The best NASA books 📚

Browse the best books on NASA as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

Coming Fall 2022: The ability to sort this list by genre (signup here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books).

Book cover of The Space Telescope: A Study of NASA, Science, Technology, and Politics

The Space Telescope: A Study of NASA, Science, Technology, and Politics

By Robert W. Smith

Why this book?

Award-winning, highly authoritative, comprehensive, and accessible history of the long campaign for a large space telescope by astronomers and NASA program officers. One of the most penetrating studies of how NASA constructs and operates major space missions, and how access to space has changed “what it means to be an astronomer.”.
From the list:

The best books on the universe from Hubble to Hubble

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Book cover of The Rock from Mars: A Detective Story on Two Planets

The Rock from Mars: A Detective Story on Two Planets

By Kathy Sawyer

Why this book?

Politics, ambition, and science collided when NASA announced that a small rock that fell on Antarctica contained tiny fossils of ancient life on Mars. Advance plans for the public report were kept secret while coordinated all the way up through President Bill Clinton. Aides wondered if the great discovery would help his re-election. But after a televised press conference and the subsequent media circus, many qualified scientists disputed the claimed fossils. NASA is still searching for past or present life on Mars.  They will surely take greater care in reaching future conclusions, won’t they? And if you may wonder why…

From the list:

The best books about space from someone with 35 years at NASA

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Book cover of Beyond Apollo

Beyond Apollo

By Barry N. Malzberg

Why this book?

In contrast to Marooned (and, in fact, just about every other SF space novel of the ’60s and ’70s) is this short and very dark masterpiece. The first winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, this novel about the aftermath of a doomed mission to Venus is Malzberg’s dark answer to the over-optimistic view of space exploration that was prevalent in the post-Apollo period, and a stark reminder that the universe is an unforgiving and dangerous place.

From the list:

The best lost classics of space science fiction

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Book cover of Rocket Boys: A Memoir

Rocket Boys: A Memoir

By Homer Hickam

Why this book?

The Rocket Boys is a heartwarming memoir about a group of boys growing up in a mining town in West Virginia in the 1950s. Inspired by Sputnik and the space race, the boys start building rockets on the edge of town. There is a delightful chapter where maths geek Quentin realises that in order to get the rockets to fly higher, the boys are going to need to study ‘calculus.’ They decide to lobby their math teacher to give them extra lessons, but he refuses, as he doesn’t think they have the aptitude. I love this reversal of the normal…

From the list:

The best math(s) books for people who don’t read math(s) books

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Book cover of Full Moon

Full Moon

By Andrew Chaikin, Michael Light

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…

From the list:

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

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Book cover of Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

By Chris Barton, Don Tate

Why this book?

“Every day brought a challenge for young Lonnie Johnson—the challenge of finding space for his stuff.” This beginning (along with Don Tate’s kid-friendly illustrations) drew me in, but the young inventor has more serious challenges on the way, including racism and other roadblocks. My favorite moment in this true story is when Lonnie takes a test that tells him he lacks the aptitude to be an engineer, even though he’s already built his own working robot—in the 1960s! I hope kids who love to tinker will get the message not to let anyone else decide for them what they are…

From the list:

The best picture books for kids who love to tinker

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