GPO Holiday Gift Guide: Publications for the Aspiring Astronaut

December 12, 2019

Welcome back, our trusty readers! Is it just us, or is each day that passes leading up to the holidays just a little more stressful than the last? Don’t worry. GPO is here to help. Now put down that tub of treats from your latest cookie exchange, and let’s get to work! Today we’re covering publications perfect for the aspiring astronaut or astronomer … or really just anyone interested in space.

Since President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act on July 29, 1958, to create NASA, the agency has worked to achieve a wide array of spectacular accomplishments for mankind, including sending a man to the moon, successfully landing a man-made object on Mars, and creating the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn, just to name a few. The agency has allowed humans to see their planet from a perspective they never had before. NASA’s First 50 Years covers these accomplishments. But it also remembers tragedies such as the Apollo fire and the Columbia and Challenger accidents.

Earth tells the story of a 4.5-billion-year-old planet that offers so much to admire. Through rare satellite images, the book shows off Earth’s land, wind, water, ice and air from above. Explore waves off the coast of Mauritania, Coral Cocos of the Indian Ocean, colorful faults of Xinjiang China, and the North Patagonian Icefield in South America. You will be blown away by what you learn about the intersection amongst Earth and its people, like the Moken people of Southeast Asia, whose hunter-gatherer lifestyle and small population have helped preserve and protect the high density of plants and animals in the Mergui Archipelago. Side note – if you love to travel, flipping through this book will inspire several unique ideas for your next destination. Be dazzled by descriptions and images of the phenomenon known as glory (which looks similar to a rainbow but is formed differently), undular bores, active stratovolcanoes, fallstreak holes (formed by ice crystals that literally fall out of the sky), and milky green water from a boom of phytoplankton.

“The spectacular images in this book remind us of the majestic beauty of our world,” said Lawrence Friedl, program director for the Applied Sciences Program in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Earth Science Division in Washington. “We hope these images inspire everyone to explore, understand, and appreciate the planet we call home.”

When reading through this book, you will start to view Earth as NASA does. That is, a system, with various cycles and processes that are not mutually exclusive, but rather dynamic and intersecting. It can be overwhelming to think about. Even NASA admits that it still has much to learn and explore on our own planet.

The Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most well-known names in space. And for a good reason! This spacecraft looks at the sky from beyond Earth’s atmosphere. It has the capability of seeing and snapping shots of stars, planets, nebulae, and galaxies with complete detail. The telescope provided conclusive evidence that hubs of most galaxies do indeed have substantial black holes with millions or even billions of stars. The Hubble is fast. No we mean really fast. In fact, it circles the entire Earth every 96 minutes. Since its launch in 1990, the Hubble has traveled about 2.83 billion miles. Hubble: An Overview of the Space Telescope provides an overview of the historic space telescope with sections on its history, design, operations, and cultural impact. Explore images of the telescope’s fascinating findings – like its image of the heart of the Lagoon Nebula 4,000 light-years away from Earth, its shot of four of Saturn’s moons passing in front of the planet, and its views of the galaxy M84.

Exploring the Unknown from NASA includes a selection of expert essays and key official documents about the evolution of U.S. human spaceflight programs Projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo.  This publication emphasizes the most important documents or long-out-of-print essays or articles and material from the private recollections of important actors in shaping human spaceflight in the United States. It includes documents relating to aerodynamics and man-in-space research and proposals, program budgets and costs, procurement of materials and support services, lunar orbits and landing selection, astronaut selection, roles and debriefings, statements for foreign countries about missions, and even what activities the lunar vehicle should do and what symbolic items should be brought for the First Lunar Landing (such as the iconic American flag planted on the moon).

Project Mercury was the first human spaceflight program of the United States from 1959 through 1963. Although its two primary goals were to put a human in orbit around the Earth, and to do so prior to the Soviet Union, the Soviets achieved this a month before Mercury.

This New Ocean offers a detailed history of Project Mercury, from the impetus caused by Soviet Cold War rocketry and Sputnik, to the early research on G-forces and human factors of manned space flight, to actual rocket design, development, astronaut selection, the space race, launch and more.

A quote from President John F. Kennedy from the end of the Mercury program appears on the book cover and sums up the national sentiment about the legacy of the project, while simultaneously providing the inspiration for the title of this book:

“We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of preeminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new, terrifying theater of war.” – John F. Kennedy, Rice University Stadium, Houston, Texas; September 12, 1962

Looking to really give an out-of-this-world gift? Pair any of these publications with a telescope, a star named after your space lover, a trip to the Planetarium, or even a ticket to space camp. Now that’s what we call an otherworldly gift … literally!

Alright, now that you’ve got some good gift ideas, you may proceed to eating all the holiday cookies! We’ll see you back here next time for some more helpful gift ideas.

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About the author: Blogger contributor Cat Goergen is the PR Specialist in GPO’s Public Relations office.

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