Space Chronicles : Facing the Ultimate Frontier
by Tyson, Neil deGrasse; Lang, Avis (EDT)

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson presents his views on the future of space travel and America's role in that future, giving his readers an eye-opening manifesto on the importance of space exploration for America's economy, security, and morale.

A mass-media force in science explication, Tyson appears in print (Parade, New York Times, Natural History), on television (The Colbert Report, PBS programs), in social networks like Twitter, and at podiums to deliver speeches. Taken from those forums, his declamations during the past 15 years on NASA and American space policy are gathered in this volume. Enthusiastic about the space program but worried by its current doldrums, Tyson speaks squarely to an audience that might question its expense. Repeatedly batting away the complaint that social problems don't justify spending money on space, Tyson perseveres by citing NASA's miniscule share of the federal budget, pointing to technological spin-offs, and invoking planetary defense against rogue asteroids. Perhaps sensing popular indifference to such arguments, Tyson more generally tries to revive wonder about space in his pieces, taking up in how-cool-is-that manner such things as Lagrange points and plucky little spacecraft like Pioneer 10 and the Mars rovers. A genial advocate for the space program, Tyson offers diagnoses of its malaise that will resonate with its supporters. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Astrophysicist Tyson, the director of Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, delivers a forceful, cumulative argument for space exploration even in the face of a disastrous economy. In this collection of articles and talks, the author investigates what space travel means to us as a species and, more specifically, what NASA means to America. Deploying an energetic tone, scattershot with clever twists and peculiar, entertaining factoids, Tyson handles the species half of the equation from the comic angle. That perspective is inclusive and humbling, open and encouraging of wonder, and the author finds in Earth a precious mote in the vastness, allowing readers to transcend the primal and celebrate great scientific laws to appreciate our place in the universe. It also helps us get past the jingoistic aspects of space exploration, for if NASA-the other half of Tyson's concern-is driven by anything, it is military politics. "When science does advance, when discovery does unfold, when life on Earth does improve," he writes, "they happen as an auxiliary benefit and not as a primary goal of NASA's geopolitical mission statement." But those auxiliary benefits are the critical, serendipitous fallout of the space program: GPS, cordless power tools, ear thermometers, household water filters, long-distance telecommunication devices, smoke detectors and much more. You can't script the benefits; you have to have faith in the cross-pollinating splendors of science, and Tyson finds little evidence for this in the current Congress. If Tyson handles both the rarified and scientific justifications of continued space funding with aplomb, his economic reasoning falls short. One half a penny of each tax dollar sounds scant, but that leaves only 199 like-sized programs for the entire government. An enthusiastic, persuasive case to start probing outer space again.

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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