Review of the book “Beyond the Sky. The Great Space Clean-up”

In 2023, Third Planet publishing house in partnership with the NGO Noosphere Association translated and published the book “Beyond the Sky: The Great Space Clean-up” by Jan and Joachim Ciecierski into Ukrainian. The book tells children of preschool and primary school age that garbage exists even in space and that it is even more dangerous than our waste on Earth.

Книга «За небокраєм. Велике космічне прибирання»

The book “Beyond the Sky. The Great Space Clean-up”

A children’s book about space debris

Space debris consists of spacecraft that have ceased to function over time but are still flying in space and the fragments that result from their destruction. What is wrong with it and whether “space cleaners” exist?  Even adults find it difficult to answer these questions. But the NGO Noosphere and the private enterprise Third Planet decided to change this and publish a book in Ukrainian called “Beyond the Sky. The Great Space Clean-up”.

The authors are Jan and Joachim Ciecierski. It was first published in 2021, so it is a new fresh look at this problem. The book was presented to young Ukrainians by the NGO Noosphere, which organized a vivid presentation in Dnipro city, accompanied by a number of events. In particular, experts from the European Space Agency provided a lectures for Ukrainian audience on the topic of space debris.

Ілюстрація з книги

Illustration from the book

It is also interesting that the Ukrainians even added a useful feature to the translated book. They have placed QR codes on many of its pages, which can be scanned using a special application to learn more about space debris, its types and sources of origin in a convenient format. Players will also be able to play a game to sort different types of debris.

What is the book about?

The book “Beyond the Sky. The Great Space Clean-up” is a graphic novel. That is, what is drawn plays no less a role in the story than what is written. The drawings cannot be called super realistic, but they are cute and understandable.

As for the presentation of the material, the authors completely abandoned the traditional presentation of this topic through a story about nuts and bolts flying around in orbit that could cause a disaster with an operating satellite or station. Instead, they tell a tale of other worlds.

Allegedly, there is a man and a dog who live on an asteroid orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. It is interesting that the use of a special alphabet and its decoding gives the impression that they are completely alien beings and that even their names cannot be pronounced normally. That is why they are called Ki and Ra in the book.

Ілюстрація з книги

Illustration from the book

Ki and Ra are living very well on their asteroid, and then it starts to rain on them with various pieces of iron and other debris. The problem is that humans went into space and started exploring it. And the inhabitants of the asteroids have to clean it all up.

At the same time, the Ciecierskis do not frighten readers with military satellites or evil corporations. People just want to travel to Mars as tourists, swim in the oceans of Jupiter’s moon Europa, and mine various natural treasures… As a result life for Ki and Ra becomes more and more unbearable and eventually they leave their asteroid home in search of a better life.

But this is a fairy tale and it has a happy ending. Then the events move a hundred years forward and tell how earthlings and space inhabitants together clean the solar system from debris. And this happens thanks to a book about a man and a dog sent by the inhabitants of space to people to open their eyes to what is happening.

Ілюстрація з книги

Illustration from the book

All this is without any particular realism. That’s what fairy tales are for. But it perfectly conveys to children the simple idea that even if some activity looks easy and pleasant from your point of view, it is quite possible that it disastrous for somebody nearby.

Not only space

While reading “The Great Space Clean-up”, you find yourself thinking that this book is not only about space, but also about the Earth. After all, there are many countries on our planet where tourists go to have fun, and the local population suffers from increasingly worse environmental conditions. They even have to migrate in search of a better life. One can have different attitudes to the essence of this problem and consider completely different recipes for its solution, but it is impossible to ignore it altogether.

And they even have to migrate in search of a better life. One can have different attitudes to the essence of this problem and consider completely different recipes for solving it, but one cannot ignore it at all.

Whether in space or on Earth, we simply have to take into account the by-products of our activities. After all, they do not disappear, and in fact, there are no borders that could contain them and their consequences. And it is worth explaining this to children.