Book Review: Milestones of Space: Eleven Iconic Objects from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum edited by Michael J. Neufeld
Disclaimer: I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.
When I was young, I wanted to be an astronaut. It sounded like the best job in the universe. I dreamed of flight, of going into space, exploring new worlds. I still have my astronaut curtains up in my bedroom. But it was not to be. By the time I hit puberty, it was clear that my poor vision would prevent me from being a pilot. Once the Space Shuttles came along and started accepting astronauts that weren’t pilots,, my life had gone down other paths. I may never get to space.
And that’s why I was so pleased to receive this book to review. it’s a bit over-sized, somewhere between standard and coffee-table. As the subtitle indicates, it’s a series of articles about various items in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum, mostly written by Smithsonian curators, and arranged in chronological order. They range from Friendship 7, which carried John Glenn around the world in orbit, to (pieces of) the Hubble Telescope, launched in 1990.
The book is profusely illustrated, and has a lot of sidebar articles that explain topics related to the objects in question. For example, an explanation of why Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit is not currently on display. (Turns out some of the fabrics and materials have long term interactions that are harmful to each other.)
The language is formal, and younger readers may struggle with some of the vocabulary, but anyone who’s followed the space program over the years should have no difficulty. There’s an extensive bibliography, and an index.
I would recommend this as a gift for anyone junior high school and up who has an interest in the space program or related sciences. I do have to warn that this book made me a little sad. Why haven’t we gone back to the moon yet? When will we finally get to Mars?
And now, a video in homage to the Apollo 11 mission: