iPad iBook Review: Man in Space Reviewed by Guy Dayen
The night sky has long held a strong fascination for Humanity. The moon, the planets and stars beckoned, but were beyond our reach. Soothsayers turned to them for messages about our present and future lives; scientists studied them in the hopes of gaining a better understanding of our own planet; and children looked up to them in wonder, and dreamed of one day exploring those far reaches with Buck Rogers or Tom Corbett. For a long time, dreams were all Man had...
That is, until April of 1961, when Yuri Gagarin made the first spaceflight. Suddenly, our world view changed. The stars were no longer out of our reach, and Man had found a new place in space. The new interactive book, Man in Space, produced by Sky at Night magazine, celebrates this newfound purpose, and fifty years of subsequent space exploration history. It does so in very impressive fashion indeed, and I highly recommend it. This app is exactly why I bought an iPad. When you see it in action, you?ll understand what I mean.
Anyone interested in space exploration, or in aviation history, will find loads of wonderful materials here. While Man in Space may not give every last detail of five decades of space exploration, there is tons of multimedia content and it is a very thorough introduction to the subject. Too much detail is sometimes undesirable anyway, as it tends to discourage those who are new to a subject and want a more generalized approach for their initial exposure. Too little detail and knowledgeable readers will dismiss a text as fluff and a waste of time. Man in Space strikes a very good balance here, giving extensive information, while keeping in mind the fact that it seeks to address a wide and varied audience. Space buffs and people who know very little about space exploration will both find something to capture their attention and hold their interest.
Beginning with the efforts of Wernher von Braun and Sergei Korolev, detailing their pioneering experiments, and continuing all the way through to the future of space exploration, Man in Space affords a fascinating summation of half a century of space travel. The lively and entertaining prose will engage young and old alike while the interactive elements will capture the attention of those perhaps less than fond of traditional text-only presentations.
A neat feature of Man in Space is the inclusion of three Twitter feeds, from NASA, ESA and Sky at Night magazine. The tweets page links directly to Twitter clients for the iPad so readers who are interested can access the latest comments. It gives one a real sense of immediacy to read the tweets sent by astronauts who are in space at this very moment.
Navigating the Man in Space book is a breeze. Readers can choose to explore the book sequentially by swiping through the pages, or go to a particular section by bringing up a table of contents from a drop-down menu. Another alternative is to tap on an interactive set of thumbnails, which show you the contents of each section, and each page. It?s a brilliant way to do this, and I hope other book designers will follow this example.
Illustrations abound in Man in Space. Pictures are bright, crisp, and breathtaking. Themed photo galleries let you various aspects of space exploration, such as the early days of the astronauts, or the saga of the Space Shuttle missions. Readers will find archival footage, affording striking views of our pioneers in space. I found the footage of Gagarin particularly impressive. Here was a man who was about to attempt the seemingly impossible, and yet, seemed as unassuming and relaxed as someone going out for a Sunday drive in the country. It?s simply great stuff, living history that is just not possible to represent so vividly in a printed book.
There are panoramas that let you explore 360 degree scenes, giving readers an unprecedented perspective on the astronauts on the surface of the moon. Also, there are 3D views of many spacecrafts, again allowing for complete rotation so the ships can be viewed from all angles. Readers can tap on the diagrams to bring up labels detailing what each part of the craft is. These views are really incredible, and will rejoice the kid in all of us who dreamed of one day seeing those wonderful crafts up close. I think my favorite is the Mercury capsule.
I still remember playing with my G. I. Joe, dressing him up in his space suit, and flying him around the room in his own capsule. Man in Space brought back those childhood days of wonder for me. I think it will inspire a new generation of space dreamers.