Book Review: Homesteading Space


Finally, after two years and three tries I finished reading Homesteading Space: The Skylab Story (a.k.a “David’s book”). I started it shortly after it came out but I didn’t have a lot of time to read back then. So I put it aside for a while. I picked it back up a second time but had personal things going on at the time and once again put it aside.

I decided about a month ago that to be “proper” girlfriend to David I need to finish reading his book. Also, I wanted to know “the rest of the story,” to quote Paul Harvey. I had read a little more than half way and had stopped with the second crew just getting settled in. The best parts were just coming up!

I wish I had finished it the first or second times around. In fact, I wish I had thought to offer to read the proof way back when, before it was published. But wishes or no, I’m glad to now have finally read the whole story.

When he first told me, ~4 years ago, that he was coauthoring a book about Skylab I made what I think is a common mistake and when talking to him about it I referred to his book about Spacelab.

Oops.

I feel bad that I didn’t know anything about Skylab — what it did or that even existed — not really for David’s sake (although a little) but just as an American, that I had missed out on learning about an important part of our country’s history in spaceflight. Cant change any of that, so I’m just glad now that I do.

Did you know there was a space station before the space station we have now? I think a lot of people (especially in my generation and younger) don’t know that Skylab was the nation’s first space station.

The launch of the Skylab space station was the last launch of the mighty Saturn V rocket.

Three, three-men crews ventured to and lived in the habitat, learning what happens when people are in space for weeks and months. They did science and observed the sun and were the first ones to test out what happened when people lived and worked in space. It was the precursor to the International Space Station, in a lot of ways, yet as the book points out, the gap between the two programs, during which time we were focusing on developing and flying the Space Shuttle, was too great for ISS to benefit much from Skylab’s lessons.

The book is well-written by David and two of the Skylab astronauts, Owen Garriott and Joe Kerwin. It has insights from many of the other Skylab residents, including excerpts from Garriott’s and astronaut Alan Bean’s flight journals. The book has perspectives also from those in mission training, mission control, flight directors, flight surgeons, scientists who had experiments onboard, newspaper headlines and NASA press releases, and so on. It’s a very complete picture of the program from inception and development, to the days onboard, to Skylab’s ultimate demise (burning up in Earth’s atmosphere). It’s informative and entertaining and thorough.

I really should’ve read it before writing Bold They Rise with David. Reading Homesteading gave me a lot of insight into how he crafts a book-size story; that insight could’ve been helpful when we were writing together. Yet, I may not have recognized it if I’d read it before since recognizing it now was only because I saw and read how he did it with the shuttle book.

I’m sorry, David, that it took me this long to finish reading Homesteading. It’s a wonderfully-told story that needed to be told. I’m proud of your accomplishments and for the opportunity to have partnered with you on your second book.

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