BOOK REVIEW: Exploring Space – From Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Stephen Biesty

BOOK REVIEW: Exploring Space – From Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Stephen Biesty

Walker Books
March 2017
Hardcover, $34.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Non-Fiction / Junior Science

8/10

 

Who hasn’t looked up at the night sky and wondered what it’s like deep out in space, far from Earth? For centuries, that was all we humans could do: look up and wonder… But now we’ve begun to find out. We’ve landed on the moon, put robots on Mars, and sent space probes billions of miles to explore the far reaches of our solar system.

Find out what life is like on the International Space Station, what the chances are that we will ever settle on Mars, where in the solar system we might find alien life, and why visiting other stars will almost certainly remain a dream.

 

In Exploring Space, Martin Jenkins manages to cover such a large chunk of human history, as it relates to our pondering on and exploring of space. In just under sixty pages, Jenkins manages to cover some 2,3oo years, give or take, starting at the earliest astronomers in Ancient Greece.

By around 300 BCE, astronomers in Ancient Greece had worked out that the earth must be a globe or sphere. About 250 BCE one of them, Eratosthenes, even calculated how large it was, coming up with an answer impressively close to the right one (40,000 km around the equator). A hundred years or so later another, Hipparchus, estimated the distance of the moon from the earth and got that nearly right too it’s about 400,000 km).

The topics explored in the book carry all the way through to rovers, the international space station, New Horizons, and a potential future colony on Mars.

Unlike Earth, Mars has no magnetosphere to protect its inhabitants from harmful cosmic rays and solar radiation so any settlement would itself have to be well shielded. Just as on our moon or in space, anyone venturing outside would have to wear a protective suit with breathing apparatus.

The physics of space.

Because of gravity, an object orbiting round the earth a particular distance away will stay circling at that distance provided that it’s going at the right speed, and unless something stops it. When it’s doing this, it’s in what’s called a stable orbit. The right speed for a stable orbit depends on how far away from the centre of the earth the object is – the further away, the slower the speed.

And, of course, there is the matter of how space affects a human physically.

There are, however, some longer-term risks to spending any length of time in space. Cosmic rays and solar wind can seriously damage the cells in the human body, increasing the chance of cancer and, probably, eye conditions, such as cataracts. On Earth we are protected from their worst effects by the magnetosphere, an invisible field created by the earth’s core acting as a kind of giant magnet.
Out in space there is no such protection.

With such a range of topics covered in such a small number of pages, it is understandable that they do not go too far into any, but rather offer something of an overview, perfect for budding astronomers or astronauts, or even those of us who look up at the night sky and wonder what else is out there in the universe. The detailed and informative cut-away illustrations provided by Stephen Biesty undoubtedly go towards helping to offer a lot of information in so few pages, without being too much to handle.

The only complaint this reviewer has is that sometimes a sentence doesn’t finish on the same page it started, and with the layout of the diagrams (sometimes two or more pages of illustrations and diagrams between the start and end of a sentence, and sometimes these illustrations don’t directly relate to anything on the pages immediately before or after, but something much later on) this could definitely be confusing for young readers who aren’t used to that kind of layout within reference books. 

For those who have studied the universe in greater detail, there might be little here that they do not already know, but they might yet be surprised, and the book itself is a gorgeous one to add to the collection and a great way to give the littlest future space lovers a taste of what’s out there. 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Exploring Space - From Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Stephen Biesty

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