outer space


This month marks the 50th anniversary of the first human moon landing. Science writer Oliver Morton (who actually has an asteroid named for him) has written an intimate portrait of our moon, exploring humanity's relationship with our nearest neighbor in the solar system. 

His book is called The Moon: A History for the Future.  The author joins us to talk about our natural satellite. 


It was just two weeks ago that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced that the country will send people to the moon again, within five years. 

The announcement no doubt cheered people who want to see us go back to the moon and establish an ongoing presence there.  Paul Spudis was a big proponent of going back to the moon. 

Before he died last year, Spudis wrote The Value of the Moon: How to Explore, Live, and Prosper in Space Using the Moon's Resources.


Laika the dog began her life as a stray on the streets of Moscow, but attained a level of immortality as she became the first living being to orbit the Earth, aboard Sputnik 2.

The Soviet scientists who sent Laika into space knew one thing for sure: Laika was certain to die.

Kurt Caswell's book, Laika's Window, captures this mysterious, sad and haunting tale from the early days of the Space Age. 

ESO, http://www.eso.org/public/images/ann13075a

We grew up thinking about people living on other planets, thanks to the likes of Superman and Star Wars. 

But planets outside of our solar system (and outside science fiction) were really just a theory until the 1990s.  That's when telescopes and other detectors improved enough to find the first true "exoplanets." 

Now we know of thousands of them, and an overview is provided in Exoplanets: Diamond Worlds, Super Earths, Pulsar Planets, and the New Search for Life beyond Our Solar System

The Hidden "Human Computers" Of NASA

Sep 9, 2016
NASA/Public Domain

The images of the control rooms in the early days of American space flight--in real life and in the movies--are images of lots of white men. 

But it took more than the people in those images to put people on the moon for the first time.  Margot Lee Shetterly's book Hidden Figures introduces us to people very much behind the scenes yet very important to success in the space race: African-American women who functioned as something like human computers. 

The book is also a movie in the making, due in January.

Shetterly herself is the daughter of one of NASA's first black engineers, who worked for a still-segregated agency in the civil rights era. 

More Than Just A Pretty Thing In The Sky

May 25, 2016
Smithsonian Books

Easy come, easy go.  The United States worked hard to put people in the moon in the 1960s.  Then, after achieving the goal with more landings over three years, we left in 1972 and have not been back since. 

Dr. Paul Spudis, a geologist and lunar scientist, thinks it's time we returned.  In The Value of the Moon, he makes the case for using the moon, both for its location outside of near-Earth orbit, and for its resources. 

Before You Fly In Space

May 12, 2016
Chronicle Books

Scott Kelly came back from the International Space Station and said his clothing felt weird.  It floats around you when there's no gravity, you see. 

Which raises all kinds of other questions, many of them addressed in a book by NASA advisor Ariel Waldman called What's It Like In Space?

Things we just do mindlessly here on Earth, like sneeze and sleep and use hot sauce (!) can become issues when you're weightless. 

Yes, It Actually IS Rocket Science

Feb 12, 2016
Penguin Books

  If you like those pictures the Curiosity rover sent back from Mars, you're thinking good thoughts about the work of Adam Steltzner. 

He should be a household name--on two planets. 

He led one of the critical teams that got the rover set up on Mars, a team that had to plow through many obstacles to achieve its mission. 

It IS rocket science, but a whole lot more, a story Steltzner tells in his book The Right Kind of Crazy

The Universe We Cannot See

Jan 17, 2014
NASA/Public Domain

The wonders of the universe continue to unfold with an ever-stronger array of telescopes and other devices for seeing into deep space. 

Then there's all that stuff we can't see, and that's what James Brau wants to talk about.