The High Frontier

Essential reading for would-be space travelers.

Space Chronicles

By Neil deGrasse Tyson

As Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, Neil deGrasse Tyson knows how to make the great complexities of astronomy surprisingly easy to understand — and unexpectedly humorous. With the future of American space travel hotly debated, the insights he offers in this new collection of essays are timelier than ever. Tyson assesses where the space program currently stands, traces the recent history of a NASA agency buffeted by partisan politics, and imagines how other intelligent life forms in the universe might go about discovering us.

Red Mars

By Kim Stanley Robinson

After the moon, Mars represents the next feasible opportunity for manned space exploration. In the kickoff to one of the most celebrated of science-fiction trilogies, Robinson provides an intoxicating vision of how we might settle and transform our planetary neighbor.  A cast of intrepid colonists are swept up in a truly epic-scale adventure, with a dash of utopian dreams balanced by the author’s integration of deeply researched science about everything from how to thicken a world’s atmosphere to new drugs and treatments for aging.  Red Mars is a  mind-bending journey into a possible future, with implications that touch on ecology, politics, and every aspect of human society.

Time Travel and Warp Drives

By Allen Everett and Thomas Roman

If you strap yourself to a rocket hurtling through space at the speed of light, will you age? Everett, Tufts University Emeritus Professor of Physics, and Roman, Professor of Mathematical Sciences at Central Connecticut State, apply up-to-date discoveries from their fields to this and a slew of other questions posed by science-fiction standards in a fun and informative read. What they conclude will surprise you — though some sci-fi dreams, they conclude, will likely remain fiction permanently.

The Crowded Universe

By Alan Boss

Boss, an astronomer who works in the Department of Terrestial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institute of Science, argues that, since scientists can now identify Earthlike planets throughout the universe with certain key conditions (Is it near a star of the right brightness? Does it have liquid water?), the discovery of extraterrestrial lifeforms is imminent. Which makes the continued funding of research imperitive, as Boss persuasively argues in this fascinating treatise that looks beyond NASA to the efforts of other nations to confirm we are not alone in our cold universe.

Packing for Mars

By Mary Roach

Roach has had plenty of experience digging into oddities such as the “life” of a cadaver (in Stiff) and how scientists study sexual intercourse (in Bonk). This time around, she gets the scoop on how space explorers come up with the answers to questions like “What happens to your body when it’s trapped in a spacesuit for months?” The preparations for the next generation of space travel reveal how far we’ve come since Neil Armstrong first set foot on the lunar surface.