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The Space Shuttle: celebrating thirty years of NASA’s first space plane — book review

21 November 2011

The Space Shuttle: celebrating thirty years of NASA’s first space plane, Piers Bizony, 2011, ISBN 978-0-7603-3941-1, 300 pp.

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As is the publishing business custom, Zenith Press has provided a copy of this book to read and provide an objective review. No compensation has been offered, expected or requested — nor is compensation accepted.

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The mission has been completed, the remaining Shuttles soon to be retired to museums and there is a new book title which has been published — a welcome title from a noted author, Piers Bizony. The Space Shuttle: celebrating thirty years of NASA’s first space plane, at first glance would be classified by most as a coffee table book. Full sized and hand sized photos abound,they number in the low hundreds I believe, and span the entire Shuttle program history — but there is so much more, making this so much more than an ooh-aah publication.

The Space Shuttle program has run its course with the last mission flown only months ago. The program was unique since nearly the entire system was reusable with only the external liquid fuel tank as an expendable item, being consumed during launch re-entry. The Shuttles had outstanding successes delivering civilian and military satellites into space as well as repairs to the Hubble Space telescope — repairs which upgraded the telescope to see even more deeply into space than original construction (therefore further back in time, as well). NASA also experienced two tragedies — the destruction of Challenger during lift off in January 1986 and loss of Columbia in January 2003 during flight after re-entry. NASA flew Shuttle missions from 1981 through 2011. Flying into, as well as out of space, for three decades with only a handful of ships is a technological and logistical accomplishment well beyond what other nations have accomplished.

The photos and captions in Bizony’s book have wonderful variety which are marked by pleasant pace and spicy tempo. There are great scale panoramas for the introductory audience and there are environmental portraits, ones that show a moment in the life with the use of an intuitive angle, for the more sophisticated of readers or aerospace students. The Shuttles are explained in concise text and plentiful images from launch to recovery and readying for the next flight. An appendix is provided which is a roster of all the missions flown and their pertinent facts, including mission highlights — whether they are good ones or bad ones. A 3-D cross-section, rendered by Simon Atkinson and Lawrence Seward, is a special bonus.

This book is one to get for many libraries (research, school or personal) as well as coffee tables. This one sits on our living room coffee table and will not collect dust.

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