You’ve probably heard the following quote many times:
“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”Neil Armstrong
The astronaut famously said this on July 20, 1969, when he became the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong and his crew traveled to the moon on a craft called Apollo 11. Their mission, assigned to them by America, was to win the Space Race during the Cold War and prove to the rest of the world that the United States had the best technology and scientists.
The Space Race and the years following it have seen an explosion in the bookish community of novels, series, and non-fiction titles about humanity’s desire to travel beyond our planet and discover what lies in the unknown darkness of the infinite universe. To commemorate the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969, here are 11 books about both real and fictional space travel.
Nonfiction Space Books
1. American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley
This historical book explores the inspiration behind President John F. Kennedy’s desire to put Americans on the moon. Brinkley reveals the numerous scientific and political factors that led up to the Space Race and how America achieved Kennedy’s mission. Primary sources, interviews with surviving members of those who made it all happen, and historical analyses all come together in American Moonshot to portray the Space Race in accurate detail.
2. Cosmos by Carl Sagan
Published in 1980 by author and astrophysicist Carl Sagan, Cosmos examines how the universe came to be and the development of modern science. The book is based on Sagan’s TV show of the same name, and a reboot with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson was created in 2014.
3. Dark Skies by Daniel Deudney
The Space Race may have started over half a century ago, but the Space Age is still a thriving business, especially for billionaires such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Author Daniel Deudney presents thought-provoking philosophical perspectives about humanity’s desired abandonment of Earth and how it might not be such a good idea, after all, to leave our planet to its destruction in search of a new home.
4. Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr
This biography explores the fascinating life of the first American woman to enter the final frontier. Ride inspired an entire future that included female astronauts and scientists with her travels and the company she co-founded. Also included are excerpts from Ride’s diaries, letters, and files that reveal more about the astronaut’s guarded personal life.
5. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach
In a humorous and bizarre approach to space travel, Roach investigates what it would really be like to live on a space shuttle during interstellar travel. Roach uses both science and entertainment to explain everything from how a toilet works in space to the intricate details of NASA’s crash tests.
Fiction Space Books
6. The Martian by Andy Weir
Even though this novel is Science Fiction, it’s pretty heavy on science and will give you all the details you wanted and more about what a scientific colony on Mars would look like. Narrated by astronaut Mark Watney, who has been abandoned on Mars by his crew after they thought he was killed by a devastating storm, The Martian is a clever and hilarious book about survival and home.
7. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
A novel about interstellar travel and war, The Forever War follows Private William Mandella, who was drafted to fight in a faraway conflict with aliens that has been going on for centuries. All Mandella wants to do is go back to Earth, but there is another conflict aside from the seemingly inescapable war that he has to fight. While Mandella spends months in space, time dilation has caused Earth to advance centuries, making home almost unrecognizable.
8. The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
Humanity has discovered how to travel across the multiverse to visit other versions of Earth. However, agents can only travel to the other Earths if their counterparts have died on that planet. Narrator Cara has been selected to lead expeditions to numerous worlds because hundreds of her other selves have already died in other realities. When Cara is sent to a world in which her other self died under mysterious circumstances, she is forced to reckon with her past in order to save the future of the multiverse.
9. Goldilocks by Laura Lam
Earth is dying, and humanity needs a new home. Valerie Black, the captain of an all-female crew, is tasked with journeying to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, which is a classification that deems a planet suitable for human survival. However, because the rights of women are quickly being restricted on Earth, Valerie loses the mission and must hijack it back in order to save humanity.
10. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
The first installment in the Chaos Walking trilogy, The Knife of Never Letting Go, narrates the adventures of a boy named Todd on a distant planet co-inhabited by humans and an alien species that they have subjugated. Plagued by the Noise germ, every male in New World can hear the thoughts of the others, and all the females have been wiped out. Todd discovers that his fellow residents have been hiding something from him, so he flees the town and stumbles across another shocking revelation: a girl who somehow survived the Noise. What else have the people of New World been keeping from Todd?
11. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
Set during the Cultural Revolution in China, scientists have been projecting signals into space with the intention of making alien contact. Humanity’s message is heard, and an alien species that is about to be destroyed plans to invade Earth. After this discovery, two distinct groups on Earth form: those who wish to stop the invasion and those who plan to work with the aliens to destroy a corrupt world.
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