A reading list for World Space Week 2022

The perfect reads for those of us stuck Earth-side

This week marks the start of World Space Week, and we are thrilled to highlight just a few of our recent books on space, the stars, and astrophysics—including books on project management at NASA, extraterrestrials, the cosmic puzzles of the planets, and more. Explore our out-of-this-world reads below, and sign up for our newsletter to hear more about new books from the Press.

Cover of The Smart Mission, showing a graphic of a white hazy star against a blue background with pinpricks of stars.

The Smart Mission: NASA’s Lessons for Managing Knowledge, People, and Projects by Edward J. Hoffman, Matthew Kohut and Laurence Prusak

The project is the basic unit of work in many industries. Software applications, antiviral vaccines, launch-ready spacecraft: all were produced by a team and managed as a project. Project management emphasizes control, processes, and tools—but, according to The Smart Mission, that is not the right way to run a project. Human skills and expertise, not technical tools, are what make projects successful. Projects run on knowledge. This paradigm-shifting book—by three project management experts, all of whom have decades of experience at NASA and elsewhere—challenges the conventional wisdom on project management, focusing on the human dimension: learning, collaboration, teaming, communication, and culture.

“Every leader who leads and manages teams should read The Smart Mission.” —Susann Roth, Chief of Knowledge Management, Asian Development Bank

Cover of Handprints on Hubble, showing astronaut Kathryn Sullivan smiling in her full space gear with her helmet in her lap.

Handprints on Hubble: An Astronaut’s Story of Invention by Kathryn D. Sullivan

The Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionized our understanding of the universe. It has, among many other achievements, revealed thousands of galaxies in what seemed to be empty patches of sky; transformed our knowledge of black holes; found dwarf planets with moons orbiting other stars; and measured precisely how fast the universe is expanding. In Handprints on Hubble, retired astronaut Kathryn Sullivan describes her work on the NASA team that made all of this possible. Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space, recounts how she and other astronauts, engineers, and scientists launched, rescued, repaired, and maintained Hubble, the most productive observatory ever built.

“A wonderful tale of the most remarkable scientific instrument of our time, and the people who made it possible.” —Charlie Bolden, NASA Astronaut Pilot STS-31; 12th NASA Administrator

Cover of The Next 500 Years, showing the silhouette of an astronaut walking on a rocky surface with a large hill cresting in the background. The image is cloaked in an orange haze.

The Next 500 Years: Engineering Life to Reach New Worlds by Christopher E. Mason

Inevitably, life on Earth will come to an end, whether by climate disaster, cataclysmic war, or the death of the sun in a few billion years. To avoid extinction, we will have to find a new home planet, perhaps even a new solar system, to inhabit. In this provocative and fascinating book, Christopher Mason argues that we have a moral duty to do just that. As the only species aware that life on Earth has an expiration date, we have a responsibility to act as the shepherd of life-forms—not only for our species but for all species on which we depend and for those still to come (by accidental or designed evolution). Mason argues that the same capacity for ingenuity that has enabled us to build rockets and land on other planets can be applied to redesigning biology so that we can sustainably inhabit those planets. And he lays out a 500-year plan for undertaking the massively ambitious project of reengineering human genetics for life on other worlds.

“Mason brings his knowledge, passion, and rich mission insights to create an inspiring vision of the next 500 years of spaceflight and human exploration.” —Astronaut Scott Kelly

Cover of Extraterrestrials, featuring a simple graphic of a triangular-faced alien with green eyes against a black background.

Extraterrestrials by Wade Roush

Everything we know about how planets form and how life arises suggests that human civilization on Earth should not be unique. We ought to see abundant evidence of extraterrestrial activity—but we don’t. Where is everybody? In this volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, science and technology writer Wade Roush examines one of the great unsolved problems in science: is there life, intelligent or otherwise, on other planets?

“Whatever your viewpoint, this is an excellent guide and introduction to SETI with plenty of insightful anecdotes, glossary, notes, further reading list, and index.” —Starburst Magazine

Cover of Cosmic Clouds 3-D, featuring a photograph of a starry sky in space with pillows of hazy green, red, and orange clouds.

Cosmic Clouds 3-D: Where Stars Are Born by David J. Eicher and Brian May

This visually amazing volume, with text and 3-D images, takes readers inside the birthplace of stars—the cosmic clouds called nebulae. Nebulae (from the Latin for “cloud” or “fog”) are stellar nurseries, frequently intermingled with clusters of young stars. Seen in the night sky, they glow, energized by the new stars within and around them. Cosmic Clouds 3-D offers hundreds of magnificent images of nebulae captured by ground-based and space telescopes. Along with the high-resolution views of nebulae are unique stereo views that show the nebulae in three dimensions.

“Cosmic Clouds 3-D: Where Stars Are Born takes readers to the birthplace of stars.” —Astronomy

Cover of An Infinity of Worlds, showing a dark image of blue dots looking like a billowing fabric.

An Infinity of Worlds: Cosmic Inflation and the Beginning of the Universe by Will Kinney

In the beginning was the Big Bang: an unimaginably hot fire almost fourteen billion years ago in which the first elements were forged. The physical theory of the hot nascent universe—the Big Bang—was one of the most consequential developments in twentieth-century science. And yet it leaves many questions unanswered: Why is the universe so big? Why is it so old? What is the origin of structure in the cosmos? In An Infinity of Worlds, physicist Will Kinney explains a more recent theory that may hold the answers to these questions and even explain the ultimate origins of the universe: cosmic inflation, before the primordial fire of the Big Bang.

“In concise, entertaining, and accessible language, An Infinity of Worlds ushers readers to the forefront of cosmology.” —Brian Greene, Columbia University; author of The Elegant Universe

Cover of Into the Anthropocosmos, showing a dark black image with a quarter of a rainbow-colored planet in the bottom left corner.

Into the Anthropocosmos: A Whole Space Catalog from the MIT Space Exploration Initiative by Ariel Ekblaw

As Earthlings, we stand on the brink of a new age: the Anthropocosmos—an era of space exploration in which we can expand humanity’s horizons beyond our planet’s bounds. And in this new era, we have twin responsibilities, to Earth and to space; we should neither abandon our own planet to environmental degradation nor litter the galaxy with space junk. This fascinating and generously illustrated volume—designed by MIT Media Lab researcher Sands Fish—presents space technology for this new age: prototypes, artifacts, experiments, and habitats for an era of participatory space exploration.

“This book reminds us that the best solutions for overcoming the challenges of settling space far from our home planet are the ones that ultimately improve life on it.” —Nicole Stott, artist and astronaut; founder of the Space for Art Foundation; author of Back to Earth

Cover of Cosmic Odyssey, showing a gradient sunset—moving from red at the bottom of the page to blue-black at the top—and two outlined white circles in the center, surrounding the title in red font.

Cosmic Odyssey: How Intrepid Astronomers at Palomar Observatory Changed our View of the Universe by Linda Schweizer

Ever since 1936, pioneering scientists at Palomar Observatory in Southern California have pushed against the boundaries of the known universe, making a series of dazzling discoveries that changed our view of the cosmos: quasars, colliding galaxies, supermassive black holes, brown dwarfs, supernovae, dark matter, the never-ending expansion of the universe, and much more. In Cosmic Odyssey, astronomer Linda Schweizer tells the story of the men and women at Palomar and their efforts to decipher the vast energies and mysterious processes that govern our universe.

“In this extremely well-researched biography of one of astronomy’s ‘sacred mountains,’ Schweizer charts—in vivid and captivating detail—the many discoveries of the near and far universe and the minds and hands that propelled them.” —Priyamvada Natarajan, Yale University; author of Mapping the Heavens

Cover of Astroquizzical, showing the phases of the moon on a black background.

Astroquizzical: Solving the Cosmic Puzzles of Our Planets, Stars, and Galaxies, the Illustrated Edition by Jillian Scudder

Looking up at the night sky, we see not only stars twinkling in their constellations and planets caught mid-orbit but our cosmic family tree. We are here on Earth because billions of years ago the Big Bang created the atoms that, over unimaginable periods of time, formed the stars and galaxies. Generations of stars that burned, exploded, or collided long before our planet was formed created the carbon of our bodies and the iron in our blood. In Astroquizzical, astrophysicist Jillian Scudder takes readers on a curiosity-driven journey through outer space, traveling back in time from Earth to the stars and galaxies to the cosmic explosions of the Big Bang.

Explore more MIT Press books on astronomy