Space journalist Wanjek (also the author of Bad Medicine, CH, May’03, 40-5249) here soberly assesses what it will take for humankind to survive off the Earth, both nearby and in interstellar space: “There can be nothing instant or magical in the establishment of space infrastructure.” This reader readily agrees: leaving the Earth will be difficult. Not only must humans overcome technical difficulties (radiation exposure and low gravity among the most challenging), they also must have good reasons to spend the enormous amounts of money and time required. Comparing the potential hardships to those faced in previous human endeavors (e.g., explorations in Antarctica), Wanjek examines both technical challenges and motivations, and projects what will be needed to sustain life in specific space environments. His text is backed up by formal references to state-of-the-art knowledge (in 20 pages of notes). Wanjek concludes that while life on Earth may have its problems, living elsewhere is not necessarily going to be better. But what we learn in space can make our lives better here on Earth. For alternative views, readers may compare The First Space War, by J. Furman Daniel and T. K. Rogers (CH, Jun’20, 57-3476). Wanjek’s engaging style makes this a must-read for space enthusiasts, and for anyone who ponders our place in the universe.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. Reviewer: M. A. Reynolds, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Subject: Science & Technology – Astronautics & Astronomy Choice Issue: Jan 2021