on December 27, 2007
The introduction to this book states that it will be unbiased and impartial. Instead, it turns out to be an extended rant trashing one NASA administrator and glorifying another to the point of sainthood. It's horribly biased, which is okay, if only the authors had had the courage to admit it. But apparently they didn't.
The book is also horribly out of date now. So, for multiple reasons, don't bother with this one.
on July 19, 2004
The book chronicles the processes around the evolution of the new vision for space that has been presented over the past year. But it isn't presented as a chronological history. Instead it follows themes and particular actors (O'Keefe to a great degree) that make it difficult at times to understand which events coincide with others. I've personally been paying close attention to this history so I know some of the context. If you don't know that context there are sections that will be very confusing. It delves deeply into NASA from the late Clinton administration straight through to post CAIB. At times it almost feels as though it were two books: the first half being a history of NASA and its reactions to Columbia and the other being a history of the Bush administrations efforts to reform an agency.
Often books that have multiple authors feel disjointed as prose shifts from one style to another. The book suffers from that to a certain degree but not to the point of distraction. It is fairly to easy to determine who wrote particular sections. Frank adds color and description. Keith's sections have the same feel as NASA Watch itself: fact filled paragraphs listed in sections roughly associated with a theme but which often don't relate to each other directly. One almost expects to find permalinks and posting dates next to each individual paragraph in each subheading. But overall the flow works and it doesn't distract from the narrative and the analysis. A graphical timeline in an appendix would have helped immensely.
I did find it rather amazing at how recent some of the text was. The section that mentioned the Space Exploration Alliance's Moon-Mars Blitz sounded almost as if it was about to discuss how the actual event went even though it happened only 6 days ago. Book printing must be an insanely fast process these days. The book did seem to be a bit rushed since there were some obvious typos and printing errors that a final read by someone could have caught. But that's just the old typesetter in me trying to get out of its cold dark cage.
I was fairly disappointed in the fact that the book seemed to focus almost exclusively on NASA. Burt Rutan received one paragraph. The sections of the Aldridge Commission report on changing the way NASA approaches contracting seems to have been misunderstood. Indeed, the entire analysis of the Commission's report seems to have been done without actually consulting anyone on the commission and to have been compiled completely from publicly available information. The Space Exploration Alliance received almost a page but there seemed to be no reporting on anything any of the member organizations were saying through SEA. As I neared the end of the book I found myself actively skipping whole pages attempting to find some mention of the more wide ranging policy suggestions that the Commission had made. Sure, I'm biased since I consider myself part of the "alt.space" crowd, but the laser-like focus on NASA and nothing but NASA was disappointing.
What will be interesting is to see whether or not this book dispels some of the "Bush just did this for a publicity stunt. He doesn't really care about space" nonsense that seems to come from "left" field. I'm sure some will accuse Frank and Keith of carrying water for the Administration but the level of verifiable detail will make it obvious that those accusations are marginal at best. One never gets a hint of "infatuation" that being around power can create.
I would recommend the book, but don't expect it to be as comprehensive as the dust jacket makes it sound. I would hope that both Frank and Keith take the opportunity to round out their analysis and coverage by looking at how the entire space industry, "alt" or otherwise, had input into and is being affected by the new vision.
on July 13, 2004
This is a very interesting book with much in the way of unique insight into what could be an historic moment in the space program, or not, depending on what happens next.
The book is really let down by the cover though, which is an almost identical copy of Doolan and Burgess's space book "Fallen Astronauts" . This is going to cause no end of confusion on book shelves in the science section of book stores, and perhaps even online if Amazon pair them as a 2-for-1 special buy. What a shame the publishers could not pick a new image that has not already been used on another recently published space book.