Review: One Small Step
by Jeff Foust
|Although the book makes strong use of these first-person accounts, those already familiar with the history of the space age will find few revelations there.|
Whitehouse takes the reader down a familiar path, starting with early rocketry developments by Sergei Korolev and Wernher von Braun and proceeding past the customary set of milestones: the launch of Sputnik, the flights of Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard, the race to the Moon, and later developments like the Space Shuttle and space stations like Skylab, Mir, and the ISS. Where Whitehouse tries to set his book apart from others—and presumably the justification for the “inside story” subtitle—is through the use of word-for-word accounts of some of the key events by astronauts, cosmonauts, and others directly involved in the missions in the US and USSR. These accounts can range from a couple of sentences to a few pages at a time. The source of these statements, though, isn’t mentioned (the book doesn’t include a bibliography or endnotes), so we don’t know if these are from the author’s interviews with these people, oral history accounts or other interviews, or some combination. (One version of the book comes bundled with a CD containing “over 40 rare archive recordings”; that version is not widely available in the US.)
Although the book makes strong use of these first-person accounts, those already familiar with the history of the space age will find few revelations there: there may be some tidbits here and there, but generally there’s little that would alter overall perceptions about events. Also, while the book’s title refers to space exploration in general, the book is really about human space exploration: unmanned satellites are rarely mentioned in the book after the launch of Sputnik. For those who many not be that familiar with the history of human spaceflight, though, One Small Step does offer a way to learn more about those events, particularly from the perspectives of those who participated in those missions.