It appears that in the Cyberpunk 2020 alternate history, space travel developed as it should have rather than stagnate after the Moon landings. There's a whole lot more up there than the International Space Station to play with, and here's the book to make it happen, starting off with the history of how they reached the current position and what's to be found on orbit and beyond. Mars and the Moon host thriving colonies and there's a lot of orbital habitats on orbit - factories, military outposts and the like. The European Space Agency (ESA) controls the Moon, and both ESA and NASA have bases on Mars. The asteroid belt is being mined, often by crazy daredevil freelancers. The historical timeline shows that all this development has not been devoid of bickering and even outright warfare, including rebellion of the 'highriders' living in ESA orbital facilities which broke free of their control. Russians and Japanese are also found operating in space, and several Corporations have a foothold as well, including the International Electric Corporation (IEC) and the Utopian Corporation (UC), a spin-off from Mircotech. There are over forty space facilities on Earth from which missions can be launched and conrtolled.
The final part of the first section is a table of communication lags between different parts of the solar system. But space is more dangerous than that, as the next section The Environment of Space conveys. There are three critical factors governing life in space: atmosphere, radiation and gravity. Neglect any of these at your peril. Atmosphere, of course, covers pressure as well as having the right stuff to breathe. Tucked away are the rules for when things go wrong, neatly added in so as not to divert the narrative. Due to the need to maintain pressure, guns are not welcome in space. If you need to defend yourself with lethal force, use a knife or your bare hands. Characters born and raised in space have a completely different attitude to gravity than those coming from dirtside. There's no magic here, if you want gravity in a micro-g environment, you have to apply spin, and the lack thereof has physical consequences. I've not mentioned radiation at all, that's plain nasty!
This is followed by a section on Getting around the Solar System. It covers the four main types of spacecraft: surface-to-orbit, orbital transfer vehicles, surface-to-space and deep space ships (which are still in development). All the vehicles presented are quite plausible. Drive systems, computers and even weapons are discussed in some detail, along with the running costs of maintaining your own spacecraft. SPace travel is expensive even if you just want to take a single journey. There's a fair bit about navigation as well as space combat. Don't. Just don't.
There's a section on Equipment and Weapons which starts with that all-important accessory, the space suit, which of course includes a list of the ways they can fail and what to do about it. Manoeuvering units, vehicles, and specialised tools for use in space are also included. There's also a slew of handy things no sensible spacer leaves home without, and plenty survival gear. Don't skimp here! For the violent, there's a selection of weapons that will work in space, hopefully without killing you as well.
Next, Artificial Habitats describes the wide range of places you can live and work in out in the black ranging from workshacks (about the size of the ISS) to the vast orbital stations like Crystal Palace, a couple of kilometers across and able to house tens of thousands, and then of course there are the bases on the Moon and Mars.
Finally Living and Working in Space introduces Highrider culture, the unique culture developed by those who live in space, rather than visit it. For one thing, they don't drink, smoke or do drugs much, preferring a clear head and clear atmsophere. They find their own pleasures in story telling, braindance simulations- a shared virtual reality - and custom drugs that give a quick effect but leave the mind unclouded. Most Cyberpunk Roles can adapt well to space, and there are details about the sort of work that's available... plus a few new skills to make it more feasible. There are notes on food and drink, politics and the main corporations to work for (or against) too.
But there's more, a whole adventure in space. Called Red Conflict, it can serve to introduce an existing party to life in space... but will probably be a one-way trip. Or it could be the start of a whole new campaign. The possibilities are as limitless as space itself.
Oveerall this book is excellent with loads of potential for exciting adventure yet thoroughly grounded in technology that is plausible and physics that is real.
[5 of 5 Stars!]