Ambassadors from Earth: Pioneering Explorations with Unmanned Spacecraft

Overview

Rewind to the 1950s and ponder: was America’s first satellite really built by a college student? How did a small band of underappreciated Russian engineers get pictures of the moon’s far side—using stolen American film? As the 1960s progressed, consider: how the heck did people learn to steer a spacecraft using nothing but gravity? And just how were humans able to goose a spaceship through a thirty-year journey to the literal edge of our solar system?

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Overview

Rewind to the 1950s and ponder: was America’s first satellite really built by a college student? How did a small band of underappreciated Russian engineers get pictures of the moon’s far side—using stolen American film? As the 1960s progressed, consider: how the heck did people learn to steer a spacecraft using nothing but gravity? And just how were humans able to goose a spaceship through a thirty-year journey to the literal edge of our solar system?

Ambassadors from Earth relates the story of the first unmanned space probes and planetary explorers—from the Sputnik and Explorer satellites launched in the late 1950s to the thrilling interstellar Voyager missions of the '70s—that yielded some of the most celebrated successes and spectacular failures of the space age. Keep in mind that our first mad scrambles to reach orbit, the moon, and the planets were littered with enough histrionics and cliffhanging turmoil to rival the most far-out sci-fi film. Utilizing original interviews with key players, bolstered by never-before-seen photographs, journal excerpts, and primary source documents, Jay Gallentine delivers a quirky and unforgettable look at the lives and legacy of the Americans and Soviets who conceived, built, and guided those unmanned missions to the planets and beyond. Of special note is his in-depth interview with James Van Allen, the discoverer of the rings of planetary radiation that now bear his name.

Ambassadors from Earth is an engaging bumper-car ride through a fog of head-banging uncertainty, bleeding-edge technology, personality clashes, organizational frustrations, brutal schedules, and the occasionalbright spot. Confessed one participant, “We were making it up as we went along.”

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Editorial Reviews

NPR

"Ambassadors is written in an accessible and engaging style, introducing readers to behind-the-scenes players most of us have never heard of."—Russell Lewis, NPR

— Russell Lewis

Air & Space Magazine

"[Ambassadors from Earth] offers an accessible account of the U.S. and Soviet planetary missions of the Space Race era, as well as the more widespread efforts of more recent times."—Roger Launius, Air & Space Magazine

— Roger Launius

Spaceflight

"Utilising original interviews with key players, bolstered by never-before-seen photographs, journal excerpts, and primary source documents, Gallentine delivers a quirky and unforgettable look at the lives and legacy of the Americans and Soviets who conceived, built, and guided those unmanned missions to the planets and beyond."—Philip Corneille, Spaceflight

— Philip Corneille

Publishers Weekly

"Many space buffs, especially young ones, should find this a satisfying narrative."—Publishers Weekly

Quest

"This book provides a wonderful way of renewing interest in the pioneering contributions of the robotic space programs pursued by the United States and the Soviet Union."—De Witt Douglas Kilgore, Quest

— De Witt Douglas Kilgore

Spaceflight - Philip Corneille

"Utilising original interviews with key players, bolstered by never-before-seen photographs, journal excerpts, and primary source documents, Gallentine delivers a quirky and unforgettable look at the lives and legacy of the Americans and Soviets who conceived, built, and guided those unmanned missions to the planets and beyond."—Philip Corneille, Spaceflight
Publishers Weekly
Gallentine, a film and video engineer and a lifelong space buff, tells tales about the exciting early days of unmanned space exploration in this sprawling account. From Sputnik through James Van Allen and his assistant George Ludwig's discovery, with a tape recorder, of massive amounts of radioactivity above the atmosphere, to the two Voyager missions with their gold-plated Rosetta stones, many lifelong space buffs will know Gallentine's story by heart. What makes his account special is the amount of access he had to Van Allen and Ludwig, who shared previously unknown details of their early collaboration. Gallentine is also very well informed about the movers and shakers in the Soviet space program and its epic achievements. Some readers may be put off by Gallentine's informal tone (his use of “egad” makes it sound as if he just stepped out of The Music Man) as well as by his re-creation of conversations and even thoughts. It would have helped, too, if Gallentine had tied past lessons to future space exploration. Nevertheless, many space buffs, especially young ones, should find this a satisfying narrative. 50 photos and illus. (Nov.)
NPR - Russell Lewis

"Ambassadors is written in an accessible and engaging style, introducing readers to behind-the-scenes players most of us have never heard of."—Russell Lewis, NPR
Air & Space Magazine - Roger Launius

"[Ambassadors from Earth] offers an accessible account of the U.S. and Soviet planetary missions of the Space Race era, as well as the more widespread efforts of more recent times."—Roger Launius, Air & Space Magazine
Quest - De Witt Douglas Kilgore

"This book provides a wonderful way of renewing interest in the pioneering contributions of the robotic space programs pursued by the United States and the Soviet Union."—De Witt Douglas Kilgore, Quest
Rob Manning

“Gallentine's book weaves highly accessible and rich tales of the lives of some of the passionate pioneers behind these space machines. Flooded with details that reveal the contingent and fragile nature of these adventures, Ambassadors from Earth reminds us that behind the scenes in these exciting enterprises are genuine human beings who struggle to make something work. Read this and be inspired.”—Rob Manning, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Program chief engineer
Louis Friedman

“An exciting, engrossing tale of the early days of space flight—capturing the human drama with its inside look at the competitors in the space race reaching for the Moon, Venus, Mars and beyond. It’s like listening to the stories of the sailors on Captain Cook’s voyages as they discovered new worlds.”—Louis Friedman, executive director, the Planetary Society
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803222205
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2009
  • Series: Outward Odyssey: A People's History of S
  • Pages: 500
  • Sales rank: 588,396
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Jay Gallentine is a space historian who strives to tell never-before-heard stories of the space age in a lightheartedly appealing, readable, and nontechnical style.
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