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ROAD READS

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

BOOK: "The Space Tourist's Handbook: Where to Go, What to See, and How to Prepare for the Ride of Your Life," by Eric Anderson and Joshua Piven (Quirk Books, $15.95); "Space Tourism: Adventures in Earth Orbit and Beyond," by Michel van Pelt (Copernicus, $27.50).

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TARGET AUDIENCE: People who watch "Lost in Space" reruns, and those who daydream about interplanetary adventure travel.

Among hot-selling books when I was a kid in the 1960s was one called "You Will Go to the Moon." I was a future astronaut, it said, so I'd better get in shape to be strapped into a space capsule and to float around in a pressurized suit.

It has taken nearly four decades but, at last, here's my chance -- at least according to two space experts. Van Pelt, author of "Space Tourism," writes with the crackling high style of your typical aerospace engineer (he is one). But though he sometimes mumbles about things like "microgravity," the book tells budding space tourists what we need to know, with detailed chapters on how to get psyched for a trip. When it comes to G-forces in a launch, Van Pelt says, you can experience similar stresses "as a passenger on the Incredible Hulk ride at Orlando's Islands of Adventure."

"Space Tourist's Handbook" author Eric Anderson is chief executive of Space Adventures, the company that helped make billionaire Dennis Tito history's first space tourist in 2001. Tito's shot up to the International Space Station cost him $20 million. But in the book, Anderson pretends that, heck, anyone can do it, with diagrams and painstaking instructions for things such as using a spacecraft's "vacuum toilet."

There are all kinds of space destinations, he promises, "for every kind of budget." If I'm careful with loose change, maybe I could save up for a trip to the asteroid belt. In the meantime, I can, at least, read and dream and fill out the book's contest flier: "Enter Now for Your Chance to Win One Sub-Orbital Space Flight." Rats. Just noticed. It's expired.

-- Peter Mandel


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