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Leaving Earth: Space Stations Rival Superpowers [Hardcover]

5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 17 2003 0309085489 978-0309085489 1
Charged with the ever-present potential for danger and occasionally punctuated by terrible moments of disaster, the history of space exploration has been keenly dramatic. The recent disaster of the Space Shuttle Columbia was a sad but certain reminder that space travel is an extraordinarily dangerous occupation. Oddly enough, it often takes a tragic accident to remind us that we still have a presence in space. In the decades between triumph and tragedy we tend to ignore the fact that there have been scores of space pioneers who have risked their lives to explore our solar system. Indeed, the International Space Station is sometimes referred to as "Alpha," a moniker that implies that it is our first real permanent presence in space. But this notion is frowned upon by the Russians -- and for good reason. Prior to the construction of the controversial International Space Station, a host of daring Russian cosmonauts, and a smaller number of intrepid American astronauts, were living in space for months, some of them for over a year. In this definitive account of man's quest to become citizens of the cosmos, noted space historian Robert Zimmerman reveals the great global gamesmanship between Russian and American political leaders that drove us to the stars. Beaten to the Moon by their Cold War enemies, the Russians were intent on being first to the planets. They believed that manned space stations held the greatest promise for reaching other worlds and worked feverishly to build a viable space station program -- one that would dwarf American efforts and allow the Russians to claim the vast territories of space as their own. Although unthinkable at the time, the ponderously bureaucratic Soviet Union actually managed to overtake the United States in the space station race. Leveraging their propaganda machine and tyrannical politics to launch a series of daring, dangerous, and scientifically brilliant space exploits, their efforts not only put them far ahead of NASA, they also helped to reshape their own society, transforming it from dictatorship to democracy. At the same time, the American space program at NASA was also evolving, but not necessarily for the better. In fact, the two programs were slowly but inexorably trading places. Drawing on his vast store of knowledge about space travel, as well as hundreds of interviews with cosmonauts, astronauts, and scientists, Zimmerman has superbly captured the excitement and suspense of our recent space-traveling past. For space and history enthusiasts alike, Leaving Earth describes a rich heritage of adventure, exploration, research, and discovery.

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From Publishers Weekly

In the aftermath of the space shuttle Columbia disaster, Americans may have forgotten that for a quarter-century men and women circled Earth in space stations for as long as a year at a time. Most of these astronauts were from Russia and the Warsaw Pact countries. Zimmerman (Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8) recounts this era of space exploration, beginning with the American-Russian rivalry in the 1960s and concluding with their present-day collaboration on the International Space Station. He reminds us about the short-lived 1970s Skylab program, which was to have been followed by other U.S. space stations. Granted access to Russian archives and interviews with cosmonauts and their families, the author describes the Soviet program in great detail. The original Russian space stations, he reports, were intended primarily for propaganda and military purposes, but they also included a variety of scientific experiments and perfected the use of unmanned "freighters" to bring supplies and parts from Earth. If readers remember anything about the Russian program, it is probably the troubled final months of the Mir station, but Zimmerman describes the heroic efforts of cosmonauts to put out fires and make extended space walks to undertake complicated repairs. The Russians also conducted extensive research on the effects of living in space on the human body, research that will be invaluable for possible future travel to other planets. This book will be of interest primarily to scientists and hard-core science buffs, but it will undoubtedly be the leading book on the Russian space station program for the foreseeable future.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Space enthusiasts worried about where the manned space program is headed will take some heart from reading [this book]. ...Mr. Zimmerman shows that engineers and astronauts have the ability to survive, and even thrive in space, to conquer everything than can be thrown at them by nature and their fellows. ... Man has the ability to travel to the stars. The haunting question Mr. Zimmerman leaves us with is, does he have the will?" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Crazed Cosmonauts out in the Cosmos! March 11 2004
One of two aspects of Mr. Zimmerman's book that most reviewers seem to have missed is his recounting of the many errors, problems, and dilemmas, large and small, trivial and hazardous, that the cosmonauts encountered. Mysteriously missing antennae, fogged-over helmet visors, balky space ship hatches and no power are just some of the hardships that had to be surmounted.
Another aspect of the book is the recounting of the many personality conflicts between the cosmonauts. Grueling work schedules, close quarters, and differing backgrounds of the cosmonauts drove wedges between the crew members. Oftentimes they would just stop speaking to each other. Other times, the crew member with the higher ranking would pull rank in the most inconsiderate manner.
I found the examination of these weaknesses (structural and psychological) to be fascinating. They brought a human element to the book and made it a very interesting recounting. The same holds true for the examination of how politics, economics, and the fall of the Soviet government changed the Russian space program.
I highly recommend this enjoyable and informative book
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5.0 out of 5 stars Leaving Earth: An exceptional book! Jan. 30 2004
Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel by Robert Zimmerman is an exciting and exceptional space history book, filled with insights, well-documented research and important facts and information. Not only has Zimmerman accurately described the original Soviet space program, its evolution to the present day Russian space program that is largely more free-enterprise driven than our own space program, he shows how and explains why our own space program, as managed by NASA and Congress, looks more and more like a centrally planned government program supported by like-kind government policy. Zimmerman's research has been carefully documented and made available to the readers. His focus on space station history, the politics of manned space flight, and his subsequent analysis of both is second to none. As our current administration moves forward with its new comprehensive space policy initiative, what Zimmerman has to say takes on an even higher level of importance. I firmly believe that by reading and understanding Leaving Earth, it will be easier to move forward, to advocate quality space programs and development, and to facilitate our becoming space-faring. (Host of the radio talk show, The Space Show).
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Short History of Long Duration Space Flight Nov. 9 2003
By skyrat
Zimmerman has crafted a compelling history of long duration space flight. By necessity, the story is 80% Soviet / Russian. Zimmerman must have tapped into some new sources for material as there are plenty of new revelations of both good and bad aspects from inside the Soviet program. I was especially impressed by Zimmerman's treatment of the underlying political machinations, both Soviet / Russian and American, and their effects on each country's space exploration program (and bonus: one of the few balanced accounts of Reaganomics!) The diagrams of the various stations are excellent, and you will find yourself constantly referring back to them as Zimmerman takes you through each station's growth and evolution.
On the down side, there is only one chapter devoted to all three Skylab missions, and I couldn't help but wish this received more attention. Additionally, the volume suffers from a lack of any photographs whatsoever.
All in all, this volume still ranks as one of the best factual accounts of manned space flight that I have read. It is an excellent companion to Burrough's "Dragonfly" and Burrows' "This New Ocean."
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Space History Must Read Dec 21 2003
Having just finished this book , I must say I was greatly astonished. I have read almost everything on the American space program and what little has been written on the Soviet/Russian program. I apparently knew very little of the incredibly brave and tenacious Russian program. What a great story of risk, perseverence, personalities and achivement. This book casts their accomplishments in a whole new light. To say it again; I was astonished. Robert Zimmerman tells this story in a wonderfully readable and dynamic way. It was hard to put the book down.This is also the sad story of how NASA has become a beaurucratic do nothing agency since the glory days of Apollo and Skylab. Zimmerman also writes with an eye toward future journeys to Mars and beyond that gave me hope that someday we will really go!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A seamless recounting of methodical discoveries Dec 11 2003
Award-winning essayist Robert Zimmerman presents Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, And The Quest For Interplanetary Travel, the scientific and historical saga of humanity's efforts to reach out into the cosmos, and ranges from the space satellites of the Cold War era; to modern-day exploits and advances in the exploration of space; the efforts and tragedies of NASA, and more. A seamless recounting of methodical discoveries and political maneuverings alike, Leaving Earth is a super contemporary history and a welcome contribution to the History of Science reference collections in general, and Space Exploration reading lists in particular.
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