Books About Space. We Have A Liftoff!

Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

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.

Aviation Books Classified

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 of Stealth technology and the post on aviation related books in general. In short, my classification is about civil and military aviation with some sub-categories inside each branch of aviation.


  • Civil Aviation
    • Biographies of plane engineers
      • 747 by 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 Life by 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 Guess by 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.
  • Military Aviation
    • Jet Fighter Planes
      • Hornet: The inside Story of The F/A-18 by 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 All by 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 Lockheed by 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.
    • Low Observable Technology aka Stealth

These are the voyages of Voyager 1 and 2

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 called The Farthest produced 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 was Jim Bell, a professor of Astronomy who wrote a book called The Interstellar Age : Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Mission which 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.

Good books on aviation to read

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.

F/A-18 Hornet

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.

Boeing 747

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.

Can you learn anything from books on Apollo program?

What this post is about?

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.

Books classification 

  • 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
  •  Astronauts
    • 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 HoustonMilt 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

  •  Astronauts
    • Technical 
      • Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race by David Scott and Alexei Leonov
    • Emotional 
      • 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
    • Historians
      • 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

    • Journalists
      • 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


Personal viewpoint

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.

The Moon For All. An Apollo Story.

Why to write about space now?

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.

What books do I recommend?

I recommend Flight: My Life in Mission Control by Christopher Kraft. In my mind it is one of the most interesting books written about American space program by the founding father of mission control.







I also find Sunburst and Luminary: An Apollo Memoir book 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 recommend The Last Man on the Moon book 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 earlier Deep 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 forgotten For All Mankind documentary 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.

Deep Space, Do You Copy?


There are other things too

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.

The Last Man On The Moon Book


The Last Man on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and America’s Race in Space

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.

ProsThere 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


Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race

This book combines recollections by Apollo 15 commander David Scott and his contemporary Alexi Leonov who was the first man to walk in space.

Pros. Very interesting book because of complementing accounts provided by both distinguished persons. Available in Kindle format.

Cons. Not a single photo.

From The Other Side

failureFailure Is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond

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.

Cons. No photos again.

Documentaries that cannot be missed

  1. EARTHRISE: The First Lunar Voyage – documentary about Apollo 10.
  2. Apollo 13 Documentary 1958 – as it was portrayed by NASA.
  3. Apollo 15 Remembered 40 Years Later – documentary for Apollo 15 featuring Neil Armstrong and others.
  4. In The Shadow of The Moon – british documentary with interesting stuff.
  5. The Last Man On The Moon – documentary featuring Gene Cernan.
  6. Failure Is Not An Option A Flight Control History of NASA – documentary featuring flight controllers and Gene Kranz.
  7. Moon Machines – tools that made lunar program possible and people behind them.
  8. From The Earth To The Moon – a series produced by Tom Hanks. 

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. 


President Kennedy’s Speech at Rice University

Century of Aviation at Your Fingertips

Great news!

For those of you who are interested in aviation and space there are great news because Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine in partnership with Boeing released a digital archive of the Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine.

This digital archive is very nicely composed and easy to navigate. In addition now it is easier than ever before to follow the history of aviation, space exploration, computers evolution and do historical research based on this archive.

Stealth evolution

If you are interested in stealth technology evolution such as F-117A, B-2, YF-23, YF-22 and more throughout the years ‘Search’ functionality will help you find pieces of information here and there across the issues of the magazine.

Lean back

And just enjoy the capabilities.

Stealth Exposed



This post’s goal is to gather scattered pieces of information about stealth technology and share it in a logical and clear order. Links to posts, articles, popular books, scientific papers and technical books on the subject will be provided. In addition, valuable links to video materials where it is appropriate will be provided too along with my description of them.


Stealth technology or as it also known in a more technical term Low Observable is a fascinating technology that has been put for military use. For a curious person there always exists a temptation to figure out how it functions, why it functions this way and what future brings with it for this technology.

So far stealth has been used in air, sea and beneath the sea. There are a number of attempts to use stealth on the ground to mask vehicles. But it is reasonable to extrapolate the usage of stealth in space too.

Stealth technology evolved throughout the years and came to operational usage for the first time at first Gulf War in 1991.

Early attempts to deceive the adversary by means of stealth dating back to 1943 when Yehudi Lights project was initiated.


It is worth mentioning that stealth technology was incorporated by nature even earlier than by men. For instance, land creatures, such as chameleon or ocean creatures, such as Peacock Flounder below use color camouflage and restrained body movement to deceive predators and become kind of invisible.


A Few Words on Stealth

The purpose of Low Observable technology is to hide vehicle’s visual, acoustic, infrared, electromagnetic and radar signatures be it a submarine, an aircraft or a spacecraft.  To achieve this goal those vehicles incorporate in their design special shape, RADAR or SONAR absorbent materials and other design considerations that are based on physics, math and other exact sciences.

Logical and systematic approach

Due to a large amount of various materials on the subject it is nice to have it sorted in a way that a novice may learn about stealth technology in a interesting and encouraging way starting from simple to complex. To this end I’ll start from general articles and posts on Low Observable subject moving to more detailed materials.



One can look at posts written by renowned journalist and defense editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology journal Bill Sweetman that writes on stealth.

Tyler Rogoway’s blog on aviation has pretty informative posts on various aviation topics and among them stealth.

General Articles


Understanding Stealth  by John Shaeffer.

This is an article written to help non-technical personnel gain insightful knowledge on how stealth works.


B-2 Spirit of Innovation, 2013, by Rebecca Grant.

Book’s overview

A new book from Northrop Grumman about the people and innovation that created the U.S. Air Force’s B-2 stealth bomber, one of the nation’s most powerful, most survivable – and most valued aircraft

Analogues of Stealth, 2002, by Robert P. Haffa, Jr. and James H. Patton, Jr., the Northrop Grumman Analysis Center.

A quote from the article

The U.S. Department of Defense plans to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in stealthy aircraft over the next several decades. Will low-observable (LO) capabilities incorporated in military aircraft such as the B-2 bomber, the F-22 air superiority fighter and the F-35 joint strike fighter prove as successful and enduring as submarine stealth?


SURVIVABILITY IN THE DIGITAL AGE: The Imperative for Stealth, 2017 by  Maj Gen Mark Barrett, USAF (Ret.) with Col Mace Carpenter, USAF (Ret.). This article is a must read for every person interested in application of low observable to air crafts.

Stealth, or aircraft signature reduction, is a potent and viable military capability in modern combat, and
will remain so well into the future. It is not, however, an all or nothing capability, as some critiques have
suggested. Investments in stealth technology significantly improve the ability of US aircraft to penetrate
enemy air defenses and create significant costs for adversaries who attempt to defend against this technology

Aviation History Books on the Subject


Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter (Air Vanguard), 2014, by Paul F Crickmore (Author), Adam Tooby (Author, Illustrator), Henry Morshead (Author, Illustrator). 

This book is pretty concise and specifically focuses on F-117A description, but still it is worth reading if you’re ready to pay about $15.00 for it.


Area 51 – Black Jets: A History of the Aircraft Developed at Groom Lake, America’s Secret Aviation Base, 2014 by Bill Yenne

This is an interesting and refreshing book on the subject of black projects at Area 51 that includes among them information on SR-71, Tacit Blue, F-117A and B-2 aircrafts. Author’s writing style is encouraging and easy to follow. It is well worth its $15.00 price.

Books by Key Skunk Works’ Engineers


Kelly: More Than My Share of It All, 1989, by Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson (Author), Maggie Smith (Contributor).

This book is highly recommended for reading due to Kelly John’s insights and life journey.


Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed, 1996, by Ben R. Rich (Author), Leo Janos (Author)

Just read and you’ll found out why this book is a pearl.


Radar Man: A Personal History of Stealth, 2010, by Edward Lovick Jr (Author). 

This books is written by RADAR engineer Ed Lovick Jr. that contributed to U-2, SR-71, D-21, F-117A stealth properties. It is very entertaining and likely will be very much loved by radio electronics engineers since a background in this profession required to fully appreciate the book content.

Scientific papers


Low Observable Principles, Stealth Aircraft and Anti-Stealth Technologies, by Konstantinos Zikidis (Maj, HAF), Alexios Skondras (2nd Lt, HAF), Charisios Tokas (2nd Lt, HAF)

This is a good paper on current state of the art of stealth technology. This article was published in Journal of Computations & Modelling, 2014, Volume 4, Issue 1. Reading and understanding it requires basic knowledge of radio electronics.


Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of Diffraction, 1962

Petr Ufimtsev’s groundbreaking work that paved the way for stealth feasibility.

Technical Books


Have Blue and the F-117A: Evolution of the “Stealth Fighter” (AIAA Education), 1997 by David C. Aronstein, Albert C. Piccirillo

This is a book on stealth technology as it was developed for F-117A aircraft. It goes into detailed description of Low Observable principles.

A quote from official book’s introduction

This text documents the history, observations and lessons learned from the development and acquisition of the first very-low-observable combat aircraft. The book is a case study of the high-payoff, low-profile strike fighter development effort (code-named “Have Blue” and “Senior Trend”). Most of the material presented in the book was once highly classified information. The Have Blue stealth technology demonstrator aircraft had its genesis in 1974 with studies of Soviet radar-guided air defence systems. In 1978, the Air Force initiated full-scale development of the F-117A under the Senior Trend programme, which aimed to create a weapon system capable of highly-survivable precision attacks against an enemy’s high-value targets. In 1991, the aircraft played a key role in the air campaign against Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. The book describes the clear vision, strong leadership and teamwork, rapid-responsive decision making and keen focus on achieving an operational capability which marked the project. Also discussed are potential applications of the strategies used in the project to today’s acquisition environment.

Next book is an expanded version of previous one that includes information on F-22 stealth development.


Advanced Tactical Fighter To F-22 Raptor: Origins Of The 21st Century Air Dominance Fighter (AIAA Education)1998 by D. Aronstein, M. Hirschberg, A. Piccirillo.

A quote from official book’s introduction.

The authors have been intimately involved in the acquisition and development of the advanced tactical fighter (ATF) programme from its inception through today. This book traces the history of the ATF programme and the evolution of the ATF requirements from the beginning of the programme through the start of the engineering and manufacturing development.

Pay attention that two of these books are very expensive for purchase each costing about $50.


Radar Cross Section (Scitech Radar and Defense), Second Edition, 2004, by Eugene F. Knott (Author), Michael T. Tuley (Author), John F. Shaeffer (Author).

This is a good book on Radar and Stealth interaction. It requires knowledge and experience in physics and radio electronics and will be fully appreciated by RF engineers.


This completely updated second edition helps the non-specialist understand how radar echo requirements may influence design objectives. With a full review of the fundamentals, background, and history of radars and electromagnetic theory, this book contains something for everybody — from novice to expert.Contents: Radar Fundamentals. Physics and Overview of Electromagnetic Scattering. Exact Prediction Techniques. Phenomenology. High-Frequency RCS Prediction Techniques. Phenomenological Examples of Radar Cross Section. Radar Cross Section Reduction. Radar Absorbing Materials. Radar Absorber Measurement Techniques. Antenna RCS and RCSR. RCS Measurement Requirements. Outdoor RCS Test Ranges. Indoor RCS Ranges. Hip-Pocket RCS Estimation, Data Presentation, and Reduction.

Video Materials on The Subject

People at Work

Lockheed Martin

Northrop Grumman

“Fathers of Stealth” 

  • John Cashen,
  • Irv Waaland,
  • Jim Kinnu,
  • John Griffin


  • Alan Wiechman

Former USSR