Books for the Martian Classroom

Although filled with technology, online references, and cutting-edge resources, the Martian Classroom still has room for a bookshelf or two and turning the pages of these must-have books. Or, if you prefer, most are available on Kindle or Audible. As you read through the list and think of ones to add, share your ideas with the community using the hashtag #MartianClassroom.

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Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion, The Darkest Dark. The uplifting story of how astronaut Chris Hadfield overcomes his fear of the dark gives encouragement to children as they conquer fears, both real and imagined.

William E. Burrows, The New Ocean: The Story of the First Space Age. At once entertaining and thorough, Burrows’s book guides us through the beginnings of space up through 1998. The New Ocean was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1999. 

Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race. This picture book edition is geared towards children ages four to eight and tells the inspirational story of the four women who helped NASA launch men into space with their genius math skills while overcoming the gender and racial barriers of the time.

James Hansen, Engineer in Charge: A History of the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, 1917-1958. Hansen is the author of the bestselling book, First Man, the authorized biography of Neal Armstrong. Engineer in Charge covers the history of NACA (NASA’s predecessor) and the early days of NASA, with a focus on technical innovations. 

Michael J. Neufeld, Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War. The best biography of Wernher von Braun, the Third Reich aerospace engineer who helped found the American space program. An SS member and, arguably, a war criminal, von Braun was also perhaps the greatest space visionary.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier. Space’s closest thing to a rock star, this book pulls together Tyson's best writing. Behind the wit and provocative storytelling lies an urgent message: America must renew our commitment to space before it’s too late.

Chris Impey, Beyond: Our Future in Space. This distinguished astronomer describes the years to come as we explore space. Behind his detailed account of the future lies his belief that exploration is the compelling force of humankind’s progress.

Lewis D. Solomon, The Privatization of Space Exploration: Business, Technology, Law, and Policy. Solomon, a lawyer, serves as a cheerleader for commercial space missions.

David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some Are So Poor. This engaging book is full of surprising answers. Besides luck, a wealthy nation also depends on systematic decisions by wise leaders. This book includes the story of the Chinese burning their beautiful ships and its effect on China’s progress—the equivalent of America scrapping the Saturn V rocket.

Stephen P. Johnson, The Secret of Apollo: Systems Management in American and European Space Programs. This book makes a convincing case that the systems approach to management was NASA’s single greatest innovation. Besides serving as a scholarly history of the space program, this fairly slim book offers a fine introduction to anyone interested in systems.

Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer. The single best beginner’s guide to systems, written by an environmental scientist. Meadows worked with a brilliant team at MIT to develop the new field of systems dynamics.

Stephen Sandford and Jay Heinrichs, The Gravity Well: America’s Next, Greatest Mission. This is a must-read for all educators as it addresses the future that we are preparing students to navigate and that will take an entire nation to ensure the survival of mankind.

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