NASA's Massive Free E-Book Collection

Who could resist Exploring Space With a Camera? Or Rockets and People, the autobiography of rocket designer Boris Chertok?
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pavelbelyayaev.jpg
Cosmonaut Pavel Belyayaev in 1965 from Rockets and People (Asif Siddiqi)

Behold, the hundreds of free e-books about space history contained on this webpage.

From old favorites like The Difficult Road to Mars: A Brief History of Mars Exploration in the Soviet Union and Wind Tunnels of NASA to experimental work like Aerospace Food Technology and Life in the Universe: Proceedings of a conference held at NASA Ames Research Center Moffet Field, California, June 19-20, 1979, this is one of the best collections of space arcana you're likely to find.

Who could resist Exploring Space With a Camera? Or Rockets and People, the autobiography of rocket designer Boris Chertok and a key history of the Soviet space program?

These books were placed online over the last decade, so some of the formatting leaves something to be desired. Many of the works have been broken up into tiny pieces, forcing one to click through page after page. But this is a singular information repository, a storehouse for our fascination with flight.

What these works also show is how central the space program made and found itself during the 20th century. NASA could convene PIllsbury and the chefs on nuclear submarines to talk about food. Computing and solar energy were both pushed along by NASA's interest. The Space Race was a proxy skirmish in the Cold War. And, of course, all sorts of ideas from the era leaked into the way NASA thought about things: freedom and America and gender and aesthetics and the future.

Oh, and don't miss a personal favorite, We Freeze to Please: A History of NASA's Icing Research Tunnel and the Quest for Safety. A page turner.

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Inspecting blades, from We Freeze to Please
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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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