The next two books focus on the artifacts of space exploration. In Apollo to the Moon (National Geographic, $35) Teasel Muir-Harmony, a curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, presents fifty objects that collectively map humanity’s journey to the Moon. Extended essays and many evocative images are dedicated to each artifact, chronicling their histories and importance to the Apollo missions, but it’s the selections themselves that make this volume so compelling. Some were inarguably essential to the project, like the command module for Apollo 11. Others, such as the jacket that belonged to a contractor who worked on the space program, take you by surprise and enlarge your sense of the scope of the Apollo project. Muir-Harmony makes clear that these objects were just as vital to the success of the missions any NASA computer. The ultimate joy of this book is that it captures the people and broader culture behind one of humanity's greatest achievements.
Apollo VII-XVII (Te Neues, $65), put together by Floris Heyne, Joel Meter, Simon Phillipson, and Delano Steenmeijer, contains highly rendered photographs, some never before published, taken by Apollo astronauts. Each chapter briefly summarizes one mission, but keeps the text to a minimum, letting the images tell the story—as they so brilliantly do. Given nearly a full page, the pictures make this a breathtaking visual experience. One moment you could be looking out the porthole of an actual Apollo spacecraft as it passes the Earth, and the next you’re on the lunar surface gazing at an astronaut in the distance. Each image exudes a quiet majesty and beauty that is simply awe-inspiring. Periodically the book also achieves a sort of climax with the inclusion of splash pages that highlight a single image across a double-page spread. These are particularly stunning. The book also includes a guide to the photographic equipment used during Apollo.
Space Atlas (National Geographic, $50), by James Trefil, professor of physics at George Mason University. Featuring pictures and maps of not only our solar system, but the Milky Way and beyond, this would be the ideal guidebook for a space traveler. The highly detailed maps and charts provide a whole new perspective on the planetary bodies in our solar system, and the chapters interspersed throughout on the history of scientific space exploration are fascinating; Trefil also takes great care in explaining our current understanding of foundational components of the universe such as black holes. Take a road trip through space and learn about the amazing discoveries of the past century with this remarkable book.