Leaving Earth: Space Stations Rival Superpowers Hardcover – Oct 17 2003
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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.
About the Author
Robert Zimmerman is an award-winning science writer and historian whose work has appeared in "Natural History," the "Wall Street Journal," and "Astronomy," among other leading publications. His books include "Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel" and "Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8."
Top Customer Reviews
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
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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