A New American Space Plan: by Travis Taylor, Ringleader of the Rocket City Rednecks
by Travis S. Taylor
Cover Artist: Photo: Donnie Claxton
Review by Nick Sauer
Baen Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781451638653
Date: 06 November 2012 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
A New American Space Plan is more than just a passionate call for a renewed set of long term goals for our country's space program. The author covers numerous subjects, both historical and current, effectively making the book a white paper on space exploration as a function of national as well as social advancement. While this could be overwhelming to non-technical readers, the text is presented in a very readable style that should make the book an easy read for anyone interested in the subject.
Being unfamiliar with the National Geographic Channelís reality series Rocket City Rednecks, I wasnít completely sure what I was getting myself into when I decided to review this. While specific episodes of the show are discussed there are always relevant introductions to the topic at hand and, as a result, I found my lack of knowledge of the program to be of no hindrance to my enjoyment of the book.
After a few introductory chapters covering such topics as the International Space Station and NASA's budget in comparison to the overall US federal budget, the book goes into a brief history of the Apollo program and the lead-up programs of Mercury and Gemini. In addition to being a good introduction to the history of US space exploration, the chapter also covers the development and innovations used to create Apollo by using the lunar rover as a smaller and, therefore more relatable to most people, example of how the job was done.
The book then goes into a very good discussion of other countries space programs covering not only their history but, their long term goals in space as well. I found this to be a very enlightening chapter as most of my space exploration knowledge was very much centered on our American program. While I was familiar with some of the other countries efforts I was surprised to learn of Canada's long running rocket program and the surprisingly ambitious nature of India's launch system development.
Other chapters cover the commercialization of space and how that is more of a fallacy than most people would suspect and, a rather lengthy discussion of the threat to our planet from near Earth orbit objects which I would suspect most people are blissfully unaware of.
Finally, the author goes into his recommendations for how to fix our ailing space program. I was surprised here in that Mr. Taylor provided a menu of options that could be selected from based upon what our goals are but with the overarching message that whatever we choose to do, we need to have a long term plan (i.e. more than just one or two presidential terms) and stick to it regardless of other factors. The message is an important one and especially relevant given our increasingly shorter term future vision.
My only complaint with the book is the lack of a table of contents or index. While the lighter nature of the book may make an index unnecessary, there really was no excuse for not at least including a table of contents to ease return referencing. Regardless of this, A New American Space Plan is an eminently readable book that is a good introduction to the history of space exploration that includes an important message which should be a part of our national discussion about Americaís future.