Look Up is a history of space exploration in the 20th century with a strong focus on the purpose of going to space. The second part of the book is solely devoted to giving examples of technologies brought upon by space endeavours and the environmental research conducted by satellites. The final section discusses private space exploration and the end of the stagnation in terms of putting humans on other planetary bodies. It features a foreword by Michael Collins, an Apollo 11 astronaut, in which he discusses the curiosity that drives us to explore space.
Compared to some of the other books I featured on the blog, I found this one quite repetitive. I bought it with a bunch of other books, telling myself “why not?” because I was interested in the reasons we give for going to space. I was questioning if it was morally correct that the US spent so much money on the Apollo program during a tumultuous period of the civil rights movement and the abhorrent treatment of homosexuals. What I got was a very cliche story about space inspiring people and bringing about teflon. Nonetheless, there are a few good moments here and I am looking forward to her new books.
The best chapters are definitely Where Next? and Look Back. She discusses the story of private space exploration and some of the costs. She brings about this interesting perspective of space exploration being popularised if a famous celebrity and that going to space can make us realise how fragile the Earth is. Imagining billionaires suddenly changing their mind about cutting down the Amazon rainforest for profit just because of spending a few minutes in low Earth orbit seems overly optimistic. Nonetheless, it has happened to astronauts on the Apollo missions and on the ISS. The difference is, the astronauts are scientists and pilots, trailblazers in the field. They are not doing this for fun, but because it is their calling and they don’t have a company board breathing down their neck.
The idea of realising how fragile Earth is by going to space is first introduced in the book by Michael Collins. It reminds me of the pale blue dot image taken by the Voyager spacecraft. In that sense, the main message of the book is clear and powerful. We have to look up, to then look down and get a sense of perspective on our civilisation. If Cruddas could have said that in a more condensed format, I definitely would have liked the book more. However, if you want a decent overview of private space exploration, go read the last two or three chapters and you might just learn something.
Cruddas, S. (2020). Look Up: Our story with the stars. HQ.
Gates Cambridge. (2020, June 25). Biography | Gates Cambridge. Gates Cambridge -. https://www.gatescambridge.org/biography/8902/