SPACEFARERS OF THE '80s AND '90s: The Next Thousand People in Space by Alcestis R. Oberg

SPACEFARERS OF THE '80s AND '90s: The Next Thousand People in Space

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Space writer Oberg (Senior Editor Aviation/Space) is an old hand with a light touch. In this compact volume she focuses on the people--past, present, and future--who swell the ranks of space voyagers. Oberg makes a sharp distinction between the first astronauts, more often independent ""stars,"" and today's ""team players"" whose selection is based in part on their collegial sensitivity. Readers should find the details of astronaut selection, training, and in-flight living intriguing. (How do you sleep in space? Some wrap up in a tight-fitting sleeping bag and float. . .) Oberg traces the resentment/reluctance to break the white Anglo-Saxon male barrier to today's growing numbers of women and minorities. She is very good at mini-bios of these groups, which make it clear that, aside from high motivation, intelligence, and good health, they are nicely divergent. Of course, some were space dreamers from childhood and the astronauts themselves had to have flight experience. Crews nowadays are composed of ""generalists"" and ""specialists"" whose science/engineering expertise pertains to the particular mission projects. ""Payload"" specialists will be recruited from industry to monitor or conduct in-flight experiments. Both mission and payload specialists will be increasingly important as the commercial/academic/military projects multiply. The quest for high-school science teachers as the first space travelers marks the beginning of opening up space for amateurs, but it will be some time (and outrageously expensive) before space becomes a package tour. And, for the time being, artists, poets and muscians need not apply. (Albeit, there is more than one reference to the need for something more eloquent than ""Gee Whiz!""to describe the experience.) Chapters on space medical problems (adaptation syndrome and calcium loss are still problems), on the Russians' experience (husband James Oberg is an expert here), on the design of new vehicles (windows are essential for the truly breathtaking views) and descriptions of the types of experiments and commercial potential of space projects round out the content. Considerably more than ""Right Stuff"" people profiles.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1985
Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press