Sunday, November 26, 2006

Title: Inside the Space Race
Author: Lawrence E. Lamb, M.D.
Publisher: Synergy Books
ISBN: 978-1-933538-39-6
Genre: Memoirs
Key Words: Space, Aerospace, American Space Program, Fitness, Cardiology

I accepted this book for review with some trepidation, since I was not feeling totally fit for taking up a non-fiction book and since I was struggling to finish a book that I have been trying to read for the last few months. However, I found that this book is really well-written with an easy style, that takes the reader back into time, to an era that was exciting. I was in my Bachelor of Science Program when the space program was launched by USA and following the Soviet and American Space successes over radio (we had no TV at that time) was really exciting and inspiring.

Dr. Lawrence E. Lamb describes the successes and the difficulties associated with the American space efforts especially in the cold war era. He brings out very clearly the efforts of his own team in developing a medical evaluation program for selecting the astronauts for Projects Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. He also brings out vividly the office politics involved in such programs where money and fame are at stake.

His account appears to be fairly objective, though I cannot certify that, having had no opportunity to read or hear all the parties involved. As a physicist and also with my own deep and abiding interest in health matters (I feel I too deserve the epithet, "Quack" because of my fairly extensive medical knowledge and because I have no formal training and certification to practise medicine), I enjoyed reading his detailed explanations of the problems with atrial fibrillation, the effect of bed rest on blood pressure etc. I hasten to assure you, however, that you don't have to be medically knowledgeable to appreciate what Dr. Lamb wrote. He keeps the whole thing fairly simple.

The book has a number of photographs of Presidents Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and other dignitaries who played a major role in the development of US Space program.

While reading the early experiments on the effect of high 'g' s (a 'g' is the force of earth's gravity, during take off of a high speed aircraft or spacecraft or during sudden deceleration, a person experiences forces many times the g) on the human physiology, Dr. Lamb describes the work done by others including the Soviets. However, I did not find a mention of the work done by other members of US Air Force, esp. Dr. Stapp and others, which helped the development of modern safety belts for cars, apart from indicating that the human body can withstand fairly high 'g' s . I felt that the account of the experiments of that era conducted by other departments would have added value to the book.

I found that the book has a few editorial slips. I would have liked to see a short biography of the author.

All in all, I feel that this is a good addition to the literature on an important era of US space successes.