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"The Conquest of Space"
by David Lasser

Apogee Books Edition, 2002

Review by Larry McGlynn

For those who enjoy books about early space flight that bridge the gap between a vision of future and pure science fiction, such as Cornelius Ryan's Across of Space Frontier, there is a "new" book to add to the list. Apogee Books' editor Robert Godwin has re-released a rare piece of literature entitled The Conquest of Space, written by David Lasser.

The Conquest of Space, first published in 1931, was the first English language book to tackle the problems and potential of manned space flight. Lasser, who was the founding president of the American Interplanetary Society (currently known as the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics), provides an entertaining explanation of the state of affairs of rocketry in the early part of the 20th century. In a new introduction written for Apogee, Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001, cites the book as a major influence in his career.

Lasser discusses the rocket, it's inherent problems, it's development and it's future uses at a time when Robert Goddard had just started to experiment with liquid fuel as a means of propulsion. Through the use of an imaginary, but potentially realistic space flight to the moon Lasser explains the shortcomings of early research into solid fuels and single stage rockets to lift humans into space.

Of interest while reading Conquest was the ability to reflect on what has occurred since it was written. We have journeyed to the Moon, sent probes to the planets and have a manned space station. Lasser envisioned these events with the naive hope for only the peaceful use of rockets as the visionary and idealist that he was. Lasser would later leave rocketry behind to become a union leader and champion for labor in America.

Lasser discusses the need for manned exploration to unlock the secrets of the solar system. Based upon what we know now, his prognostications appear quaint. For example, Lasser felt we should explore Venus for life beyond Earth. He concluded that the cloud cover probably blocked sunlight and kept the temperature at a comfortable level for sustaining life (as opposed to the boiling caldron we know it to be today based on the discoveries of unmanned probes).

The book's use of illustrations from early science fiction movies and Lasser's own use of science fiction novels describing early attempts at space flight make the book an entertaining read. The Conquest of Space would be an excellent addition to a space collector's reference library.

The Conquest of Space by David Lasser can be ordered through buySPACE on this site.

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