Archive for January, 2008

The Lunar Exploration Scrapbook, Robert Godwin

January 20, 2008

This handsomely-presented hardback volume is subtitled “A Pictorial history of Lunar Vehicles”. In it, Godwin has brought together all the various proposals and designs for lunar vehicles – landers, bases and rovers – and presented them in full colour. There are photographs of mock-ups, blueprints and artist’s impressions. Godwin has also created 3D computer graphics of many of the vehicles.

The evolution of the Apollo LM is documented, and the various designs it went through are well illustrated. Other designs – particularly those from Boeing – were far more ambitious, and their rovers resemble the huge lunar vehicles of science fiction. Among the stranger ideas presented, I liked the Winged Apollo by North American Rockwell in 1967. By adding two protruding fairings, it was thought the CSM could fly like a lifting body and so land on a runway. It’s not the Space Shuttle by any means, but it could have been a valuable step forward to reusable spacecraft. Other designs are stranger still: the lenticular CSM proposal from the Martin Company, for example, looks like the starship Enterprise.

The Lunar Exploration Scrapbook is an excellent study of what-ifs and what-might-have-beens. It’s very well-presented, is well indexed, and is definitely worth having in your collection. It is only available from the Apogee Books web site. Recommended.

The Lunar Exploration Scrapbook, Robert Godwin (2007, Apogee Books, ISBN 9781-1894959-81-0, 221pp)

Apollo Training – Apollo Spacecraft & Systems Familiarization

January 6, 2008

This book does exactly what its title promises. It’s a copy of a training document, dated 13 March 1968, used by NASA to familiarise astronauts and staff with various aspects of the Apollo spacecraft and their missions. Each page is an annotated diagram – on Apollo systems, basic procedures, trajectories, etc. The book is split into ten sections:

1 – Introduction and Mission
2 – Structures
3 – Electrical Power
4 – Environment Control
5 – Guidance and Control
6 – Propulsion
7 – Communications
8 – Sequencing
9 – Crew Equipment
10 – Apollo Abbreviations

The diagrams are clear and well-labelled, although some clearly require additional explanation – the circuit diagrams and schematics, for example. Despite that, and its nature as a training aid, Apollo Training is actually quite a useful reference. Need to know the overall layout of the CM main panel? There is a diagram showing how the controls are grouped into functional areas – flight control, ECS control, electrical power, etc. There’s even some humour: on the introductory page to the Crew Equipment section, there are a series of cartoons illustrating the topic – “light and sight”, “restraints”, “medical”, “survival”, “waste control”, and so on. The diagram for “mission experiments” shows an astronaut in a CM… and a woman dressed only in bra and knickers standing on a table and looking down at him!

A useful quick reference to its topic, Apollo Training deserves to be in any good collection.

Apollo Training – Apollo Spacecraft & Systems Familiarization, compiled and edited by Robert Godwin (2007, Apogee Books, ISBN 9781-894959-79-7, 168pp)

Virtual Apollo, Scott P Sullivan

January 1, 2008

There’s detail and there’s detail. For those interested in the Apollo programme, a book subtitled “A pictorial essay of the engineering and construction of the Apollo Command and Service Modules”, featuring full-colour 3-D computer-graphic renderings of the exterior, interior and parts of the CSM, might be way too much information.

It’s all in Virtual Apollo – photographs of the CSM under construction, carefully-labelled cutaways, structural detail diagrams, even annotated mock-ups of the control panels. Until I actually bought this book and read it myself, I’d thought it a little too, well, geeky. But it’s actually fascinating, and pretty much the next best thing to having a real CSM in front of you. The level of detail is astonishing, and the graphics are extremely well done. My one complaint is that the page numbers on the contents page are wrong. But that’s a minor quibble.

Some might think Virtual Apollo is only really food for your inner space-geek, but it belongs in every self-respecting collection on or about the Apollo programme. It’s another excellent book from Apogee Books. There’s a sister-book, Virtual LM, again by Scott Sullivan. It’s on my to-buy list.

Virtual Apollo: A Pictorial Essay of the Engineering and Construction of the Apollo Command and Service Modules, Scott P Sullivan (2002, Apogee Books, ISBN 978-1-896522-94-7, 128pp)