The Economist magazine thinks the Space Age is probably over, and the discussion of our space future (or non-future) in its new issue is intelligent and informative. I've found over the years, though, that in many instances, the Economist's suave articulation of the not-so-cutting edge of conventional wisdom proves wrong. Mark Albrecht hopes that's so in this case, because he's a believer in space exploration, and his new book argues for U.S. leadership in that endeavor.
But Falling Back to Earth: A First Hand Account of the Great Space Race and the End of the Cold War is much more than a book about the American space program. It's primarily a memoir of Mark’s years running the Space Council from 1989 to 1992—and, as such, it's a truly engaging and insightful account of what it's like to operate at a reasonably senior level in the White House. I worked closely with Mark in those years—I was Dan Quayle's chief of staff and Vice President Quayle was head of the Space Council, and I have a bit role in the book—and I can say that Mark has conveyed, better than the huge majority of White House memoirs, the challenges, the frustrations, and the excitement of the odd mix of policy, politics, and personality that keep staffers busy at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Space enthusiasts and experts will all be studying Falling Back to Earth, anyway. But if you're interested in politics and public policy, you should take a couple of hours to read its couple hundred of pages. If you think you don't have the time to spare—well, skip this week's Economist. With all due respect to that august publication, you'll enjoy reading Albrecht more and you'll learn more from him—not just about space policy, but about American politics and government.