As the book’s title says its about the history of fighters development in US Airforce. But what makes this book stand out of the likes is its emphases on engineering aspects of the fighter planes. Herbert Hutchinson brings unique perspective being an aerospace engineer.
This second book has some overlapping material with the book above. And it is focused mostly on nitty gritty details of the transition from YF-16 prototype to full blown F-16 fighter as it’s known today. By the way F-16 is the most numerous 4th generation fighter in the world.
Why these books?
As I wrote in a number of post previously here, here and here, the most interesting books about engineering topics, such as aviation, space, physics or mathematics are those that are written by engineers, physicist and mathematicians who can explain the subject from personal point of view. In the case of Herbert Hutchinson books he provides lots of valuable advice as an experienced system engineer and manager to fresh engineers. I find this advice crucial because you do not find this knowledge and experience transfer that often when you join a company as junior engineer.
Have you ever heard about New Horizons spacecraft? Did you know that it flew by dwarf planet Pluto in 2015, which was never been done before? Did you know that in 2018 it visited a Kuiper Belt Object Ultima Thule, now officially known as Arrokoth? If you answered no to any of these questions and you are interested in deep space exploration then you may find this post interesting.
The post is a short review of the book Chasing New Horizons : inside the epic first mission to Pluto. If you already read other books on the subject, then this one could resemble to you The Interstellar Age by Jim Bell or The Right Kind of Crazy by Adam Steltzner. If not, then buckle up and lift off!
Back in 2015 Pluto was still a dwarf planet that little was known about except its orbit, its approximate mass and volume, and composition of its atmosphere. No space mission had visited it before, though one of the Voyager probes was planned to visit it, but it didn’t happen. In 2015 with a flyby of the New Horizons spacecraft, Pluto has revealed its secrets and new exciting data became available to scientists and a larger audience.
The book Chasing New Horizons is all about telling the story of how this flyby became a reality and how dedication and perseverance of a group of relentless planetary scientists, engineers and space enthusiasts put their careers on a line to make this happen. It was written by Dr. Alan Stern who was a Principal Investigator (PI) behind New Horizons mission and Dr. David Grinspoon, an astrobiologist, who also took part in the mission. It tells the story of how the mission was conceived back in late 80’s of the previous century, how it took about 27 years from an idea to its implementation and what obstacles the team had to overcome to make it a reality.
What I liked about the book
As I’ve already mentioned in my other post, I find the that the most interesting books are books written not by journalists, but by actual scientists, engineers, project managers and others, who were there, who made the decisions, who first hand experienced what happened before their own eyes.
This book stands out in comparison to similar ones about space, since it is able to engage readers in an exciting story of exploration of new horizons despite the hurdles emerging almost daily along the way, that would prevent other people from proceeding forward. I like how the NASA’s inner politics, engineering tradeoffs and solutions to emerging problems were described in detail in the book. This way a reader gets a better context of how the events unfolded and why.
Significant part of the books is also dedicated to describing day-to-day activities, such as mission planning, spacecraft housekeeping that were carried out to support the ongoing New Horizons journey to Pluto. By providing these details authors made it feel like you actually were there in mission control room observing what had happened in a real time.
All in all, books like this make you appreciate what we people are capable of when we are driven by high goals of exploration, knowledge advancement and pure joy of adventures. And such books make you crave for more.
Books on deep space exploration I’ve read and recommend
This post continues the series of posts describing books I read end-to-end and classified in accordance with some criteria. This time we are talking about books on space and space exploration. You may also check related posts: this, this, this, and this, I wrote previously.
Books on Space and Space Exploration
Flight: My Life in Mission Control by Christopher Kraft. This book is autobiography by Chris Kraft starting from his positions at NACA and ending being flight director on STS (aka Space Shuttle). It’s an easy ready since Chris Craft was capable of describing his life at NASA very vividly.
The Right Kind Of Crazyby Adam Steltzner. This book is about how Adam Steltzner went from a musician to a mechanical engineer, later to become chief engineer of Curiosity and Perseverance Mars Rovers.
Low Earth Orbit and the Moon
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earthby Chris Hadfield. This book is a memoir by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. He’s best known forhis coverof the David Bowes’ Space Oddity song. The song was recorded on board of the International Space Station (ISS).
As I mentioned previously, this post is about organizing the books I read about aviation in a particular structure that could be useful to other readers. This post is based partially on the post I wrote about the origins ofStealth technologyand the post onaviation related booksin general. In short, my classification is about civil and military aviation with some sub-categories inside each branch of aviation.
Biographies of plane engineers
747by Joe Sutter. This book could be of interest to people who not only want to learn about the 747, but also want to know who developed it, why and how it happened. Joe Sutter produced an interesting nerative that is fun to read.
Biographies of jet engine engineers
The Power to Fly: An Engineer’s Lifeby Brian H. Rowe. This book provides you with an information of how jet engines were developed in General Electric Engines and also provides you with author’s personal advice on engineering and management.
Herman the German: Just Lucky I Guessby Gerhard Neumann. While I read the book by Brian H. Rowe he mentioned that his boss at GE Aviation Engines was Gerhard Neumann who was quite a personality. I was curious so I bought this book. It was very adventurous reading to say the least. It seems like Gerhard Neumann had the most adventurous life of any person on earth. Surely, more adventurous, than Indiana Jones could ever dream of.
Jet Fighter Planes
Hornet: The inside Story of The F/A-18by Orr Kelly. This books provides many details of how F/A-18 was conceived, designed and developed. I was very impressed with the book, taking into consideration, that at first I thought about F/A-18 as an ugly plane.
Biographies of military jet planes engineers
Kelly: More Than My Share of It Allby Kelly Johnson. Well, I guess there is no need to introduce who Kelly Johnson was. And if there is a need to do this, then he’s the father of Skunk Works which brought you U-2, A-12, SR-71 and other Area 51 planes.
Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheedby Ben Rich. This book is very exciting and it talks about F-117 design and development also touching on SR-71 and other planes developed by Skunk Works. Ben Rich started as a thermodynamics specialist of SR-71 in Kelly Johnson team, later to succeed him as Skunk Works director. By the way, his son Michael D. Rich is the CEO of RAND corporation.
B-2: The Spirit of Innovationby Rebecca Grant. This books was written on behalf of Northrop Grumman and provides some interesting details of how B-2 was developed to be the first ever stealth bomber of the second generation.
Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise...
Probably, most of you can recall these opening lines from the Star Trek sci-fi franchise. But in this post I want to write about real space voyagers which are Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 that where launched in 1977.
Not long ago friends visited us at home and while having a lovely conversation we talked about space exploration. Eventually, we mentioned the Voyager 1 and 2 robotic spacecrafts. When our friends left I was curious to check what YouTube had with regard to interesting documentaries about Voyagers space mission. As you might guess, there were a lot on the YouTube, but one particular documentary calledThe Farthestproduced by HHMI Tangled Bank Studios I liked the most. This documentary has a reasonable coverage of Voyagers mission from its inception until present and it features interviews with key scientists who were responsible for making Voyagers a successful endeavor.
As usually happens to me, while watching this documentary I’ve noticed that one of the people who was interviewed for this documentary wasJim Bell, a professor of Astronomy who wrote a book calledThe Interstellar Age : Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Missionwhich was the basis for the documentary. Again, as usual, I bought that same book and, boy, wasn’t I disappointed. The book was also very interesting and it covered robotic space program including early Mariner missions, but mostly focused on Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 journeys beginning in 1977 and until these days when they plow interstellar space continuing ad infinitum and, some may say, beyond. The books mentions interesting discoveries that where made by each Voyager in their encounters with giant planets following on a Grand Tour of Planets. It also covers what will be the fait of the Voyagers when we as a civilization will be long gone. I particularly, liked when Jim Bell described how the Golden Record was prepared to be carried by the Voyagers and also it was interesting to know that some moons of Jupiter and Saturn could be potential harbors of life besides Earth.
All in all, I recommend you to check out the documentary and if you like it you also may consider reading the book. The next book that I have in queue is The Right Kind Of Crazy by Adam Steltzner, the chief engineer of Curiosity and Perseverance Mars rovers, but this and more in my next post.
There are lots of books on aviation that are written by historians or journalists. The most valuable in my opinion are books written by engineers, who designed and developed aircraft, and described how things happened first hand. Below follow a number of books written by engineers with exception of one written by a non engineer.
For a long period of time I had a conviction that F/A-18 Hornet wasn’t that good a plane and aesthetically it didn’t look good to me. But a book on F/A-18 development has changed my mind. It was written by a non-engineer, nevertheless this book is worth reading since it’s full of valuable information on F/A-18 design and development and subsequent service.
The Hornet: The Inside Story of the F/A-18 by Orr Kelly is a very interesting since it provides ample information starting from Hornet inception to it usage by US Marine and US Navy.
The Power To Fly
Is a book by Brian H. Rowe who started as an engineer at General Electric Aviation Engines and grew up to be a CEO of GE Aviation and was responsible among other things for the development of GE90 high-bypass turbofan engine that powers Boeing 777 plane. What I liked about this book was that Brian described a number of engineering and managerial challenges that he faced throughout his career in GE and how he and his team overcame them. This book could keep you up at night reading.
Adventures of an engineer
Next book is called Herman the German: Just Lucky I Guess by Gerhard Neumann.
In The Power To Fly book Brian Rowe has mentioned his manager Gerhard Neumann, who Brian later succeeded. It turns out that Gerhard Nouman was an incredible person who had a life packed with such many adventures that all Indiana Jones franchise pale in comparison to it. Started as an apprentice of a German car mechanic before World War II, Gerhard ended up being a CEO of GE Aviation Engines. Most of the book is dedicated to Gerhards adventures as an aircraft mechanic in China during the WWII and his 10,000 miles trip in 1947 from Hong Kong to Jerusalem in a Willys Jeep with his wife and a dog. The adventures he described at times felt like unbelievable, yet they happened. Read the book to find out more.
747: Creating the World’s First Jumbo Jet and Other Adventures from a Life in Aviation by Joe Sutter is not only an interesting book about the development of Boeing 747, but it also describes the history of Boeing aircrafts from early 20’s of twentieth century as witnessed by a boy growing up in Seattle until the latest version of Boeing 747-8 family of jets. What I liked the most about this book was a detailed description Joe provided on how the Boeing 747 was designed and developed, despite being a secondary project that was thought as unimportant by Boeing upper management at the time. Joe Sutter mentioned not once how safety of airplanes at Boeing was the utmost priority what seems like no longer the case in today’s Boeing.
If you are interested in Apollo Moon program and curious what books are worth reading on the subject, probably this post may help you.
So far, I’ve read more than a dozen of books on U.S. Apollo program which were written by people coming from all walks of life. There were flight directors and controllers, engineers, surely, astronauts, historians and journalists. As such, I tend to classify the books on Moon program into four main categories based on the background of the authors.
Engineers and scientists
Books written by engineers, including flight directors and controllers who took part in the Apollo program. These tend to be more technical and down to earth with lots of details for technically inclined readers
Scientists and engineers beyond Apollo
Books written by authors with scientific background who were not part of Apollo program
Books written by astronauts. These ones range from technical to more emotional ones
Historians and journalists
Books written by historians and journalists
Engineers and scientists
Flight: My Life in Mission Control by Christopher Kraft
Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond by Gene Kranz
Go, Flight!: The Unsung Heroes of Mission Control, 1965–1992 by Rick Houston, Milt Heflin, et al.
Safely to Earth: The Men and Women Who Brought the Astronauts Home by Jack Clemons
Sunburst and Luminary: An Apollo Memoir by Don Eyles
Left Brains for the Right Stuff: Computers, Space, and History by Hugh Blair-Smith
Scientists and engineers beyond Apollo
Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight by David A. Mindell
The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation by Frank O’Brien
The Apollo Chronicles: Engineering America’s First Moon Missions by Brandon R. Brown
Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race by David Scott and Alexei Leonov
Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys by Michael Collins
The Last Man on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and America’s Race in Space by Eugene Cernan
Historians and journalists
A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin
First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen
Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon by Jeffrey Kluger
Apollo 13 by Jeffrey Kluger
Disaster Strikes!: The Most Dangerous Space Missions of All Time by Jeffrey Kluger
I personally, liked the most books from first and second category written by engineers and scientists who took an active part in the program and others who were influenced by the Apollo events and became engineers and scientists themselves fascinated with Lunar program.
What I like about more technical books is the explanation of how certain systems were envisioned and designed. How did they worked in practice and what challenges engineers faced throughout the systems’ life and how they were tackled.
Why should you care about technical books?
If you are a technically inclined person, reading the technical books on Apollo program may bring you enjoyment of learning how various types of obstacles were solved by people working day to day on the most challenging aspect of then never done before and exciting endeavor. You also may trace the beginnings of the U.S. space program that can be felt to these days in managing International Space Station (ISS), unmanned space vehicles traversing our solar system and beyond and private space companies.
I’ve been long fascinated with space exploration, especially with Apollo Lunar program. So far I’ve read a dozen of books and watched more than dozens of documentaries, interviews and movies on the subject. I have to tell you my enthusiasm is not even close to be exhausted. As you may know this year will mark 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 first Moon landing that took place on July 20th, 1969, 20:17 UTC. It’s not strange that last year we saw the First Man movie about Neil Armstrong hitting the theaters across the globe. This year on March 8th long awaited Apollo 11 documentary featuring never before seen hi quality video along with re-mastered videos was released in IMAX format in theaters. It seems like more is to come when we get closer to July 20th of 2019.
I also findSunburst and Luminary: An Apollo Memoirbook by Don Eyles very interesting from an engineer-programmer point of view. He describes in detail how the Lunar Module (LM) software was designed and behaved in practice.
It is hard to not recommendThe Last Man on the Moonbook by Eugene Cernan who was the last man so far on the Moon. I find this book very inspirational thanks to Cernan’s insightful thoughts and his deep personality. He was able to describe his emotions while being on the Moon with vivid colors. It feels like you join him there.
What documentaries and movies are worth watching?
Actually, there are quite a lot documentaries that are available for free on YouTube. But there are a number of very good ones that worth the money to pay for them. I’ll mention only a number of them. Others may be found in my earlierDeep Space, Do You Copy?post.
I recommend you to watch Apollo 11 documentary that was released recently (at time of writing) in IMAX if possible. It successfully conveys the enormity of the event that unfolds before your eyes. It is possible at times to forget that you are watching the movie. I would also mention the sound track for the film by Matt Morton that helps this film to stand out.
It turns out that Apollo 11 documentary stands upon shoulders of another, today long forgottenFor All Mankinddocumentary from 1989 by Al Reinert. It is also accompanied by very impressive sound tracks of Brian Eno and provides interesting interviews with Apollo astronauts along with nice video of them having fun on the way to the Moon and on the surface.
The manned space exploration is again an exciting topic since Israeli Beresheet space craft is on its way to the Moon and a Chinese vehicle is exploring the Moon as I write these lines. US SpaceX and Canadian Space Agency partnering with NASA and others to built Gateway a Lunar Space Station for a long stay on Moon orbit and on the Moon surface on our way to Mars. So, book your next flight with Virgin Galactic, take a seat, fasten your belts, check oxygen level and prepare for a liftoff to space.
In the middle of Deep Learning rush we forget that there are other things on this planet and off it that are fascinating. That’s right, I want to share with you the best materials I saw so far on Moon exploration that are highly recommended.
Books From Apollo Participants
There are quite a few books written about US space program. But there are few that are really good. I’ve chanced to read some of them and below follow the best ones in my opinion.
This book is very special and it is a memoir by Gene Cernan the commander of Apollo 17. He was literally the last person to walk on the moon.
Pros. There is a special atmosphere in this book. The descriptions are so vivid and colorful. Gene Cernan was deeply touched by lunar visits since he was there twice on Apollo 10 and then Apollo 17. It is available on Kindle.
Cons. It finished so fast. (No photos in the book)
The Last Man On The Moon Movie
There is also a movie named the same which may be found for free on the internet or bought here. Here is the trailer.
Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race
The book below provides very different account of the matters described in the books above. It is written by Gene Kranz the Flight throughout entire US space program starting from Mercury and ending in Shuttle era.
Pros. The more technical book than astronauts accounts. Available on Kindle.
Not because they are easy, but because they are hard!
This post can’t be finished without the full inspirational to say the least speech by John F. Kennedy. It is incomparable to the current president of the US. It is a giant speech for a president and a giant gap between then and now.