If you’re the sort of person who likes looking up at night, you might on occasion notice what appears to be an extremely bright star moving slowly across the sky. If it’s not a helicopter searchlight or a UFO then there’s a good chance it’s the International Space Station (ISS), a structure about as large as an American football field, orbiting 250 miles above the Earth at a speed of 5 miles per second. That bright light in the sky, according to David Nixon, is a feat of engineering and architecture on a par with the Eiffel Tower or the Aswan Dam. While his sumptuously illustrated book amply justifies the claim, the jury is still out on whether the brilliant technical achievement justifies the enormous bill the ISS has run up for the fifteen countries contributing to it.
Amid the mass of information assembled in this coffee-table-format book is a flow chart used for planning NASA missions. Step one is ‘refine user needs + objectives’. This gives the first clue to the problems that beset the project from the outset. What exactly is a space station for? In