Space and astronauts have long captivated the imaginations of many—including myself. The men and women who risk their lives in the name of science have been a perennial source of interest, and to read biographies and autobiographies recounting their ascent to the heavens (or assist from the ground—looking at you, Gene Kranz) puts into focus their dedication and sacrifice. After you’ve watched Ryan Gosling shoot for the moon in First Man, open any one of these books and continue that sense of exploration.
FIRST MAN is an examination of Neil Armstrong’s life and is a stellar addition to the canon not only of biographies, but of investigative and journalistic writing as well. Laced with great anecdotes about Armstrong’s childhood love of model airplanes, his naval assignment in Korea, becoming a test pilot, and his stints in the Gemini and Apollo space programs, Hansen gives us the trajectory of an ambitious man. And, after propelling human progress moonward, Neil’s legacy, which straddles two universes, civilian and astronaut, was forever altered after one eclipsed the other.
Gene Kranz’s memoir is a genuine tale of patriotism and heroism. This veteran NASA flight director recounts his life with deftness and charm, and provides practical advice on leadership and teamwork. As an integral part of the manned space program, Kranz delivers behind-the-scenes stories of some of the nation’s most historic events. If you’ve ever seen Apollo 13, Gene is played by Ed Harris, who dons Gene’s signature vest during his time in Mission Control. This is essential reading for anyone interested in space flight, as it gives a fascinating look at the entire process from the teams on the ground.
This memoir of a veteran NASA flight director tells riveting stories from the early days of the Mercury program through Apollo 11 (the moon landing) and Apollo 13, for both of which Kranz was flight director.
Told with great intimacy, the biography of Sally Ride is one of the best profiles of human greatness. Sally Ride was the first woman in space, and in this engaging book you’ll learn she was so much more. Through her dedication to excellence she constantly defied expectations to break into several male-dominated fields. Her life demonstrates how far females have come in this field, but also how far we have yet to go. She is a true feminist pioneer and forever altered the space agency’s culture.
Sally Ride made history as the first American woman in space, breaking through a quarter century of white male fighter jocks when NASA chose her for the seventh shuttle mission. Written by the ABC reporter who covered NASA during its transformation from a test-pilot boys’ club to a more inclusive elite, Sally Ride is the definitive biography of the bold and talented woman who cracked the celestial ceiling and inspired several generations of women.
Leland Melvin’s life is the textbook definition of grit. In his memoir he explores the challenges he had to overcome in order to become an astronaut. He dealt with many difficulties (including loss of his hearing during astronaut training) and, throughout every setback, exemplified perseverance at its finest. Not only does he reveal wisdom about self-determination, but he also promotes the importance of communities as personality builders. As the only person to catch a pass both in the NFL and in space, Melvin’s story is truly amazing and inspiring. His infectious brand of optimism radiates from these pages and will make you feel that anything is possible.
While this is not an astronaut biography, it is a fascinating adventure told through the science of space travel. Conveyed in the lighthearted and accessible manner only Mary Roach can provide, this is a hilarious and educational exploration of what occurs to the human body (and brain!) up in space. It contains stories and facts that illuminate a reality only a few of us can truly experience, but all of us can be familiar with and astounded by. This book is not only for space-obsessed earth dwellers, but will also appeal to anyone who enjoys popular science and trivia.
For space geeks
Take an entertaining trip into the science of life in space. The brilliant and hilarious science writer Mary Roach paints an intricate portrait of how things actually work when human beings go into space, from the mundane—attending to basic human needs such as air and water—to the luxuries of beer and privacy.