5 books you have to read if you really love space
With the recent arrival of the Juno probe at Jupiter, July is truly shaping up to be one space-y month! It’s also #spacemonth here at PAPER/PLATES, and we’re celebrating all things celestial as we lead up to our book pairing of the month, which will feature Margaret Lazarus Dean’s Leaving Orbit.
In Leaving Orbit, Dean offers a look into many of the books and space writers that have fed her space addiction over the years, so we’ve followed her lead and culled our own picks for your reading list.
1. Of a Fire on the Moon by Norman Mailer
In some ways, the person whose footsteps Dean is trying to follow most closely in Leaving Orbit were most certainly Mailer’s. Of a Fire on the Moon is Mailer’s sprawling account, also part memoir and part history, of the Apollo 11 moon landing and his time in the NASA press corps at Cape Canaveral.
2. The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
In this classic piece of New Journalism, Wolfe looks closely at what it takes to be an astronaut--specially what it took to be an astronaut in the 60s, those unique space cowboys who first enraptured America with their courage and selflessness in the name of exploration.
3. If the Sun Dies by Oriana Fallaci
Dean often expresses envy for Fallaci and the easy intimacy she seemed to establish with the astronauts of the heroic era. These are the astronauts who are household names — Alan Shepard, John Glenn, and other astronauts from the early Apollo missions — and Fallaci spent a year moving between Houston, Hunstville, and Cape Canaveral, searching to define the generational divide between her father’s earth-rooted past and the possibility of a dizzying, cosmic future.
4. Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War by Michael J. Neufeld
No conversation about NASA or the moon race is complete without Wernher von Braun, the aerospace engineer behind the Saturn V rocket used in the Apollo program. But von Braun was also the chief rocket engineer of the Third Reich during WWII and created the v-2 rocket for Nazi Germany that was rained down on Allied cities. This biography looks at the “Father of Rocket Science’s” complicated history and how he ultimately helped the Americans win the space race.
5. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
While this one was not on Dean’s list (since it was published after Leaving Orbit), the end of the NASA shuttle program inevitably includes discussion about the private companies trying to replace it, and SpaceX is at the top of that list. This book is mainly a study of Elon Musk, the man behind Tesla and SpaceX, but it also explores Musk’s ardent dream for SpaceX: to enable human exploration and settlement of Mars.