The Hazards of Space Travel, A Tourist’s Guide By Neil F. Comins, Ph.D.
Reviewed by Stewart Rorer
Space is a dangerous place, according to Dr. Comins. His 217-page book describes many types of dangers: Radiation based, Geological, Physiological, Meteoroidal, Mechanical, Psychological and Software-related. Beginning each chapter is an excerpt from “Mack’s Log,” a brief fictional log entry that is written to illustrate concepts in the following chapter. “Mack’s Log” is entertaining and informative, serving to lighten up the barrage of facts about various hazards. Some of the problems Dr. Comins describes as dangerous on other planets are also just as dangerous on planet Earth, if not more so. I found the tone of The Hazards of Space Travel a bit heavy, with excessive emphasis on “scaring the kiddies.” There is noticeable repetition in the subject matter, best handled by quickly skimming previously presented facts. Stylistically, the author overuses the word “virtually” to mean “nearly all.” These are minor flaws in a thoroughly researched and highly informative book. More recently, the October, 2007, issue of Scientific American compares mortality estimates for space shuttle flights to both atmospheric flying and automobile driving on terra firma. Flying in the space shuttle seems to hold a much greater risk of death per passenger mile flown than either of the other two modes of transportation. As we know, it’s always best to read the latest science, which supersedes prior science. A good example of this is the discussion, again in Scientific American (October, 2007, page 16), of the latest research on tissue damage from radiation, which updates their March, 2006, article on the same subject, “Shielding Space Travelers.” The most recent experiments conducted at Brookhaven Laboratory indicate that radiation exposure in space causes half the tissue damage previously thought. Also, high energy radiation causes less damage than slower moving protons because it moves rapidly through tissue and has less time to interact. I’m sure Dr. Comins will be pleased to find his book obsoleted in this fashion. A brief biography of Dr. Comins may be found on the ‘Net at http://members.authorsguild.net/nfcomins/bio.htm