Aerospace & Defence

National Space Day: 10 thrilling books on space exploration and technology

6th May 2022
Paige West

National Space Day was created to inspire all of us in the pursuit of knowledge and progress. With that in mind, here are 10 thrilling books that explore old and new space missions, the technology behind them and the people who assisted along the way.

  1. The Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin

This book, first published in 1996, explains step-by-step how we can use present-day technology to send humans to Mars within ten years; actually produce fuel and oxygen on the planet's surface with Martian natural resources; how we can build bases and settlements; and how we can one day "terraform" Mars – a process that can alter the atmosphere of planets and pave the way for sustainable life.

Zubrin is a leading space exploration authority who presents this book with illustrations, photographs, and engaging anecdotes.

  1. Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon by Robert Kurson

This New York Times bestseller tells the inside story of three heroic astronauts who took on the challenge of mankind's historic first mission to the Moon – Apollo 8.

Drawn from hours of one-on-one interviews with Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders, and their loved ones, plus NASA personnel and experts, this book reveals the dangers involved, and the bravery it took, for mankind to leave Earth for the first time.

"Robert Kurson tells the tale of Apollo 8 with novelistic detail and immediacy," said Andy Weir, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Martian and Artemis.

  1. SpaceX From The Ground Up by Chris Prophet


SpaceX promise to revolutionise space exploration and provide everyone the means to travel to new worlds.

This book tells the story of how the company, and the people within, survived perilous straits to emerge as the most popular, innovative, and influential launch company in the world.

Including the most recent revelations and detailed analysis, this is a must read for anyone interested in space exploration, even if you don’t understand it!

A UK Review said: “Exhaustively researched yet simple to read account of SpaceX’s past, present and future. It’s written very much like a story and managed to answer a surprising number of my questions – including some I hadn’t even thought of! Worth reading just for all the Mars Colony Transport info. Nicely balances present day facts with projections of SpaceX progress on their mission to colonize Mars. Well written with decent graphics, definitely recommend.”

  1. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

I actually added this book to my list of 10 inspirational books ideal for women in tech but I feel it also has a significant place here.

The #1 New York Times Bestseller is set amid the civil rights movement and tells the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space programme. Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War and the women’s rights movement, Hidden Figures explores a rich history of mankind’s greatest adventure with the intimate stories of five courageous women whose work forever changed the world.

It is now a major motion picture starring Golden Globe winner Taraji P. Henson and Academy Award winners Octavia Spencer and Kevin Costner.

  1. Spacefarers: How Humans Will Settle the Moon, Mars, and Beyond by Christopher Wanjek

More than fifty years after the Apollo 11 moon landing, why is there so little human presence in space? Will we ever reach Mars? What will it take to become a multiplanet species, colonising the solar system and traveling to other stars?

Spacefarers answers these questions with a compelling take on the who, how and why of near-future colonies in space.

While many books have speculated on the possibility of living beyond the Earth, few have delved into the practical challenges or plausible motives for leaving the safe confines of our home planet. Christopher Wanjek argues that there is little doubt we will be returning to the Moon and exploring Mars in the coming decades, given the potential scientific and commercial bonanza.

  1. The Martian by Andy Weir

This fictional book tells the tale of one astronaut’s fight for survival after he becomes stranded on Mars. With no way to communicate with Earth and living in a habitat designed to last 31 days, he must utilise the resources and technology around him to survive for as long as he can.

With incredible technical accuracy, the story it utterly convincing. There’s no science fiction here, the technology has been extremely well researched and feels so real that you can’t believe this hasn’t happened.

Astronaut Chris Hadfield, commander of the International Space Station and author of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth said: “A book I just couldn’t put down! It has the very rare combination of a good, original story, interestingly real characters, and fascinating technical accuracy…reads like MacGyver meets Mysterious Island.”

The Martian is now a major motion picture directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon.

  1. Limitless: The Autobiography by Tim Peake

This book charts the life of the astronaut who inspired a generation.

In personal detail and based on exclusive diaries and audio recordings from his mission, Tim Peake takes readers closer than ever before to experience what life in space is really like: the sacrifice that astronauts make in being apart from their families, the sights, the smells, the fear, the exhilaration, and the deep and abiding wonder of the view from space.

Limitless is a book about the power of following dreams – however unlikely they may seem – and of striving to reach our potential, even when we might not believe in it ourselves.

Limitless is the number one bestselling author of Hello, is this planet Earth? and Ask an Astronaut

  1. Not Necessarily Rocket Science: A Beginner's Guide to Life in the Space Age by Kellie Gerardi

Ever wondered what it’s like to work in outer space? What it’s like to be a woman in space? Learn from Kellie Gerardi what it's like to be a female astronaut!

Follow aerospace science professional Kellie Gerardi’s non-traditional path in the space industry as she guides and encourages anyone who has ever dreamed about stars, the solar system, and the galaxies in space.

“Kellie is probably one of the best ambassadors for spaceflight in the 21st century that the industry could have,” said Lucy Hawking, author of George's Secret Key to the Universe and host of Audible's Lucy in the Sky.

Not Necessarily Rocket Science is a number one Bestseller in Astronomy & Space Science, Universe.

  1. Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journey by Michael Collins

NASA astronaut Michael Collins trained as an experimental test pilot before venturing into space as a vital member of the Gemini 10 and Apollo 11 missions.

This book contains his account of his voyages into space and the years of training that led up to them, Collins reveals the human tensions, the physical realities, and the personal emotions surrounding the early years of the space race.

Collins provides readers with an insider's view of the space programme and conveys the excitement and wonder of his journey to the moon.

  10. Handprints on Hubble: An Astronaut's Story of Invention by Kathryn D. Sullivan

This book was published with the support of the MIT Press Fund for Diverse Voices and recounts the first American woman to walk in space as part of the team that launched, rescued, repaired, and maintained the Hubble Space Telescope.

Sullivan chronicles her early life as a “Sputnik Baby,” her path to NASA through oceanography, and her initiation into the space programme as one of ‘thirty-five new guys.’ She was one of the first six women to join NASA's storied astronaut corps.

She describes in vivid detail what lift-off feels like inside a spacecraft, shows us the view from a spacewalk, and recounts the temporary grounding of the shuttle programme after the Challenger disaster.

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