only offer readers a superficial glance at the space shuttle program's mission history, but this book would serve well as a quick reference or a platform for autograph seekers who can easily have astronauts sign their names next to each corresponding mission.

For a space shuttle enthusiast who craves for technical detail of the space shuttle program from development to final flight, there are certainly more suitable books to fill that need. However, if you want a 300-page photo album of stunning photographs of the space shuttle and mission images, this book is a must-have addition to your space shuttle library.

Ariel I. Rayman, a former member of the NSS Board of Directors, is an attorney and freelance writer practicing in Washington D.C.

© 2012 Ariel I. Rayman

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