Part of the not-so-hidden agenda in this compendium of solar system lore is the contribution to knowledge of the space program in the last 20 years. Those advances, in turn, depended in large part on the perfection of potent rockets, the brainchild of the late Wernher von Braun (who worked toward completing the book when terminally ill with cancer). We are even informed that we have already missed our chance for close inspection of Haley's comet in 1985/1986 because of a failure to initiate such a program at least five years ago. Like many government agencies, NASA is troubled by a diminished budget, attrition, and morale problems; hence, with some justification, the book's transparent self-promotion. As far as the content is concerned, the authors have followed a logical course of exploring the solar system beginning with current theories of cosmology and cosmogony and moving rapidly into the domain of facts gathered in the last two decades. Separate chapters deal with the sun, space, and the planets from innermost outward. Venus is ""The Shrouded Beauty,"" Earth is ""The Blue Planet,"" Mars is ""Barsoom""--after the Edgar Rice Burroughs story. The authors presume no deep knowledge and perform a commendable service in providing data and a digest of up-to-date descriptions and theories. Unfortunately, their virtues do not extend to imaginative prose, and the text lurches along with wooden phrases, earnest exclamations (at unexpected opportunities, dilemmas, etc.), and an omnipresent editorial ""we."" But the photos are, as always, NASA's true beauties and joys forever. Filter the prose, check out the diagrams, but savor the camera work.