NASA: The Complete Illustrated History

ISBN 10: 1858942543 / ISBN 13: 9781858942544
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Synopsis: This book tells the remarkable story of space exploration from the early twentieth century to the present, with compelling coverage--including a wealth of illustrations--of every US space mission ever undertaken, including those of projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, and the development of the Space Shuttle.  The exciting story is brought right up to the present by explaining the function of NASA's two windows in space: the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station. 
This book is the first illustrated history of NASA--the National Aeronautics and Space Administration--ever to be published. It underlines the personalities involved--the personal ambitions and temperaments of astronauts, pilots, scientists and engineers, and the influence of America's presidents on the country's space program--as much as the technological advances that have made space exploration possible.  It is authoritatively and engagingly written, and profusely illustrated throughout with 500 stunning photographs.

From the Author: The two versions of NASA: The Complete Illustrated History--the original hardbound (2005) and the updated paperback (2008)--represent publishing experiences unlike any others I have encountered.  The previous six books I had written were standard history books of 200 to 500 pages, each one having one of two clustered picture "galleries" of about 25 images each.  But the pictures in these sections do not really illustrate these books, as much as they identify persons and places mentioned in the narrative.

One historian friend who had already written several illustrated volumes (and liked doing them) warned me that they would be different.  He was right.  The contract that I signed with Merrell Publishers provided for a picture editor to help narrow down the vast choices, and she was excellent.  But in the end I had to guide her towards the subjects I wanted to cover, and after she presented me with about 1,500 images, I had to reduce the count down to the 500, as set forth in the publishing contract.  Meanwhile, I was contractually obligated for 80,000 words of text--the main narrative plus captions.  This may sound like a lot, but it would make only a small book with the pictures substracted.  At any rate, the process of choosing subjects that lent themselves to photographic representation, and then writing about them, resulted in a left brain-right brain partnership unique in my experience.  I honestly felt more like a movie director than an historian.  I caught on to this (for me) new way of communicating the past about a third of the way through the hardbound version.  Once I got the hang of it, I really enjoyed it.

One other curious aspect of the two NASA books occurred to me.  That involved the physical separation among the author, the publisher, and the printer.  They were separated not just by miles, or even continents, but by oceans.  The author is located in the Western U.S., the publisher in London, U.K., and the printers in the Far East.  Had I been working on a standard history book, this not so novel insight would have crossed my mind, and then left it.  But given the logistical feats necessary to produce an illustrated book, I found it hard to see how it could turn out right.  How could words, pictures, captions, and the overall design be integrated successfully, with the main parties scattered around the world, unable to meet live?  To my surprise, the final, published books proved that it can work, so long as the electronic and telephonic lines of communication are open, the PDF files flow, and the occasional page proofs in hard copy get overnighted. 

I hope you will enjoy turning the pages of NASA: The Complete Illustrated, whether hardbound or paperback.  They constitute the most pleasurable publishing experiences I have had to date (with one exception: a third illustrated history I published with Merrell entitled Superstructures in Space: From Satellites to Space Stations, a Guide to What's Out There (2008)).  In some ways, I take greater pride in these books than in any of my others.

Michael Gorn

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Title: NASA: The Complete Illustrated History
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