In 2008, Europe's first - and still only - shuttle mission launched from the Kennedy Space Centre. The shuttle Atlantis was to transport a 7-metre 10-ton laboratory called Columbus to the International Space Station 400km above earth, with its crew assisting with installing the lab before heading back home. Now, ten years later, the European Space Agency have published details about its journey from conception to launch and beyond.
The 112 pages in “Columbus In Space” include a wealth of easily-digestible information, but also often goes slightly more in-depth about the science behind both the lab itself and the experiments being conducted. There are an awful lot of facts and figures, but everything is well laid-out and readers can easily dip in and out of the book's various sections without necessarily feeling like they've missed anything.
The book doesn't assume you already know what's going on, but it also doesn't take you for an idiot, and mostly strikes a fantastic balance between information and explanation. The whole process of planning, building, launching, installing and maintaining Columbus is covered in great detail, and we also learn about the various experiments that are still taking place up there today. There are many charts and diagrams spread throughout the pages to break things up a little bit (as well as one particularly striking illustration of the astronauts involved in the mission), and the selection of facts and figures towards the end of the book are a real treat for number fans!
Columbus In Space also contains a number of full-colour photographs pulled from the archives of both the ESA and NASA, allowing readers to actually see parts of the process and helping to put the overall mission into perspective. You really get a sense of how much time, effort, and brainpower go into such an endeavour, and it's easy to understand why missions like this don't happen too often.
The story of Columbus might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the most exciting space-based achievements of all time, but it really is quite a fascinating story. The relatively short length of the book, coupled with the accompanying images, mean that it's a fairly straightforward read that won't bog you down with too much fluff, and it's certainly something that anyone with an interest in the field would be well advised to pick up.
COLUMBUS IN SPACE / AUTHOR: JULIEN HARROD (FOR THE ESA) / PUBLISHER: CENTURY / RELEASE DATE: 6TH SEPTEMBER 2018