This is a first rate handbook on the history, design, cost, evolution, battles, politics, deceit, greed, and path to the space station that is on orbit today.
It is not a list of lists, or pages of numbers, but a interesting running discussion using original charts and graphs from the briefings and decision panels that constituted what happened on the way to the U.S. Space Station -- the what, why, and how -- the good, the bad, the ugly and the mean. It is straight talk, and includes many of the facts you need to find almost any point in the design process supported by its underpinnings -- highlighting the "tipping points" and the data that provides the context to understand events as part of the whole design pathway. Many will think important facts or events are omitted or distorted, and there will be disagreements with some of Beattie's interpretations, but this is bound to happen with such a complex subject. There will be some who think Beattie is thin on details about the many political problems that stalked the program, and especially the internal NASA center "turf wars" which stretched back to Apollo days, distorting the professional engineering that such a program demanded -- an undercurrent which pulled the very core of the program down to be driven by very powerful tides from the Congress and White House that distorted the orderly development of design to facilitate science within schedule, cost, etc., pulling the managers, mostly engineers, into a vortex of complexity they could not control.
-- There will be readers who will have a fit over the last chapter -- Beattie's take on what should happen to the Space Station -- in fact to the whole NASA space program -- commercialization, science researach, return to the Moon, tripping to Mars, etc., etc. But,these "conversations" and "opinions" do not detract from the book, but rather enrich it for there is plenty to debate as well as a wealth of facts and experiences to inform that detate.
This is a "tour de force" -- a monumental accomplishment of synthesis in putting all of the pieces of this gigantic multi dimensional puzzle together so it can be seen as a piece. It is an intelligent Cliff Notes on the U. S. Space Station -- its substance, its context and its wake.