BBC Sky at Night Magazine

Look Up: Our Story with the Stars

Harper Collins £16.99  HB

- Sarah Cruddas Emily Winterburn is a science historian and author of The Stargazer’s Guide

How many people have been to space? What is the future of space travel? And why is it important to continue to travel and explore the heavens? These and other questions are explored in Sarah Cruddas’s comprehens­ive history (and future) of space travel.

Cruddas is a space journalist, giving her unpreceden­ted access to the people involved in historical and current space travel. Her book puts human stories at the centre. We hear not only about each mission and the astronauts involved, we also learn of those back on Earth, in mission control and of the families left behind.

The book begins with a summary of astronomy and flight before the Space Race. There then follows a detailed account of that race to get the first person on the Moon. From there, we learn about the unanticipa­ted consequenc­es of space exploratio­n, the ‘unexpected space age’, such as the first photo of Earth from space that inspired the environmen­tal movement and the technologi­cal advances that shape our everyday lives. Finally, Cruddas looks to today, as private companies try to make space tourism a reality.

At its best, this book is so full of optimism. The story of Apollo and Challenger missions fills the reader with a sense of pride in the unity and possibilit­y of the human spirit. It is hard not to feel a tinge of sadness at the narrower, more convention­al ambitions of today. That said, Cruddas does her best to offer hope.

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