Though the title suggests a specific, unifying theme, Oberg's latest volume is actually a collection of fairly assorted pieces, many of which appeared in earlier versions in magazines like OMNI and Science Digest. Still, the veteran space reporter has never lost his enthusiasm or excitement. After an opening comparison of US/ USSR competences (we have the shuttle for short stays in space; they have the Salyut space stations for extended stays, but no reusable way to get there), the collection's first half sticks mainly to American efforts. One piece deals with what really happens--what causes the fiery tail?--during launch and re-entry. Another compares robots and astronauts, coming out stoutly in favor of mankind; another deals amusingly with the actual launching site for space vehicles--not ""The Cape,"" but 100 kilometers away on Merritt Island. Oberg describes new shuttles to come (Discovery and Atlantis); kinds of science underway and planned, mechanics, thrust and payloads. There's quite a good discussion of space maladies. (Belching, it seems, is a problem that turns into flatulence.) In the collection's second half, Oberg (Red Star in Orbit) displays his insider's knowledge of Soviet activities. There's a disproportionate lot about their failures and near-disasters, but there's also some colorful material on what extended stays in space are like. A recent Russian success with growing plants from seed to seed is reported too--which bodes well for a closed-loop life-support system. Hoped-for joint US/USSR efforts--unlikely today--are presented in a lengthy scenario. All told, a compendium that will please its intended audience and provide plenty of material for students writing term papers.