The best books about space exploration, astronauts, the moon, and beyond

Michael Soluri Author Of Infinite Worlds: The People and Places of Space Exploration
By Michael Soluri

Who am I?

I’ve followed the history of space exploration since I was a kid! Although I spent decades photographing assignments in exotic international locations and co-authored visually driven books on astronomical phenomena, my dream was to photograph in NASA’s restricted space exploration work cultures. Never giving up, I achieved unprecedented access into the shuttle mission that saved the Hubble Space Telescope and, for more than a decade, with the New Horizons team that first explored the Pluto system. I’ve been published in media like Smithsonian, Nat Geo, WIRED, New Scientist, and NPR. Honored that my photographs of astronaut space tools are in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum.   


I wrote...

Infinite Worlds: The People and Places of Space Exploration

By Michael Soluri,

Book cover of Infinite Worlds: The People and Places of Space Exploration

What is my book about?

Infinite Worlds - the People and Places of Space Exploration is a visually driven, beautifully designed, and printed coffee table book that reveals the sublime art of human and robotic space exploration. With extraordinary access over several years into the restricted, behind-the-scenes work cultures of 3 NASA Spaceflight Centers, Michael photographically documented the craft and humanity that frames the team effort behind the historic last shuttle mission that essentially saved the Hubble Space Telescope. In addition, his observations are woven between 18 insightful first-person essays by some of the NASA astronaut crew, engineers, shuttle techs, and scientists who worked on this historic mission. Mercury astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, wrote the introduction.

The books I picked & why

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Spaceman: An Astronaut's Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe

By Mike Massimino,

Book cover of Spaceman: An Astronaut's Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe

Why this book?

Influenced by the Apollo era, “I applied to be an astronaut four times and was rejected three times before I was accepted. So, it’s about following your dream and not giving up.” This is from the son of a New York City fireman, where work ethic, never giving up, and lots of humor frame Mike’s achievement to becoming an astronaut (and even a guest on The Big Bang Theory). I’ve known Mass since 2007 and those ingrained qualities make for an inspirational narrative. Perhaps the most poignant: trying to avoid tearing up during his first EVA spacewalk on the Hubble Space Telescope when he experienced seeing the wonder of our blue-dot, water-world Earth from space.  


An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me about Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything

By Chris Hadfield,

Book cover of An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me about Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything

Why this book?

“Weightlessness is like a new toy you get to unwrap every day, again and again — and it’s a great reminder, too, that you need to savor the small stuff, not just sweat it.” One of many lessons learned offered by the Canadian astronaut (yes, the one who sang a creative version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”) and flew on both the American Shuttle and Russian Soyuz. Like other next-generation astronauts influenced by the Apollo era, Chris reveals a non-jargon view about training and spaceflight with international crews. As Commander of the International Space Station during Expedition 34/35, he writes, “… don’t assume you know everything, and try to be ready for anything” is wisdom that can be related to here on Earth and up there in space.” 


A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts

By Andrew Chaikin,

Book cover of A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts

Why this book?

Between 1968 and 1972, 24 Apollo astronauts flew to the moon and 12 of them landed to first explore its surface. By the late eighties when it seemed nobody cared about the Apollo era missions, Andy had the vision, persistence, and respect for history to research, track down, and by 1994, interview each of those astronauts in their own words. Knowing Andy, it is understandable why these essentially forgotten first explorers to another celestial body, including engineers and scientists, opened up and provided remarkable unscripted accounts. It is a transcendent portrait of the Apollo era that continues to inspire the imagination. Including Tom Hanks (Apollo 13) who had used the book as an essential guide toward the production of HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon


Full Moon

By Michael Light, Andrew Chaikin,

Book cover of Full Moon

Why this book?

As explorers carrying cameras, the Gemini and Apollo astronauts (1965-72) were like the pioneer photographers of the 19th century who, with their cameras, responded to the unknowns of the American West. These astronauts, however, were responding to the new and unexplored by photographing their experiences inside their spacecraft and outside in the vacuum of space. During the late 90s the photographer Michael Light gained access to NASA’s Apollo-era photo archive and made the first drum-scanned digital files from perfect copies of the original flight films. Light’s artful editing and juxtaposition of superbly reproduced full-page black and white, and color images creates a cinematic-like journey to the moon and back. In the annals of published space photography, there are very few well-designed books as timeless.


Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece

By Michael Benson,

Book cover of Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece

Why this book?

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, Space Odyssey is considered the most artful science fiction film about space exploration ever made. Premiered in early 1968, it instills levels of awe, wonder, and mystery. “While realism was important in 2001”, the writer-artist Michael Benson writes, “it was outranked by an ongoing quest for visual purity—for images powerful enough to elide verbal explanation and tell their own stories.” With meticulous research, interviews, and quality access to both the Kubrick archives and the files of Arthur C. Clark – the science fiction writer whose book 2001 inspired the film, Benson unveils the behind-the-scenes odyssey of creating this timeless cinematic masterpiece. I might add that my photographic approach has been influenced by the film’s visually-driven narrative as much as how Kubrick technically created it.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in astronauts, the moon, and space exploration?

5,716 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about astronauts, the moon, and space exploration.

Astronauts Explore 42 books about astronauts
The Moon Explore 84 books about the moon
Space Exploration Explore 15 books about space exploration

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Challenge to Apollo, Space Race, and Plum Lucky if you like this list.