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Space Exploration, an illustrated timeline

  • Posted on June 16, 2012 at 2:53 PM

Being a very diverse learner who needs to see the big picture and enjoys assembling pieces to construct new knowledge, I appreciate publishers and authors who try new ways to communicate. Hence my review today of Patricia Wooster’s book An Illustrated Timeline of Space Exploration, illustrated by Eldon Doty and published by Picture Window Books (a Capstone imprint), 2012. ISBN: 9781404866607. 

I admit that I am crazy about this title and the way it’s presented. I would be one irritating librarian to anyone unwilling to learn as I share new books hourly with people – even complete strangers. Whenever “bigwigs” show up in school and I notice people deferring to them, I usually find an interesting book and approach them to look. They don’t scare me and I’ll use every opportunity I get to convey why printed books are vital to elementary and middle schools. I showed this to a STEM leader in our district.

Have you ever just sat and read timelines? Why not? Perhaps you have never had anyone relate the timeline to how you learn, how information is organized, or how we construct knowledge. Timelines can be difficult for teachers to relate to their students. Once they have students create a timeline of their life, most classes lose interest and move on. Not with this title. An Illustrated Timeline of Space Exploration will keep them asking questions and at the end, seeking more titles in this format.

The entire book is a timeline from Early Space discoveries in 2773 BC to current events. The first double-page spread takes you through moments in time for 2773 BC, AD 1543, 1608, 1687, 1781, 1846, 1929, and 1930. There are some big gaps on this page alone, but if I remember to focus on the word exploration it is a little easier to understand why this page is minimized. There is also a significant gap between the end of that page 1930 and the Soviet Union’s launching of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957. It takes someone to share with readers that other events were happening at this time, but the authors chose not to focus on them.

The illustrations are appealing to my graphic novel readers. There are a myriad of details throughout that will keep the students reading and re-reading. I found myself stumbling on the first few pages and had to actually place my finger on the timeline to follow the links of information to keep myself in order. This is an excellent skill for students to acquire in reading intricate scientific and historical information as they get holder and here is a safe way to practice.

Some of the topics addressed include: Early Discoveries, The Space Age, The Space Race, Testing the Skies, Walking on the Moon, Another Station in Space, Reaching Farther into Space, Living in Space, A Telescope in Space, Space Records, Touring Space, Private Space Flight, The Future of Space Exploration and Building your own timeline.

Perhaps one of the greatest strengths is how the illustrations and text will inspire students to ask questions and do research.

I do have a criticism to share that I have heard from some of the scientists involved. Some ask where is the rest of the information that is so vital such as the star charts of ancient nations, and the contributions of Wernher Von Braun and the V2 rockets. Another asked why we used BC and AD on the first page instead of the B.C.E. and C.E.

According to the Marshall Space Flight Center in nearby Huntsville, Alabama’s biography page for Werner Von Braun.

Wernher Von Braun is well known as the leader of what has been called the “rocket team” which developed the V–2 ballistic missile for the Nazis during World War II…. The brainchild of von Braun’s rocket team operating at a secret laboratory at Peenemünde on the Baltic coast, the V–2 rocket was the immediate antecedent of those used in space exploration programs in the United States and the Soviet Union.”

As for the BC and AD distinction, there are always controversies as you can see in this blog from the Free Republic (no endorsement intended) “Educators and historians say schools from North America to Australia have been changing the terms Before Christ to Before Common Era and anno Domini (Latin for “year of the Lord”) to Common Era. In short, they’re referred to as B.C.E. and C.E.” Even Wikipedia addresses the controversy

I found that neither of those points deterred me from gaining a tremendous amount of knowledge from this title. In many schools in the United States during the 70’s and 80’s space exploration was taught as a race against the Soviet Union which we “won” because we landed a man on the moon first. When you read An Illustrated Timeline of Space Exploration, the focus is on world-wide space exploration so you are exposed to a more realistic depiction of space exploration with events from Russia (the former Soviet Union), China, and the business community.

When I showed someone this title, she asked me if NASA wasn’t really closing down all the space programs. SHOCK!!!! What?! How could I let anyone in my school think this? I must contact the NASA booth at the American Library Association conference and gather as much material and links as possible to correct this error in perspective.  Just because the Space Shuttle program ended, does not mean the end of space exploration.

Today I saw the headline news from CNN that China sent the first female astronaut into space – People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force fighter pilot Liu Yang.  Perhaps you have not been following the Chinese aspirations to ” conduct a manned mission to the moon”. In addition to the People’s Republic of China the European Union, Japan, and India have also planned future manned space missions to the Moon (and in the EU’s case to Mars) during this century. Manned space travel is ongoing.

Other Links that I like and which help understand our space program is alive and functioning include:

NASA’s Education Materials Finder will help teachers locate resources that can be used in the classroom. My favorite link it helped me find was What’s next for NASA? The U.S.

NASA’s People and technology page (intended for K-4)

NASA’s topical index page with exciting links guaranteed to keep students clicking, learning, and shouting out to their friends “Look at this!”

Fortunately this book is part of the FactHound site so students can access NASA and spacekids links like From the spacekids site I learned this and wondered who else is missing:

“In 1989, Helen Sharman entered a competition to become the first British astronaut in space. After 18 months of intensive training, Helen was part of a Russian mission to the MIR space station. “

The need to convey exploration and innovation as part of a continuum is one reason why I will purchase all the titles in this series:

  • An Illustrated Timeline of Inventions and Inventors,
  • An Illustrated Timeline of Transportation
  • An Illustrated Timeline of U.S. States
  • An Illustrated Timeline of Space Exploration
  • An Illustrated Timeline of U.S. Presidents
  • An Illustrated Timeline of Dinosaurs

Those of you who know me may have been forced to sit and watch the DVD’s of Apollo 13 with all of the background information, narratives, commentaries, etc. I wanted to be an astronaut growing up and remember watching hours of space documentaries – until I realized with my horrible ears and bad eyesight that I was never getting close. If I’d lived closer to Huntsville, AL, then I would have realized I could have been a valued scientist supporting the work and part of the team. With my work at a STEM school, perhaps I will be able to motivate others and open their career paths to broader avenues.

It is important for our future to provide continuums of learning, timelines of history, and the links for our students to understand their importance. Books like An Illustrated Timeline of Space Exploration help us set the path for learning.

What else do I need now? I need biographies. Here are some names of people that we should be reading more of their research and work in the field of space exploration:

  • Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
  • Robert Goddard
  • Hermann Oberth
  • Reinhold Tiling
  • Wernher von Braun
  • Kerim Kerimov
  • Sergey Korolyov
  • Valentin Glushko
  • Vasily Mishin
  • Robert (Bob) Gilruth
  • Christopher C. Kraft, Jr.
  • Maxime Faget

Did you know that “Initially the race for space was often led by Sergei Korolyov, whose legacy includes both the R7 and Soyuz—which remain in service to this day. Korolev was the mastermind behind the first satellite, first man (and first woman) in orbit and first spacewalk. Until his death his identity was a closely guarded state secret; not even his mother knew that he was responsible for creating the Russian space program.” If that isn’t enough of a hook for some author to start writing, I don’t know what you need. I’m waiting. Start writing.