Wednesday, January 18, 2006

To Rise From Earth

I recently received a copy of a fantastic book for space education, To Rise From Earth by Wayne Lee, subtitled "An Easy-To-Understand Guide to Space Flight." It could serve as a textbook for a high-school level class on space flight, a class for which Orbiter would be the ideal "space lab" to provide first-hand experience with the orbital mechanics and other aspects of space flight described in the book.

Both the book and Orbiter provide an essentially non-mathematical introduction to space flight - the book approaches this through geometry, using a large number of excellent diagrams as well as clear analogies and other text descriptions and many photographs. Orbiter takes the first-person approach of putting you in the pilot's seat and providing various instruments to guide you as you control the spacecraft to change orbits, rendezvous with another spacecraft, or fly to the Moon or to Mars.

Dr. Wayne Lee has been a space flight planner at JPL for a number of years, working on various interplanetary missions. He was chief engineer for entry, descent, and landing for the highly successful Mars Exploration Rover program (there's an interesting interview with Wayne about this here - it says January 2003 but it was really 2004, between the landings of Spirit and Opportunity). So he is certainly well qualified to explain the details of space flight, and he manages to do so in very understandable terms in this book.

The second edition (2000) of the book has 318 full color pages. Chapters are Entering Space (introduction to orbits and rockets), Above the Clouds (orbital mechanics without math), Dancing in the Dark (how to perform space maneuvers), Moonstruck (the story of the race to the Moon), On Twin Pillars of Fire (how the space shuttle works), Final Frontiers (how to reach other planets), and Invading Mars (scientific armada to the Red Planet).

There's only one problem - this amazing book is out of print! I contacted the author and he confirmed this. He says he is interested in regaining the rights to the book for possible CD-ROM or web publishing, but he's very busy and doesn't know when this might happen. In the meantime, there are a few used and perhaps remaindered copies of the book available through Amazon affiliated book sellers (and maybe other sources). If you are interested in teaching or learning about space flight, go order a copy right now!

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