Book Review: NASA Space Shuttle Owners' Workshop Manual

Category: Non-Fiction
Reviewed by: Ariel I Rayman
From Ad Astra Fall 2011
Title: NASA Space Shuttle Owners’ Workshop Manual
Author: Dr. David Baker
NSS Amazon link for this book
Format: Hardbound
Pages: 160
Zenith Press
Date: April 2011
Retail Price: $28.00
ISBN: 0760340765

On April 12, 1981, NASA introduced to the world the first winged manned spacecraft when Space Shuttle Columbia ascended above the Earth in NASA’s inaugural space shuttle program launch. After 30 years of service and 135 planned missions, the space shuttle program’s epic journey comes to a close with the retirement of its fleet this summer. Though the space shuttle will no longer fly, in NASA Space Shuttle Owners’ Workshop Manual, Dr. David Baker preserves the historical events that led to the design, construction, and operation of America’s first reusable launch system and orbital spacecraft.

Baker’s NASA Space Shuttle Owners’ Workshop Manual is a comprehensive book on why and how the space shuttle program evolved. He reviews the historical events that put humans in space and brought them back safely to Earth. His 160-page hardback features in-depth analysis on the space shuttle from conceptual design to final flight. From the cover, you might think you are reading a Chilton car manual. The title prompts you to think it’s a how-to-fix-it book, but upon turning the pages, you quickly realize this book is more of a space shuttle encyclopedia than a manual.

Baker’s direct involvement with the U.S. space program began during the Apollo days and ended in the early years of the space shuttle program. He has written more than 80 books on spaceflight technology and is currently the editor of Aviation News. His depth of knowledge and firsthand experience is apparent in every riveting page. He tirelessly regales the history of the shuttle’s development path from the low-cost space plane concept of the 1950’s to the integrated launch and re-entry vehicles of the 1960’s. Baker’s account captures the trials and errors of the space shuttle design process and operational challenges.

Each chapter delves into the space shuttle’s story, from how the final design was selected to why it launches like a rocket in a two-stage ascent and lands like a conventional winged aircraft on a glide path. Baker educates the reader in all aspects of space shuttle flight from the digital flight control system to the history of its advanced avionics. Space shuttle enthusiasts will see the origins of the reusable launch vehicle concept up to its final flights. Each chapter is filled with specific details regarding the anatomy of the space shuttle. If you want to know how a 100-ton glider can be launched into the outer atmosphere at 25 times the speed of sound and then return safely back to Earth, this book is for you.

This remarkable book is a very readable and useful resource for anyone who wants to learn about the space shuttle design team’s vision and the intricacies of how it flies. For those less inclined to power through the minutia, Baker includes more than 250 fascinating illustrations and photographs of the space shuttle’s history throughout the book.

At a time when we can look back on the space shuttle program in its entirety, NASA Space Shuttle Owners’ Workshop Manual accurately preserves the history of the program. For any space enthusiast, this book is a must read.

At a listing price of $28, Dr. David Baker’s NASA Space Shuttle Owners’ Workshop Manual is a bargain and would make a fabulous addition to your personal library.

© 2011 Ariel I. Rayman

Ariel I. Rayman, a former member of the NSS Board of Directors, is an attorney and freelance writer practicing in Washington, D.C.

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