The countdown is on to the holidays!
If you have a space exploration enthusiast in your life (or you are the space buff looking to drop hints for your family and friends), your mission now is to find gifts that are sure to launch some holiday cheer.
5. 'Tis the season to... test flight
NASA's "first step into deep space," which launched Dec. 5, may be the space agency's highest-profile mission since the end of the space shuttle program three years ago. The Orion Exploration Flight Test-1(EFT-1) sent NASA's next-generation crew capsule 15 times farther out than the International Space Station to test critical systems for the journey to Mars.
The timing of the test flight makes mission mementos the perfect present, and you didn't need to be at the launch to score some souvenirs.
ShopNASA.com, the employee exchange store at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, offers shirts, hats, pins and even EFT-1 ornaments. AB Emblem, the embroidered insignia manufacturer for NASA since 1970, has the Orion EFT-1 mission patch for sale, too.
Orion EFT-1 ornament from ShopNASA.com - $36 • Orion EFT-1 patch from AB Emblem at space.abemblem.com - $6
4. It's a Wonderful Space Race
In the new multiplayer strategy game "Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager: Road to the Moon," you choose a side in the historic space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and run a space agency with one goal in mind: be the first to the moon!
Developed in consultation with the Apollo 11 moonwalker, "Space Program Manager" (SPM) also offers a third side to take in the contest, the fictional "Global Space Agency," combining the space programs from around the world. A "Buzz-opedia" provides background information on the real programs, missions and hardware featured throughout the game.
Available in boxed or downloadable editions, SPM is also offered on the digital game platform Steam. A PC version of the SPM is available now, with Mac, IOS and Android versions announced.
Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager: Road to the Moon from Slitherine at slitherine.com - $45 (boxed), $30 (download)
3. Do you see what they saw?
Two new photo-filled books offer an astronaut's eye — and an eye on the astronauts' — view of spaceflight.
In "You Are Here: Around the World In 92 Minutes," Chris Hadfield offers an orbital tour of our home planet as if you and he were floating beside a window on the International Space Station and he was pointing out the features below. The 200-page book includes Hadfield's favorite photos out of the tens of thousands he took while onboard the orbiting outpost.
Photographer Michael Soluri has not been to space, but his subjects have in his book, "Infinite Worlds: The People and Places of Space Exploration." Invited to go behind the scenes by the astronauts who serviced NASA's Hubble Space Telescope for the final time, Soluri delivers a stunning and unprecedented look at the team and tools that enabled the world's most famous imaging instrument.
"You Are Here" by Chris Hadfield from Little, Brown & Co. - $26 • "Infinite Worlds" by Michael Soluri from Simon and Schuster - $40
2. Light this candle
Although its first launch is not planned for several holiday seasons to come, this is the first year that a scale model of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket has been offered. In August, the space agency committed to building the SLSto have it ready to fly by no later than November 2018.
Standing 1.5 feet (0.46 meters) tall, Toys and Models' desktop 1:200 SLS was cast from a 3D-printed model provided by Boeing, the company building the real booster. The SLS, which evokes both the Saturn V rocket and space shuttle, is expected to launch astronauts to an asteroid and onto Mars on the first flights beyond Earth orbit since Apollo.
Space Launch System 1:200 scale model from Toys and Models Corp. at toysandmodels.com - $160
1. A new Year In Space
In March 2015, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos will begin the first yearlong stay aboard the International Space Station. The expedition will collect the data needed to support longer human missions out into the solar system.
You can track their 12-month missionand your own with The Year In Space calendar, published in cooperation with The Planetary Society. The large-format, richly illustrated wall calendar features multiple space images each month, facts about space exploration and astronomy, daily moon phases and historic dates in space history.
The Year In Space wall calendar from The Year In Space at yearinspace.com - $17.95 (also available as a desk calendar - $13.95)
Click through to collectSPACE.com for links to order all the gifts mentioned in this guide.