I have worked on various aspects of the International Space Station (ISS) from hardware design, maintenance and EVA operations for over thirteen years and I found this book to be an extremely well researched overview of the design and construction of this massive space project. For those readers looking for detailed descriptions of the engineering designs of the ISS, this book does not contain them and only provides the most general of descriptions (at least from my point of view as a NASA engineer). It does, however, provide an excellent summary of the history, on-orbit operations, and construction, of what has been termed "The greatest engineering project in the history of mankind."
As one would expect, the book opens with a historical overview of the world's first space stations: NASA's Skylab and the Russian's Salyut 1, and covers the lessons learned from these early endeavors. After these introductory chapters, the next section examined the successful Russian Salyut series of space stations that set many endurance records and demonstrated that complex on-orbit repairs are possible. In contrast to the Russian effort during this time, the NASA space station efforts were directly primarily at numerous paper studies.
The book next moves into the development of the US Space Station Freedom (SSF) projects, from the go ahead directive given by President Ronald Reagan, through the first George Bush years till its finale during the first year of the Clinton administration and covers all the early designs like the Dual Keel through the various Clinton redesign Options. While many may view the SSF project as mainly a paper study, it is clear that this project had a significant impact on the final design, development and operation of the ISS.
Again, in contrast to NASA's paper studies, the Russian space program had successful on-orbit programs with the Salyut space station and the Mir. These programs continued to show that humans could easily work in space by performing routine maintenance and emergency repairs. It should be noted that the cosmonauts aboard Mir still hold the endurance record over a full and continuous year in space. I should point out, as is documentation here, that a lot more has happen in the Russian space program, both good and bad, than is ever reported in the press.
The final section of the book, which is approximately half of the book, examines the construction of the ISS from the Shuttle-Mir partnership to the final mission of 2001. This portion of the book thoroughly examines the inclusion of the Russians into the NASA project and the various problems that occurred during the early stages of this joint venture including funding and numerous cultural differences. Once these problems had been over come, the book chronicles, in great detail, each ISS construction mission from liftoff to landing (or burn up for the Progress resupply missions). For each mission, the authors cover liftoff and any associated problems, the crew, the Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVAs), what was added, maintenance, crew rotation, etc. This book is so complete that I expect it will become the standard outlining the construction of the ISS for years to come.
A few final thoughts. As is typical of the Springer-Praxis series of astronomy and space exploration books, this book also contains many numerous high quality photographs and drawings, which I come to expect from this publisher. Furthermore, it avoids most of the NASA-ese use of acronyms to describe just about every piece of hardware. I found only one minor error and that was only related to the naming of an EVA construction tool. And finally, since the ISS is a work in progress, the book only covers those missions completed by the end of 2001 and in the future will either need to be updated or have a second volume.