Science and Exploration

Book Review: “Not Necessarily Rocket Science”

By Keith Cowing
March 7, 2021
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Book Review: “Not Necessarily Rocket Science”
Not Necessarily Rocket Science
Kellie Gerardi

I grew up in the late 1950s, the 1960s, and the early 1970s – alongside NASA and the world’s space programs. As such, my generation mostly had to make things up as we went in terms of what a space career was and how to pursue one. Flash forward a third of a century and Kellie Gerardi’s generation arrives.
Arthur C. Clarke once said that there was a pivot point in history. On one side are those people who were alive before space travel was real such that it only existed in fiction. And on the other side there were people born and raised when space travel was a reality. I do not recall a time when we did not explore space. For me – even from the age of 6 – it has always been profoundly real – and exciting.

Kellie’s generation grew up in a world where sending people and robots into space was perfectly routine. Indeed, she grew up where the Voyager missions to the outer solar system and the famous ‘Pale Blue dot’ image were “history”. It is hard for me to grasp that having been alive when it all happened, standing at JPL during the two Saturn encounters. Her society depends on space technology to function. For two thirds of her life, she has never known a time when there was not always someone living in space – 24/7/365. And her young daughter will never know a world where humans were confined to one planet.

So, Kellie wrote a book subtitled “Not Necessarily Rocket Science: A Beginners Guide To Life In The Space Age”.

Had someone sent this back in time to me when I was her age, watching the first shuttle launches from a few miles away, I’d have been thrilled that the future that I had hoped to live in would unfold more or less as I had expected. Yet, had the book been sent to me as a young boy in the 1960s I’d have thought it to be science fiction or a future history since, to be honest, a lot of what we did in space back then had been better described by science fiction authors than the newspapers.

My point? This is a book written by a wholly new type of human, according to Clarke – a pure second generation child of the Space Age – as different from me as I was from my parents. This book accepts things that we were just getting used to in my day. And yes my parents both uttered the words “Buck Rogers” at one point while I watched humans walk on the Moon for the first time.

Like most creative people Kellie bounced around college trying one thing then another – with that space bug forever buzzing around inside her head. Eventually, as she describes the Brownian Motion path that she followed (a familiar one BTW since I started out as an art major), she talks about diving into the commercial space world, eyes wide open, and never looking back.

How she approached her own apprehensions and self-doubts and powered through them with sheer determination ought would be a good source of inspiration to any young person who wants to work in the space world – but has not figured out exactly how to make their dream happen.

Kellie has become a force of nature in the commercial space world. I first got to know her given that we are both Fellows of the Explorers Club. She has managed to combine a child like fasciation with space and alloy it with real world smarts. How she did it – and where she is headed – should be required reading for any future space professional. Highly recommended.

Not Necessarily Rocket Science – A Beginners Guide To Life In The Space Age” by Kellie Gerardi

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.