The People and Places of Space Exploration.
Michael Soluri had an amazing opportunity to take pictures behind the scenes as NASA prepped, launched and executed STS-125 the 2 week shuttle mission that serviced the Hubble Telescope for the fourth and final time. (OK I'm the geek that gets teary eyed thinking about the slow freezing death that the Hubble will experience when it's power packs are depleted) Some of the amazing pictures can be seen here. The book also showcases many of the incredible images taken by the Hubble. (I'm going to need a thesaurus by the end of this)
The book itself was larger than I thought it would be- would make an awesome coffee table book, and when I started reading it the pages were like this:
Sorry for the bad picture - I took it with my phone. I started getting nervous. A picture book, no matter how good the pictures with a sentence a page was not going to entertain me for long. Fortunately this was not what the rest of the book was like.
There were essays, by all of the astronauts on the mission, by many of the people behind the scenes, the launch director, the EVA director, the guy who serviced the heat shield tiles, the guy who maintains the airplanes the astronauts use to get around. Many of the essays were about what drew these people into the science/engineering/tech jobs that eventually led them to NASA and this mission. John Grunsfeld takes you from his Childhood in Chicago, his adolescence in the suburbs, leading to his scientific education and pursuits. Many describe how the early space missions of the 60's inspired them as children. Soluri's pictures go with the essays, brilliant color and dramatic black and white.
The section that most touched me however, was in an essay written by Launch Director Michael Leinbach.
" A final thought. My wish is for future policy makers to adopt a long-term, sustainable goal for manned spaceflight. ....... Accept no long gaps in manned spaceflight missions, such as the one we are experiencing now. The team dynamic is lost; the people move on. To rebuild a team on paper is easy, but to make it happen in real life takes years. The shuttle launch team was together for thirty years. The relationships established, the trust built, the in-depth knowledge of the hardware gained , and the earned efficiency of the team cannot be dictated. It is nourished and sharpened over years. That is all gone from manned space flight right now....... America's manned spaceflight program is in a hiatus that grows longer and longer. Sad."
The only thing I disagree with in that quote is the use of manned. I think enough women have flown that they should change it to crewed. (some say peopled, I like crewed)
If you get the chance to read this book, read it.