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Share Your Story • Robert Aster • September 24, 2018

Former JPL Engineer Launches a New Series of Books on the Space Race

My career at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory began in 1976, and I enjoyed forty years there as my work evolved from technology development to proposing and then planning new missions at JPL. Once a mission plan was approved, my job was completed and I could move on to another proposal or to another mission. It always thrills me to hear about an accomplishment of some project that I helped to start.

When I looked in libraries for good books that describe JPL, I found that there were just a few offerings in the communities near JPL, and often there was nothing to be found in libraries I visited in other communities. In 2009 I became concerned when I could find so few really good books about JPL even from on-line book sources. One of my tasks at JPL at that time was to provide brief descriptions of past missions that were relevant to proposed new missions. So I embarked (with permission from JPL and Caltech) to write the book “Missions from JPL, Fifty Years of Amazing Flight Projects”. This book briefly describes every JPL project launched for NASA in its first 50 years. It was published in 2010, and it still sells well today.

Over the years I was able to meet some of the pioneers of the early days of the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States, and I have a high regard for these individuals. These are people who could face challenges and create bold solutions. There are now just a very few of these ‘cold warriors’ still working in aerospace.

When I retired from Caltech/JPL in 2016, I decided to prepare a web site and a series of books to describe how the space race came about and how it developed. The target audience is non-technical, and I hope to encourage younger generations to embrace the dynamic spirit of the space race.

I activated that web site at This web site serves two purposes: (1) to introduce my space race books, and (2) to provide a bibliography of other fine books that address aspects of the space race. It is a work in progress, which I will update each time a space race book is published. All of my books can be found in Amazon by searching by author's name: Robert Aster

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