Confession time: I’m a serious space junkie. Since I was a kid, I’ve loved everything about the space program. So try as I might to keep my review of this interactive book objective, I can’t deny that this is a subject very near to my heart.
Man In Space, presented by BBC Magazines’ Sky at Night Magazine, is a glorious celebration of the American and Russian space programs. Part historical record, and part examination of the people, technology, and events that shaped this pivotal moment in time, the app takes you through all aspects of the space programs with a special emphasis on the most important milestones.
You’ll find the stories of NASA’s Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle programs, Russia’s Soyuz program, and stories of the world’s earliest rocket scientists, mankind’s multiple space stations, and a look at what the future holds. There are complete breakdowns on the famed “Mercury Seven” — NASA’s first seven astronauts, and the crews of the eleven manned Apollo missions, as well as a tribute to the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire. There’s even an entire section on Virgin Galactic’s upcoming spaceport and public space flights, with details on how the ships work, the construction of the spaceport itself, and more.
But of course since this is an iPad app, it’s no ordinary book. Instead of just text and pictures, many sections of the book are interactive in fun and educational ways. There are dozens of historical videos that play in windows right inside the app. There are rotatable 3D models of history’s various spacecraft. Panoramas of the moon’s surface that you can swipe through at your leisure. There are high-res photo slide shows. All of these touch-friendly activities engage your brain in ways that simple text-on-a-page can’t.
A helpful menu is just a single tap away, and it contains everything you need for navigating the app. You can swipe left and right (and up and down) to scroll through the pages, of course, but the menu gives you a scrollbar at the bottom that you can slide to quickly sweep through pages to find the one you’re looking for, quick and easy. Tehre’s also a table of contents available on the menu, allowing you to jump to any section of the book. There’s also a nifty page map, which zooms out on the entire book and shows you the pages like slides, so you can see the entire layout and again, jump to any page you like.
Did you know that first-man-in-space Yuri Gagarin died in a plane crash just seven years after his historic orbit around the Earth? Neither did I, and this is exactly the kind of fascinating insight that’s on every page of this book. It’s a treasure trove, informative enough to be a textbook but fun and gorgeous enough to be a coffee table book. The fact that it’s an interactive iPad app is the icing on the cake.
One gaping hole in this history lesson is the absence of any sort of memorium for the space shuttle Challenger and Columbia astronauts. These were critical parts of the story of manned spaceflight that must never be forgotten or glazed over, yet the app gives both tragedies little more than a passing reference in its section on the shuttle program.
On the technical side, I experienced no issues at all; the app is simply beautiful and solidly constructed. For space lovers like myself, Man In Space is a must-have app (despite one glaring oversight). And even if your interests are rooted solidly on the ground, I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be fascinated by this lovely tribute to the remarkable men and women who stepped off the Earth and soared into space.