In a galaxy far, far away…

It’s been a fortnight since astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi went into space and began his six-month mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS). With such a historic assignment for the UAE underway, space travel has been on everyone’s minds, sparking further curiosity about the wider cosmos and our places in it.

Luckily, our friends at the Emirates Literature Foundation planned ahead and have collaborated with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) to release short episodes every week, focusing on different concepts that come into play during an astronaut’s time in space, and connecting them to lessons kids learn as part of their science curriculum. Titled, ELF in Space, this new project will allow kids (and space lovers of all ages) to learn more about outer space from astronauts, science experts and of course, authors.

And if you’re looking to kickstart your space exploration this weekend, here’s a curated reading list from the Foundation:

Back to Earth: What Life in Space Taught Me About Our Home Planet – and Our Mission to Protect It by Nicole Stott

books about space

Sometimes taking a step back can help us get a better overview of the problems we’re facing. In astronaut Nicole Stott’s case, her time in space made her realise just how interconnected everyone on Earth is and how vital it is that we work together to combat climate change, as well as other issues facing the planet.

In Back to Earth, Stott shares insights from scientists, engineers, activists, and other experts working to not only ensure that life can thrive in space but who are also trying to protect the biodiverse life and environments of our planets for future generations. She supplements this with stories from her own career in space, including her time aboard the ISS, highlighting how team members from around the world would regularly come together to solve problems regardless of their differences.

Written in an easy-to-follow and engaging manner, Stott draws on her own experiences in space to inspire readers and impart lessons they can use in their own lives as they try to make change even on a personal level. As Stott makes clear by the end of the book, the fate of this planet is interlinked with our own as a species, which makes it imperative that we work together like crewmates on one big mission.

Chasing Space by Leland Melvin

books about space

You might know retired astronaut Leland Melvin from when his official NASA photo — which features both his beloved dogs — went viral a few years ago. But what you might not know is that joining NASA was his second career after an injury brought his time playing professional American football in the NFL to an early and abrupt end.

However, as Melvin details in Chasing Space, even though NASA recruited him almost immediately after due to his skills and potential as an engineer (what he’d initially studied in college), his journey to outer space was not an easy one. In fact, it was while training with NASA that he suffered a second injury that left him not only deaf but also stuck on Earth as he couldn’t travel into space. But thanks to his tremendous grit and determination, Melvin was not only able to recover his partial hearing, but also become eligible for space travel, with him eventually going on to work on the ISS.

What makes Melvin’s memoir so compelling though is that his focus is not just on himself and the hurdles he’s had to overcome, but also on the role his community played in shaping him as a person and his consequent success at various points in his life. As he recounts the histories of not only the neighbourhood he grew up in as a child but also NASA itself, it becomes clear that even a journey filled with as many stratospheric highs as Melvin’s would not be possible without the people who came before him — be they his parents or the mentors who guided him along the way. Or even the people who broke barriers and cleared the path for explorers of the future.

Chasing Space is an uplifting read that will inspire readers of all ages to persevere towards their goals despite the odds, while also reflecting on the people who’ve shaped their journey.

Am I Made of Stardust?: Dr Maggie Answers the Big Questions for Young Scientists by Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock.

Ever wondered if you’d get a phone signal in space? Or what would happen if you fell into a black hole? Or even what astronauts might eat aboard the ISS? Well, award-winning space scientist and BBC broadcaster Dr Maggie’s latest book tackles all those questions and more!

As with all her other books, Dr Maggie engages readers of all ages, making each lesson accessible for even the youngest reader. With its mix of interesting space facts, engrossing explanations, and vibrant, eye-catching illustrations, Am I Made of Stardust? is a fun and lively read that breaks down the many wonders of space, making it an ideal addition to any family bookshelf and a great gift idea for anyone looking to inspire the next generation of space scientists.

Khalifa and Amal Go to Space by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre

Many people dream of going to space, but just what do astronauts do once they’re up there? This picture book from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre sets out to answer that question as it tells the story of Khalifa and Amal, a brother and sister who love space.

With the use of cute illustrations, Khalifa and Amal Go to Space tells the story of how the duo falls asleep and dreams of riding a rocket ship to both the moon and Mars, before stopping off at the ISS. It’s a sweet and accessible guide to some of the themes regarding space, which makes it a great introduction for younger readers who might already have a burgeoning interest.

If you enjoyed today’s selection of book recommendations from Nivea Serrao, the Web Content Manager at the Emirates Literature Foundation, then don’t miss their other bookish content on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.