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The Amazing International Space Station

by YES Mag editors, Rose Cowles, illus.

News stories and TV documentaries about the International Space Station have often focused on two main aspects of the $100-billion project: the complicated technology that has kept it in orbit around Earth since 1998 and the truly international nature of the 16-country initiative.

Three editors from the popular bimonthly science publication for kids, Yes Mag – David Garrison, Shannon Hunt, and Jude Isabella – take a different approach here, placing the emphasis on the astronauts who keep the station zipping around Earth at about 28,000 km/h. The book is full of photos of these men and women – including Canadians Julie Payette and Chris Hadfield – accompanied by quotes, biographical details, information about their daily lives aboard the ISS, and a thorough depiction of just what duties and experiments they perform in space.

All of this is not to say that science and technology get short shrift in this heavily illustrated book – far from it. There’s lots of information here about how the station was built, and how various highly complicated devices – such as the famous Canadarm2 and the Soyuz spacecraft from Russia – are used to collect data and run experiments. But alongside all that material, the authors have taken pains to outline the human side of the work onboard, ranging from the risks of having your space suit punctured by a tiny but incredibly fast-moving bit of space debris, to how the “’nauts” prepare and eat their meals, sleep, and brush their teeth.

The result is a visually appealing book for young readers that puts a human face on this massive scientific project. The authors of The Amazing International Space Station have succeeded in putting the technology and politics where they should be: as instruments that can help humans learn more about their surroundings, and not ends in themselves.