A well-organized overview boosted by some unusual feats and sidelights.

50 SPACE MISSIONS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

From the Beginner's Guide to Space series

A quick highlight reel of ventures into the high frontier, from the V-2’s first flight in 1942 on.

Read defines mission broadly, so that his tally includes both single achievements, like Sputnik and Apollo 11, and clusters—three Mars rovers for mission No. 22, for instance, and for No. 48, an entire “climate change fleet” of orbiting geophysical satellites. The general drift is chronological, but after introductory looks at how rockets and gravity work, entries are grouped in topical chapters. These begin with “manned” spaceflight up to Valentina Tereshkova’s 1963 orbit, move through looks at ongoing projects such as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy booster, and conclude with glimpses of near-future missions to the moon and Mars. Not every flight here “changed the world” in any substantial way, but along with the usual suspects there are some that may be new even to well-read students of space exploration…such as the U.S.’s first spy satellite, Corona, launched in 1960, and 1982’s international Cospas-Sarsat satellite-based search-and-rescue system. Also, the (then) Soviet Union’s little-known moon rover Lunokhod 1 (1970) gets a nod, as does Cuban cosmonaut Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, who actually preceded U.S. astronaut Guion Bluford to become the first person of African descent into space. Small photos and graphic images shoehorned in around the narrative blocks give some pages an overcrowded look, and human figures, though rare, are nearly all White and male.

A well-organized overview boosted by some unusual feats and sidelights. (glossary, websites) (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4595-0626-8

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Formac

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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African-American Geo cuts a suitably chiseled figure in the pictures, but he doesn’t get enough to do and so is really no...

THE INCREDIBLE PLATE TECTONICS COMIC

From the Adventures of Geo series , Vol. 1

Superhero Geo introduces readers to plate tectonics.

Reviewing information on his way to school for a big geology test, young George transforms himself into “Geo,” a uniformed superhero with a rocket-propelled skateboard and a robotic canine sidekick. In his imaginary adventure, he leaps over sidewalk “faults,” swerves away from “tsunamis” splashed up by a passing truck and saves an elderly lady from falling into an open manhole “volcano.” Meanwhile, supported by visual aids provided by inserted graphics and maps, Geo goes over the convergent, divergent and transform movements of tectonic plates, subduction, magnetic “stripes” paralleling oceanic ridges and a host of other need-to-know facts and terms. All of this is illustrated in big, brightly colored sequential panels of cartoon art hung about with heavy blocks of explication. After the exam comes back with, natch, a perfect score (“I guess all that studying paid off”), Lee, a geophysicist, abandons the story for a final 10 pages of recap and further detail on plate tectonics’ causes, effects and measurement—closing with a description of what geologists do.

African-American Geo cuts a suitably chiseled figure in the pictures, but he doesn’t get enough to do and so is really no more than a mouthpiece—perhaps there will be more of a plot in his next adventure. (online projects, index) (Graphic nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59327-549-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: No Starch Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Rosy, bland hero worship.

NEIL ARMSTRONG

FIRST MAN ON THE MOON

From the Trailblazers series

A panegyric to the “reluctant hero” who first stepped onto the moon’s surface.

Woolf digs into Armstrong’s life from first airplane ride at the age of 5 to his death in 2012, taking some glances behind the scenes but with a focus on heroic exploits during the Korean War, as a test pilot, and in space. The famous line is rendered “That’s one small step for [a] man,” with a disclaimer, but overall the author tells a sketchy tale with significant details missing—such as any mention of the racist and sexist aspects of this country’s early space program. Even the return flight of Apollo 11 is covered in just a timeline and one anticlimactic sentence: “After an uneventful ride back to Earth, the astronauts splashed down southwest of Hawaii.” Ho-hum. All or most of the black-and-white illustrations are (poorly) redrawn from photographs; despite inserted wisecracks and actual quotes, they are so lifeless that even a version of the renowned Earthrise has a drab, distant look. A scant handful of further resources and a space-exploration timeline that spans only 1973 to 2015 follow a closing flurry of tributes to Armstrong’s achievements and character. Armstrong is definitely a historical figure worth knowing…but the recent spate of more-nuanced and -dramatic accounts of the space program spoil readers for choice, and this doesn’t stand out as a first or even second one.

Rosy, bland hero worship. (glossary, index) (Biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-12401-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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