Book Review: NASA Space Shuttle 40th Anniversary

The means of telling a story is something that’s left to the one who tells it. The most familiar to us is through text.

You open a book and the words begin to flow into the mind to leave the reader to picture what the author hopes to convey. This also applies to the spoken form and leads to some opportunities for some creative embellishment.

But author Piers Bizony has chosen another format to tell a story: pictures.

The first thing that most anyone does with a new book is flip through it. Maybe it’s to check the condition of it. Or maybe it’s to look at the pictures.

When I received a copy of this book, I firmly fell into the latter category. Now, being someone who photographs and writes about spaceflight, I know the story pretty well so there were no spoilers in store for me; I had seen all of these pictures before.

Or so I thought.

Columbia lifts off on STS-1. Seen in “NASA Space Shuttle: 40th Anniversary” Original source: NASA

The telling of the complete story arc of the Shuttle starts with very early drawings. Concept drawings and model testing photos taken in both color and black & white (which conveys how old they are) accompany a history of events leading up to the start of the program.

Progressing further with the same style of written narration and stunning photos, we progress through the Shuttle’s history starting with its conception then going through its construction, testing, flights, losses, and eventual retirement.

REF JSC-S-09-15-0752 STS-9 ONBOARD PHOTO; CREW WORKING AT FPM

It can’t be said enough that the story of the Shuttle is sold by the gorgeous, finely detailed pictures in this book. Literally from cover to cover (and even the slipcover) shows every kind of scene imaginable.

Factory workers can be seen on the floor of Rockwell’s facilities in Palmdale, California. We can see the beautiful, smiling faces of pioneering greats like Sally Ride, Guion Bluford, Ellison Onizuka and so many other astronauts who rode these machines. We see the cycle of launch, land, and repeat including what it took to make it happen.

The iconic photo of Bruce McCandless on his untethered spacewalk is there, but so are pictures of other astronauts at work that may be new to all but the most seasoned space historian. (Anyone interested in buying a recovered satellite?)

Bruce McCandless on an untethered spacewalk during STS-41B. Seen in “NASA Space Shuttle: 40th Anniversary” Original image credit: NASA

“NASA Space Shuttle: 40th Anniversary” is perfect for anyone, whether they’re familiar with the shuttle or not. The book can tell the story on its own or be used to add to it.

Everyone who picks this book up and starts flipping pages will be awestruck by the beautiful feast for the eyes about the Shuttles, those they carried, and those who made it possible.

A copy of “NASA Space Shuttle: 40th Anniversary” can be purchased on Amazon or Kindle.

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