To the Moon

As you have no doubt heard by now, July 20th is the 50th anniversary of human beings landing on the moon. One of the side benefits of all the hype is the fact that the library now has a slew of new books on this important technological achievement, the moon in general, and other quirky space exploration topics. There are so many new books, in fact, that it might just be hard to sift through them all. Never fear, your trusty librarian is here to guide you through all of the goodies.

So whether you want to revel in a technological marvel, examine the geopolitical forces that made the launch possible, examine firsthand astronaut’s experiences, find out about the moon itself or contemplate future explorations, we have a book to pique your interest. There is also a little something for the cynic (great, we have another pristine resource to exploit) or the grump (why isn’t there a freakin’ moon base after 50 years!) to enjoy as well.

The Mission

There is no denying that the mission to the moon was an impressive technological achievement. But it certainly wasn’t easy. Or safe. Or guaranteed to succeed. Learn all the harrowing details in these tense and fascinating books documenting the mission and those who succeeded in pulling it off.

The Politics

While the astronauts operated in a vacuum, the Apollo missions definitely did not. Large amounts of political intrigue, historical factors, and taxpayer funding was required to get those rockets off the ground. Check out these books to get some historical perspective on the Apollo missions and gain some insight into the controversies surrounding the program to this day.

The People

What does it take to walk on the moon? What is it like to be blasted into space? What does it feel like to live out the rest of your life tethered to the earth and considered a hero? Find out with these books from the astronaut’s perspective.

For the Graphically Inclined

The moon landing provided some stunning visuals, so it is only appropriate to have this reflected in books celebrating the anniversary. Also included are two excellent graphic novels that depict the Apollo program and the historical landing.

A Different Take

While traditional historical narratives are great, I always appreciate a book that tries to take a different approach to a well-known topic. These two books examine the moon landing by focusing on a few, or one, key object and telling the story from there.

The Moon Itself

We often take our closest celestial neighbor for granted, but the moon is actually more important and interesting than you might imagine. These books examine the moon from a cultural and scientific perspective, revealing it to be much more than a simple lifeless chunk of rock.

What Next?

Sure landing on the moon 50 years ago was an impressive feat, but what happens now? Will we revisit the moon and expand outward into the solar system? Should we? Check out these books to speculate about the future of the moon, humanity, and space travel.

So come on into the library and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing by checking out a book or two. The future is yours!

Planet X

Credit: NASA, ESA and G. Bacon (STScI)

Planet, dwarf planet, and Kuiper belt object. These are just a few of the labels attached to that icy sphere at the end our solar system named Pluto. I must admit my favorite, a name Pluto held before its discovery in 1930, is Planet X. The name Planet X gives Pluto the proper sense of the unknown. 

Mystery is the key when it comes to Pluto because what we don’t know is immense. A short summary will easily give you all the facts that science has been able to find out to date. Science is only part of the story, however. When Pluto was demoted to the status of dwarf planet in 2006 a huge outpouring of anger and emotion erupted among the public. It seems that icy Pluto has a lot of friends.

There are two great new books about Pluto that will initiate you into the controversy of just what to call the “object”.

The first is The Pluto Files: the Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Tyson, who is the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, humorously chronicles the saga of Pluto’s demotion to Dwarf Planet status. The book is worth reading alone for the examples of grade school hate mail Tyson received when he took Pluto off the list of official planets at the museum.

The Case for Pluto by Alan Boyle tries to put a more positive spin on Pluto’s reclassification.  Boyle argues that Pluto is the first of a new class of planets which, while never being part of the official eight planets, will usher in a new era of discovery. A bit of a sugar coating perhaps, but there actually is a lot to look forward to.

For the first time in the history of our planet, a spacecraft is on its way to Pluto. The New Horizons probe launched in 2006 and is set to explore Pluto, Charon and other objects beyond. New Horizons has reached the halfway point of its trip and is scheduled to meet up with Pluto in July of 2015.  It has already sent back great pictures of Jupiter as it cruised on past.

I know five years might be considered a long time to wait for results, but why not spend it contemplating what might be found. Personally I’m hoping for the discovery of Ripley’s frozen escape ship from the Nostromo or perhaps a rebel base under attack from AT-AT walkers. Not likely, perhaps, but at this point it can’t be disproved.  There are advantages to being the unknown Planet X.

Richard