Howdy everyone, and welcome to the Best of the Moon 2007!
Each year we stop and take a look at the best additions to the Lunar Library over the course of the year. 2007 has been an unusual one for the Lunar Library, not least because your friendly Librarian was co-chair of the historic 2007 International Space Development Conference in Dallas over the Memorial Day weekend, and so was able to procure a large number of relevant goodies.
A business trip to China led to a serendipitous slew of finds that created the brand new Asian wing of the Library. A number of independent authors have rediscovered the Moon, leading to some creative fiction to be reviewed.
While the mainstream is focused on continuing to look backwards at Apollo, with several documentaries and a number of books now gracing the shelves of major bookstores, out in the margins, on the creative fringe, there are appearing any number of new and different ways of looking at our Moon, and many of the winners this year reflect the need for forward-looking thinking. So without further ado lets get some of the miscellaneous categories in the Lunar Library out of the way before getting to the main event – the Best of the Moon 2007.
Big Rocks from Space – Fact
Espace Magazine is a high-quality French-language publication that is probably the best general space interest magazine around at the moment. (Launch Magazine is probably the best we have here in the U.S. right now, and it’s pretty good (the publisher just picked up NSS’s adAstra magazine), but Espace is still better) Each issue is chock-full of luscious space photos, interesting stories, all kinds of news, a poster, and more. This entrant was an issue with a number of stories on asteroides, including an interview with Rusty Schweickart on his B-612 work. The question is, is there enough of a market in the U.S. to make an effort at publishing a translated version?
“Exploring Meteroite Mysteries” is actually a 1997 publication, but I got it at the 2007 ISDC during the Moon Rock (actually Lunar/Meteorite Sample Disk) Certification class. It also has the advantage of being online and free as a pdf, and so of particular utility to educators and homeschoolers, making it the winner in this category.
High Frontier Facilities/Infrastructure
This one is a Tough Competition between “Reference Guide to the international Space Station”, â€œSpace-Based Solar Power As an Opportunity for Strategic Securityâ€ (pdf), and a late entrant: Espace Magazine Special Edition on ‘La Station Spatiale Internationale’
Reference Guide to the ISS was one of the many free handouts during the ISS Science track of the ISDC. It is phenomenally well done and lays out all you’d ever want to know about the ISS. In the entry at the Lunar Libary I note that every high school kid in the U.S. should get a copy of this, and the editor should get a raise.
Space-Based Solar Power As an Opportunity for Strategic Security is a very important study conducted for the DoD to look at SBSP in a security context, and which found that it does indeed touch on many security issues. A lot of good work went into the report, and it is one that every educated American would do well to read, because it lays out a future where we get our energy from the Sun, not the Middle East. In the long term it just makes sense to get our power from the Sun, since most of our energy used is Sun-based in some manner anyway.
Espace Magazine demonstrates once again why it’s such a good subscription with their comprehensive look at the ISS. It is, in essence, a Francophone version of the ‘Reference Guide’. Step-by-step assembly of the ISS to date, life on-board, what’s going to happen with the Columbus module, and much more.
While the Space-Based Solar Power paper is important, so too is the Reference Guide to the ISS, as it goes a long way towards providing an accessible means for people to get a good understanding of what the ISS investment is supposed to be all about, making it this year’s winner.
High Frontier Navigation
Another tough one.
Orbiter has been around for many years, but we had a presentation on how to use the software at the 2007 ISDC in Dallas and I was able to snag a copy of the code burned onto CD, as well as some support utilities. I couldn’t stick around for the class given by Flying Singer of the “Music of the Spheres” blog (I had co-chair duties), but I have used the software before and know that it prides itself on the accuracy of its physics engine. It’s not uncomplicated.
“Fly Me to the Moon” describes how Ed Belbruno saved a satellite by sending it on a special trajectory around the Moon, a sort of bi-elliptic transfer that took advantage of the gravity warps created by the Earth and Moon in local space that form areas of weak orbital stability, where a small change can have a large long-term affect. His drawings provide very good illustrations of the concepts. It expands this to the concept of the Interplanetary Superhighways, which offer a unique transport network around the Solar System for uncrewed spacecraft. This is one of the really exciting ideas being explored in space navigation right now, and will likely become a key component of cislunar development.
This is a really tough one, as both entrants have high merit. I’ve always been a fan of Orbiter, even if I’m not a terribly sophisticated user of it. (My punishment for not paying enough attention in Calculus class, which makes me weak in orbital mechanics) It has a strong fan base on the internet working collaboratively to make it the best it can be. But in the end I have to go with ‘Fly Me to the Moon’, because the Interplanetary Superhighways offer such exciting new possibilities in how we develop and explore our Solar system, and the on-ramp to this natural resource is right next door, not even as far away as the Moon, at the first Earth-Moon Lagarange point.
Youth High Frontier Fact
There’s the usual slew of commercial fare in this category, the same 4 or 5 titles on the solar system that all of the bookstores carry (and I usually end up donating to the NSS-NT book drive to support local childrens’ reading libraries, and to our annual Santa Space Toy drive to support local charities with space goodies).
Launch Magazine posts several strong entries this year. It has proven to be a top-notch publication, not a yet-another-astronomy-magazine in the racks of the local bookstores. The core interest addressed is model rocketry, including and especially the high-power end of the huge variety of rockets they show. This is interlaced with articles not only about historical space launch vehicles, but also future ones like Rocketplane XP’s proposed vehicle featured in the latest issue. They also have articles on general space issues, from interviews with astronauts to stories from the ISDC.
â€œInspiring the Next Generation: Student Experiments and Educational Activities on the ISS, 2000-2006″ (pdf) was one of the publications that was distributed at the ISS Science track of the ISDC. Reading through it (about high school/college level) is really inspiring in seeing the many ways the students have used the ISS, in theory and practice, to advance their understanding of how this stuff works. I do recommend this one to educators.
Still, the sheer volume of full-color, glossy space goodness found in Launch Magazine is tough to beat. The current issue also has an informational article on big rocks from space, one on experiencing a shuttle launch (not many left, you know…), and I’m rather taken by the photos of the Barbie capsules on rockets from the NARAM-49 photo spread. I can’t help but name Launch the best Youth High Frontier Fact of 2007. A subscription would make a great holiday gift.
High Frontier Fiction
“Space Academy” was a TV series back in the 70s, but which only became available this year on DVD. (Now if only they’d get around to ‘Plymouth’, and ‘Salvage-1’…). High school on a space station, but does involve aliens, which technically disqualifies it from winning.
“Destiny” is an alternate-past story continuing the tale started in ‘Apollo 21’ into the shuttle era, as bad men with dark secrets continue to work their plots in the space program. As I’ve been focused on Lunar Sci-Fi Reviews this year, I honestly haven’t had time to read this one, but the first one was enjoyable.
“Astronaut Farmer” was the modestly successful alternate-astronaut story that got really mixed reviews in the space community. Some saw a heartwarming tale of love, sacrifice, and achievement wrapped in the trappings of a space story, others as a gross abomination against the laws of physics and reality. I rather enjoyed it, and teared up at all the right moments. I am shocked at the number of people who google “the real astronaut farmer” and end up at the review I did back in February, making it a visitor favorite. I’ll also note that the link at wikipedia to the same review is the only link to the Lunar Library that has been ‘permitted’ to remain there. “Astronaut Farmer” wins, because it has heart.
Youth High Frontier Fiction
â€œCurious George: Rocket Ride & Other Adventuresâ€
A misbehaving but cutely curious monkey, and a man in a yellow hat. Can anything but hilarity ensue? It turns out that thanks to clever engineering and design, only a monkey has the proper skills to deliver a food shipment to the space station. Can Curious George stave off his ADHD in the funhouse of microgravity long enough to focus on completing the mission?
Fun & Games
A whole bunch of great entries in this category. I picked up the Lunar Landing model by Monogram from a hobby store down in Houston near NASA Road 1 when I was at the LEAG Conference on vacation from work. I like that it has a much larger base than usual, giving more a sense of diorama rather than just a model.
“Out of this World” offers a fun and challenging introduction for ages 6+ to the Solar system as one rockets from asteroid to asteroid, and sometimes planet, in a race to the outer edges of the Solar system, out past the dwarf planet Pluto.
Odyssey Toys has produced a number of wooden Moon playsets over the years, and some of the more unique sets are no longer produced. The company decided to issue the “Eagle Lunar Lander” without the usual baseplate and backboard. The ascent stage separates from the landing stage, for additional fun. The front hatch is rather clever, and the astronaut will fit inside. Two is a bit of a squeeze, just like in real life. At a recent NSS of North Texas display at the Fair Park Planetarium this proved a quite popular addition to the kids area set-up we have to help keep them quiet.
Hugg-a-Planet! I love my Hugg-a-Planets! I’ve been a fan of these for years. This particular model is roughly to scale for the Earth & Moon, and the Earth has a convenient inner pouch in which one can store the Moon. Lots of details are shown on both. This makes a great addition to the proportional Hugg-a-Mars. They’re huggable, you can just feel the good karma, and they’re educational to boot!
“Space Station Sim” takes the sim experience to a whole new level! Do you have what it takes to manage a space station with cranky crew and any number of things that can go wrong?
A lot of good entries this year. As noted, the “Lunar Lander” was quite popular at a recent space display, with the kids zooming around the Moon and taking the astronaut’s helmet off in the vacuum of space. The Hugg-a-Earth-n-Moon is a fun set, and can easily be used even with grown-ups to explain basic orbital details. It’s the utility of the latter that makes Hugg-a-Earth-n-Moon the best of Fun and Games.
And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, Out of the Cradle is proud to present the best additions to the Lunar Library from 2007, the Best of the Moon!
Best of the Moon – Apollo
Sigh. You know, the Lunar Library really doesn’t have the budget to keep up with the endless stream of Apollo-related publications. I did pick up “Soviet & Russian Lunar Exploration” mainly because there is so little out there on the Russian programs. Still, I consider this wing of the Library to be a lower priority in acquisitions. So I’ll name Espace Magazine’s Special Apollo hors series (that I have a subscription to and so don’t have to pay extra for since it’s such a phenomenal magazine, as the current “La Station Spatiale Internationale” issue once again demonstrates) as the Best of Apollo 2007.
“the moon” is the most recent of the books that appear periodically to explore the mythes and legendes and fantastickal stories of olde, and how the Moon is woven into the fabric of our cultures. It then carries that into the modern age with numerous illustrations, making it a nice introduction to our orbiting companion.
“Postcards from the Future” is a terrific story of an everyman’s journey to the Moon and well beyond, building a future of great promise for humanity. An electrical engineer is not terribly happy about being transferred to the Moon to help install the electrical grid,and his video postcards home document his lonely years living away from his wife. Slowly, though, he begins to understand the importance of the work he’s doing. I really enjoyed this movie, each and every time I saw it, and you can too now that it’s available on DVD. “Postcards from the Future” is the Best of Cultura Lunaris.
Best of the Moon – Moonbases
The top contenders here are both touch-ups of previously published work. â€œThe Moon: Resources, Future Development,and Settlementâ€ updates the 1999 first edition with added content, color plates, and appendices. The body of the work is about 200 pages and is something of a comprehensive project analysis; developing our presence on the Moon in a sustainable way, and suggested strategies for doing so. It’s a complex book. I just finished the appendix on robotics, and am looking forward to the sections on oxygen extraction.
“The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon” from the National Research Council is the polished version of the draft report published last year with a fair amount of added content. It makes some really good points about the kinds of Solar system science we can be doing on the Moon,and notes the questions unanswered by Apollo, those raised by Apollo, and those we just didn’t know to ask.
Stop the presses! We’ve got a late entry in the category, just in under the wire. Apogee Books has just published “The Lunar Exploration Scrapbook”, a collection of over a hundred different concept studies on traveling to and around on our Moon. This is an amazing collection of archival materials, much of which is updated with computer renderings of the available materials. Definitely a great resource for design students.
“The Moon” covers much of the material in the “Scientific Context”, but also goes much further in exploring other areas as well, from engineering challenges to In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) production methodology issues. It is structured in a kind of project management way, in many respects like last year’s winner in this category, The Lunar Base Handbook,2nd Ed. “The Lunar Exploration Scrapbook is an amazing collection of archival materials, but it does limit itself to transportation issues. This is not necessarily a negative, as “The Moon” barely touches on the transport issue. I’m almost tempted to call it a tie, but ultimately â€œThe Moon: Resources, Future Development,and Settlementâ€ offers the most reference value for the invested dollar, and so claims the title of Best of Moonbases 2007.
Best of the Moon – Selenology
While it could probably use an update, â€œExploring the Moon: a Teacherâ€™s Guide with activities for Earth & Space Sciences” remains one of the definitive educational products provided by NASA for teaching youngsters about the Moon. It’s a traditional part of the Moon Rock Certification class, so I got a copy at the ISDC, and was also an early reading in the on-line Moon class that I’m just finishing up. There’re a number of educational activities in addition to the reading on how the Moon got to be the way it is, making it invaluable for educators.
There’s some good competition in this category, and largely from self-published authors, perhaps reflecting a renaissance in writers visiting the Moon.
“Evolution’s Child” explores a future where fundamentalists wage ideological warfare across the face of the Earth, while on the Moon a new society is evolving, one where the sanctity of all life is cherished. Well, you know those fundamentalists, they just can’t leave well enough alone and decide to bring their struggle to Moon, threatening all that has been achieved.
“Moon Blog” tells the tale of an open-source race to the Moon that’s financed a la D.D. Harriman – promises, cajoling, optioning everything, ‘official’ this and that. But in the end it’s not the ship that counts, even if it is designed by the finest free minds in the world, but the crew.
Some of whom seem a bit, uhm, disposable in “Moon Quake”. Circumstances compel the U.S. to rush a base to the Moon, so the project manager tells his crew to dust off the cheapest option from the SEI project of the Bush pere era, update it, and start building. The robot folks exert pressure and it is decided, above everyone’s pay grade, to construct it robotically on the Moon before sending the human crew. This leads to the crew requiring the base for survival upon arrival, a recipe rich for tragedy. Such as say, a Moonquake!
All of the books were fun reads as part of the Lunar Library Moon Fiction review project. “Moon Quake” is published as part of Apogee Books ‘Science Faction’ series of books, and would be considered the hardest science of the works, in the tradition of Arthur C. Clarke. “Moon Blog” is rather contemporary, (especially since I know some of the folks at CoLab, an open-source collaboration out at NASA Ames) but then so is “Evolution’s Child”. Ultimately, I’d have to say that “Evolution’s Child” is the most fully developed from a number of perspectives, from philosophical to a not unbelievable future technological society. So while it can be considered controversial, it is at least an explored and reasoned controversy, not a reactionary one. “Evolution’s Child” is the Best of the Moon Fiction of 2007.
Best of the Moon – Youth Moon Fact
“Moon Base One” was prepared by Federation of Galaxy Explorers (FOGE), and presents players with a mining challenge, searching for minerals on the Moon. The software was developed to assist in FOGE’s space-related educational programs, and used an on-line collaborative approach in the development. It uses a ‘first-person shooter’ style of moving around, and involves a fair dose of economics. Definitely a good resource for educators. “MoonBaseOne” is the Best of Youth Moon Fact for 2007.
Best of the Moon – Manga
“Earthlight” is manga, or Japanese-style cartoon drawing, that tells the story of a young man forced to the Moon when his Dad becomes the administrator. Too bad his Mom turned out to be a sleeper terrorist that wants to dictate terms at the trigger of a Solar-power sat needed by Earth. In volume two we learn how the young man, and his friends, deal with the aftermath while trying to save their home from Earthside interests. The last panel left me breathless. The next volume is due out at some time in 2008. There’s a brief preview in the manga ‘Project D.O.A.’,wherein we learn the corporations are tired of messing around with the free-thinking rational scientists and competent engineers and decide to go build their own Solar power satellite.
Best of the Moon – Anime
“Freedom” is the tale of a young man on the Moon, living in the fiercely controlled environment of the survivors of an ecological disaster on Earth. He seems to be learning that those in charge are hiding things from the people, things that let them remain in power, because people don’t know any better. The Moon also seems to be receiving love letters from Earth.
There are a couple of other works I’m looking forward to. ‘Rocket Girls’ tells the story of young ladies recruited to be space pilots because they have such petite masses. (Another site is here) ‘Moonlight Mile’ I’m not sure about, but it involves the Moon. (Another site is here) I can’t wait for this stuff to be translated.
Youth Moon Fiction
“Shanghaied to the Moon” is a fun, proto-Heinleinien boy’s adventure tale of a younger man pursuing a past he doesn’t know or comprehend, who ends up trapped on the ship of a man who has perhaps been in space a while too long, headed for the Moon. The boy is used to escaping into vid adventures where he is the hero, and not being able to do so in the harsh reality of space helps grow him into a young man. That and a bunch of adventures. Personally, I think we need more current books for youth with space adventures that deal with near-Earth, near-future settings.
Best Moon Movie
â€œMagnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moonâ€ is finally out on DVD! This IMAX feature was released in theatres a while back, but quickly faded into the background under the Disney marketing machine for “Roving Mars” a couple of months later, and was available on DVD a couple of months ago. Sort of a documentary, it revisited many of the landings and provided an awesome reimagining of the Hadley Rille visit with the camera sweeping up and backwards to provide a larger and larger perspective of the wild and desolate landscape. Clips of kids talking about the Moon provide a pedagogical hook for the youngest viewers. Ms. Commander Lugo in the last scene is going to be inheriting my job. Best seen on the biggest screen you can find.
Best Chinese Moon
During a business trip to China, some allowances were made for personal time, which your friendly Librarian used to explore for the Moon. China’s Chang’e-1 probe has successfully reached the Moon, and is preparing for scientific study. Just as with our Apollo program, the Chinese are rightfully proud of their technical achievement, and have published a number of Moon-related titles to help encourage public interest in the program, and perhaps encourage young men and women to pursue space-related engineering careers. When I visited the Xidan People’s Bookstore in Beijing, there were a number of young men hanging around the space books poring over different titles. This year’s winner in this special category was found at a special display at the bookstore highlighting China’s launch vehicle program, and also the Chang’e-1 probe.
Admittedly, I don’t read Chinese (yet…having books on a topic that I’m really interested in will help), but “To the Moon” clearly stands out amongst the titles available at the bookstores. It is comprehensively illustrated, but with sufficient text that I’m going to take a guess and say it’s college-level reading. I’ve seen a lot of stuff in the Lunar Library, but many of the illustrations were new to me. Extensive use is made of NASA-related imagery, but also other space efforts around the world. I honestly can’t think of any English-language books in the Lunar Library quite like it.
And that folks is this year’s Best of the Moon. This is by no means everything that was added during the year, but represents the things that really stood out. Clearly there’s interest in the Moon out there, let’s hope it continues. I encourage all the gentle readers out there to consider making a donation of a space and/or science toy to your local toy drive this holiday season to help encourage even the least opportune amongst us to consider our space future, and perhaps contribute in their own way.