Feature Space

Planning to leave Earth as a space tourist in the near future?

With companies like Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and even World View, a golden age of space tourism is just around the corner. Experience weightlessness! Be treated to unparalleled views of the Earth from space! Be one of the few human beings to pass the Kármán line!

But space travel, even for tourists, never comes without risks. “There is less than a 100 percent possibility that you will return,” warns astronaut Terry Virts in his new book, How to Astronaut. You’ll still need training. And you’ll need to take some medication before you go. Virts says, “I think that a very large percentage of average people without high-performance jet fighter experience would feel nauseous if exposed to weightlessness if only for a few minutes, so don’t think twice [about taking the medication your flight surgeon recommends]. Better living through chemistry. That’s my motto.” And then there’s the matter of getting back to Earth. The Soyuz has a soft landing element, but even in the Soyuz, landing feels to Virts like “driving into a telephone pole.”

But if all this is still appealing to you and you either have the dough to go, or you’re willing to wait for the price to drop, you’ll want a primer on how to astronaut, from history like Rocket Age and Shuttle, Houston to a view of where private companies are taking space travel next, to Virts’ digestible introduction to training in the Vomit Comet, blasting off, bathing in weightlessness, dealing with bureaucracy, maintaining mental health, entertaining yourself in space, spacewalking, re-entry, and much more. Here are a few new books that will help you prepare…

How to Astronaut: An Insider’s Guide to Leaving Planet Earth by Terry Virts

Ride shotgun on a trip to space with astronaut Terry Virts. A born storyteller with a gift for the surprising turn of phrase and eye for the perfect you-are-there details, he captures all the highs, lows, humor, and wonder of an experience few will ever know firsthand. Featuring stories covering survival training, space shuttle emergencies, bad bosses, the art of putting on a spacesuit, time travel, and much more!  (September 2020)

Rocket Age: The Race to the Moon and What It Took to Get There by George D. Morgan

Rocket Age traces the history of spaceflight innovation from Robert Goddard’s early experiments with liquid fuel rockets, through World War II and the work of Wernher von Braun and his German engineers, on to the postwar improvements made by Sergei Korolev and his team in the Soviet Union, and culminating with the historic Moon walk made by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969. (June 2020)

Shuttle, Houston: My Life in the Center Seat of Mission Control by Paul Dye

From the longest-serving Flight Director in NASA’s history comes a revealing account of high-stakes Mission Control work and the Space Shuttle program that has redefined our relationship with the universe. (July 2020)

Star Settlers: The Billionaires, Geniuses, and Crazed Visionaries Out to Conquer the Universe by Fred Nadis

Star Settlers offers both a historical perspective and a journalistic window into a peculiar subculture packed with members of the scientific, intellectual, and economic elite. This timely work captures the extra-scientific zeal for space travel and settlement, places it in its historical context, and tackles the somewhat surreal conceptions underlying the enterprise and prognoses for its future. (August 2020)

Not Necessarily Rocket Science: A Beginner’s Guide to Life in the Space Age by Kellie Gerardi

Humanity is on an astronomical trajectory and according to aerospace professional and popular science communicator Kellie Gerardi, that future doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of rocket scientists. Gerardi’s non-traditional path in the space industry shows us that humanity’s next giant leap will require the contributions of artists, engineers, and everyone in between. (November 2020)

Life on Mars: What to Know Before We Go David A. Weintraub

Telling the complete story of our ongoing quest to answer one of the most tantalizing questions in astronomy, David Weintraub grapples with the profound moral and ethical questions confronting us as we prepare to introduce an unpredictable new life form–ourselves–into the Martian biosphere. (NOW IN PAPERBACK November 2020)

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