Book Reviews: ‘The X-15 Rocket Plane,’ ‘Last Launch,’ and ‘Not Because It’s Easy’

The X-15 Rocket Plane, Last Launch & Not Because It's Easy Book covers posted on AmericaSpace
Image Credit: University of Nebraska / University of Texas / Status Productions

AmericaSpace staff has reviewed several high-quality books lately that we would like to share with our readers. These range from strict historical texts to glossy photo-based offerings to a fictional story based on the space program. We hope you’ll take our word for it; these books will provide you with hours of enjoyable reading.

The X-15 Rocket Plane Michelle Evans University of Nebraska posted on AmericaSpace
Image Credit: University of Nebraska Press

“The X-15 Rocket Plane” by Michelle Evans

The X-15 Rocket Plane: Flying the First Wings Into Space by Michelle Evans is the latest addition to the University of Nebraska’s “Outward Odyssey: A People’s History of Spaceflight” series, edited by Colin Burgess. It has a foreword by Joe Engle, perhaps one of the most famous X-15 pilots other than the late “First Man,” Neil Armstrong. Engle wrote, “The X-15 was the greatest airplane I have ever had the privilege to fly.” This is high praise considering Engle flew what may have been the world’s most ubiquitous space plane—the space shuttle—twice.

Engle and Armstrong devotees won’t be disappointed with the stories about their heroes in this tome. However, the more interesting additions encompass the careers and personal histories of X-15 pioneers such as Scott Crossfield, Michael Adams, and Jack McKay. Much of the X-15 literature up to now discussed the technological minutiae of the space plane (for example, Digital Apollo and NASA’s X-15 Research Results). This book frequently delves into the personal costs that came with pioneering hypersonic flight, with interviews from families and close friends.

The X-15 Rocket Plane is a valuable addition to libraries and goes past the technical jargon into the hearts of the pilots. For more photos and materials concerning this book and the X-15 program, visit the Mach 25 Media website here: X-15

The X-15 Rocket Plane is part of The University of Nebraska Press’ “Outward Odyssey” series and retails for $36.95. 

Last Launch University of Texas posted on AmericaSpace
Photo Credit: University of Texas

“Last Launch” by Dan Winters 

Unlike many editors and writers who cover the space program, I frequently travel with AmericaSpace’s photographers out to the launch pad to set up remote cameras—and in some cases again when they collect them. It allows for a fuller appreciation of what is required to send these incredible machines into the inky black of space. After the end of shuttle, some aspects of this time began to fade with the passage of time. When I cracked open Dan Winters’ Last Launch, the memories of my trips out to Launch Complex 39 came flooding back to me. He encapsulates what it was like when these magnificent machines roared to orbit.

For those wanting to know what it was like at the end of the shuttle era, Winters’ offering brings home the key moments of the last three launches. Little-known moments of wonder are forever captured in his stark imagery. The full majesty of NASA’s final three shuttle missions take form in this beautifully produced book. Any space buff would be proud to include Last Launch in their collection. The book can be purchased here: Last Launch

Last Launch is published by the University of Texas press and retails for $50.00.

Not Because It's Easy Status Productions George C. Schellenger posted on AmericaSpace
Image Credit: Status Productions

“Not Because It’s Easy” by George Schellenger 

I rarely read works of fiction these days, as it makes me feel I’m shirking my responsibilities. Having said that, when I heard that George Schellenger had produced a novel, I had to give it a look. George and I covered the final days of the shuttle program. It has been my experience that most works of fiction penned by space enthusiasts tend to fall a bit short. Thankfully, Not Because It’s Easy breaks from this trend.

The book details the adventures of Knox Long, who is working to restart Project Apollo and the efforts of Hunter Algier who is working to prevent him from doing so. Through a variety of twists and turns, Not Because It’s Easy kicks off the Knox Long Trilogy and offers a welcome diversion for space buffs who wanted to get excited about the future of human space flight. For those who want to put down the technical manuals and just read an exciting romp that centers on human space flight—this is for you. The Facebook page for Not Because It’s Easy is here: Not Because It’s Easy

Not Because It’s Easy is published by Status Productions and retails for around $14.00. You can also pick up a Kindle version for $4.00.

This is an opinion-based review. The thoughts expressed do not represent the views of

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