Reviewed by Ann Rubino
Adjunct, Lewis University College of Education
This series of seven books explores the wonders of space, highlighting many recent discoveries that are changing our ideas daily. The series concentrates on aspects of astronomy that are less known to the general public and reveals the depth of recent explorations and the vast amounts of knowledge that has been obtained in the past few years.
The contributions of technology to human exploration are shown as essential components of the discoveries. In this book, the technology and inventions that make space exploration possible are shown and explained in substantial detail. The chapter titles provide an idea of the scope: Observatories, the International Space Station, satellites, moon bases, Mars rovers and future technologies. Since the history of space exploration parallels the history of our exploratory tools, Bortz properly starts with Stonehenge but quickly moves on to the Hubble (1990), the Compton Gamma Ray (1991), the Chandra X-Ray (1999) and the Spitzer, an infrared space observatory (2003). These observatories have immensely increased the scope of what astronomers are able to detect and those images are among the most striking in the book. The fact that each observatory detects a particular type of radiation is used to explain why these devices add so much to our knowledge, enabling us to “see” what no one really can and deduce information about stars and galaxies that we otherwise could not. Chapter 2 deals with the International Space Station, a remarkable cooperative effort by scientists from so many nations, and provides a much needed recent history of human space programs. The other chapters continue at this same highly informative level, explaining weather and GPS satellites, lunar exploration (for water), Mars rovers, and the New Horizons probe now on its way toward Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.
Short segments of text in almost every spread give an overview of the main ideas involved, helping students digest the generous supply of data. At the end, a timeline is provided, stretching from ancient times all the way to the present. There is a good glossary and a list of reliable websites for further study. This book is highly recommended for the capable and/or talented reader in middle school, and up through high school. The text is readable but the content is deep and the information is wide-ranging and detailed. It would provide many anecdotes and interesting detail for the teacher who gives mini-lectures as well.
Review posted on 4/19/2011