Jan. 20, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 8

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    Two great space books of 20th century edited by professor, written by alumnus

    By Steve Koppes
    News Office

    A University professor and an alumnus produced two of the greatest space books of the 20th century, according to an article published in Ad Astra, the magazine of the National Space Society.

    Preservation of Near-Earth Space for Future Generations, edited by John Simpson, the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Physics, and Cosmos, written by alumnus Carl Sagan (PhD., ’60), were among 20 works listed as the century’s greatest, according to Leonard David, head of Space Data Resources and Information in Washington, D.C.

    “While it is impossible to properly list all books that have contributed to the evolution of space exploration over the 20th century, such a list would not be complete without the following seminal writings,” David wrote in Ad Astra’s November/December issue.

    Simpson’s Preservation of Near-Earth Space is “one-of-a-kind,” wrote David, and “offers a look at space debris problems, economic issues of achieving a sustainable space environment, space law and discusses how best to avoid degrading space for those in the 21st century.”

    Preservation of Near-Earth Space for Future Generations was published in 1994 and was based on an interdisciplinary symposium held in 1992 in honor of the University’s centennial. The symposium brought together experts from space-faring nations to discuss the increasing threat to scientific, military and commercial space missions from abandoned spacecraft and rocket launchers, debris from explosions in space and even paint chips that orbit the Earth at speeds of 24,000 miles an hour. The MacArthur Foundation supported both the symposium and Simpson’s publication.

    Of Cosmos, David wrote, “This visually exquisite book shows the popular writing skill of Sagan, taking the reader on a stellar journey of history, the emergence of space science and the quest to contemplate our own origins.”

    Sagan earned four degrees from the University from 1954 to 1960: an A.B. in liberal arts, an S.B. and an S.M. in physics, and a Ph.D. in astronomy and astrophysics.

    Though the list was not meant to be comprehensive, other great 20th-century space books that appeared on it include A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes, written by Robert Goddard and published in 1919; The Exploration of Space by Arthur C. Clarke, published in 1951; and The Mars Project, written by Wernher von Braun and published in 1953.

    The National Space Society, which has 20,000 members in 35 nations, is dedicated to furthering the exploration and development of space.