7 Space Books That Tell Exciting Stories of Space Exploration

The history of space exploration is filled with tales of scientific accomplishments and personal triumphs by men and women who have trained from an early age for their jobs. Many of them have written books about their experiences, which make great reading for those interested in how space exploration works.

You can discover what it's like to be an astronaut. Or, follow the adventures of astronauts and engineers from the space race through modern space exploration and in the future, possibly to the stars. Each of the books below is a good read.

We have provided links to each book's page at Amazon.com as a convenience to our readers.

Edited and expanded by Carolyn Collins Petersen

01
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The Ordinary Spaceman: From Boyhood Dreams to Astronaut

Clayton Anderson
Cover of Clayton Anderson's book "The Ordinary Spaceman", from University of Nebraska Press. University of Nebraska Press

Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson tells it like it is about being an astronaut -- from the training and testing to the thrill of spaceflight. He spent 167 days aboard the International Space Station, and for those of you who are hip to such things, was featured in the Gangnam-style spoof "NASA Johnson Style" (easily found on YouTube). Come look at space exploration in the modern age!  Buy from Amazon »

02
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Dragonfly: An Epic Adventure of Survival in Outer Space

Dragonfly - nonfiction space books

Dragonfly, written by Brian Burrough, is an incredible true story of adventures and survival in outer space as NASA astronauts spend time aboard the Russian space station Mir. This is an epic tale of modern space exploration. Fires, leaks, and collisions plague the aging Soviet space station, as NASA astronauts study the effects of long-term exposure to microgravity in preparation for the International Space Station. Stars Mir and the space shuttle. Buy from Amazon »

03
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Rocket Boys

Rocket Boys
Rocket Boys is a personal story of one man's trip throug the Space Age.

This book by former NASA engineer, Homer Hickam, tells of his adventures with his friends in rural West Virginia during the dawning of the Space Age. It follows young "Sonny's" exploits as the Rocket Boys build model rockets and attempt to win a national science fair, trying to escape a life in the coal mines to become shining stars at NASA. One of the top nonfiction space books and basis for a great movie called "October Sky".  Buy from Amazon »

04
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Apollo 13

Apollo 13 hardcover
Apollo 13 tells the story of the ill-fated mission by one who was there. Amazon

If you ever saw the movie Apollo 13, you know the moments of drama captured by the actors who portrayed the astronauts involved. This book comes directly from one of those Apollo 13 spacemen, Jim Lovell. It's the story of an emergency in space captured the minds of America as it unfolded on their televisions. Lovell tells it the way it was as he and his fellow crewmen struggled to overcome the disaster that affected their mission, along with help from the men and women on the ground at Mission Control.  Buy from Amazon »

05
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Failure is Not an Option

cover of Gene Kranz book.
Cover for "Failure is Not an Option" book by Gene Kranz. Simon & Schuster

Incredible story from inside Mission Control, written by Gene Kranz, the man who brought Apollo 13 home. Kranz, who was in the hotseat at Mission Control in Houston during the disastrous mission, wrote his memoir to tell the story and how it looked from the ground.  Buy from Amazon »

06
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Flight - My Life in Mission Control

Chris Kraft
Chris Kraft at the console in NASA's Mission Control during the Mercury missions. NASA

An incredible book about life in the middle of the action at NASA, written by Christopher C. Kraft, Jr. He worked tirelessly to create the Mission Control operation for NASA and worked as director of NASA's Johnson Space Center. His book is a great behind-the-scenes look at Mission Control and what it was like to work there.  Buy from Amazon »

07
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A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts

A Man on the Moon
Cover for "A Man on the Moon" by Andrew Chaikin.

Written by science writer Andrew Chaikin and a forward by actor Tom Hanks (who starred in Apollo 13), this is an account of the early days of the Space Race and the Apollo missions. American space exploration had just begun and had just one goal: to beat the Russians to the Moon. This amazing book was also the basis for a made-for-TV miniseries called From the Earth to the Moon.  Buy from Amazon »

Space Exploration from Your Armchair

There are many, many books out there that will bring you the excitement of space exploration, particularly in the early years. Like these seven examples, a number of these works are authored by the men and women who were there when it happened. They made space exploration what it is today -- from the first rocket launches through the Moon missions to the space shuttle age and beyond.