Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight

When the last space shuttle launched in 2011, it marked what many believed was the end of human flights into space. However, Popular Mechanics contributing editor Joe Pappalardo suggests in Spaceport Earth the end is nowhere in sight.

Although the U.S. government has backed out, the door has been opened for many private companies to step up and invent new techniques, equipment and strategies to send rockets to the International Space Station, as well as on flights that will eventually land them on Mars and beyond. Spaceports have sprouted up around the globe as billionaires have poured money into development. They hope to be the leaders in an industry where a single rocket's launch can make or break a company; abrupt disintegration prior to takeoff can set them back years and millions of dollars.

Pappalardo gives readers firsthand accounts of a variety of these blast-offs and new companies as he visits launch pads around the country. He witnesses explosions that wound and kill, as well as the jubilation when it all goes according to plan. He also discusses the similarities between space rockets and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBMs), and the U.S.'s disintegrating nuclear infrastructure as he checks out silos across the country. His explanations are highly informative yet not overly technical, and the overall tone is one of hope as humans strive to create an economical and reusable system to propel humans and advanced technology into the universe. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

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