Star-Crossed Orbits: Inside The U.S.-Russian Space Alliance: Inside The U.S.-Russian Space Alliance [NOOK Book]


On October 4, 1957, taking the whole world by surprise, the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellite into the starry heavens and the great Space Race was on. In the decades that followed, the post-Sputnik boom pitted the U.S. and Soviet space programs against each other in a race for headlines, hasty glories, and real prizes. It was a marathon plagued by misinformation, suspicion, and rumor. And while the headlines have endured in our patriotic memory, the hidden consequences of hollow triumphs still shape our...

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Star-Crossed Orbits: Inside The U.S.-Russian Space Alliance: Inside The U.S.-Russian Space Alliance

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On October 4, 1957, taking the whole world by surprise, the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellite into the starry heavens and the great Space Race was on. In the decades that followed, the post-Sputnik boom pitted the U.S. and Soviet space programs against each other in a race for headlines, hasty glories, and real prizes. It was a marathon plagued by misinformation, suspicion, and rumor. And while the headlines have endured in our patriotic memory, the hidden consequences of hollow triumphs still shape our attitudes and beliefs today, in an era of so-called cooperation.

With great fanfare, this 36-year Space Race officially ended in 1993, and in its place the U.S.-Russian space alliance was born. But beneath all the official rhetoric of a bold new era of space exploration, the "marriage made in the heavens" has been fraught with the same pitfalls of misunderstanding, suspicion, and high-level chicanery that started with Sputnik--souvenirs of the misperceptions and delusions of the Cold War that threaten to drag down the alliance and the space programs of several other nations with it.

In Star-Crossed Orbits, space veteran and best-selling author James Oberg combines riveting personal memoir with top-notch investigative journalism to tell the complete untold story of the U.S.-Russian space alliance, describing the strengths and weaknesses of each side and revealing, for the first time, the full story of Russia's decaying space program, the dangerous secrets it kept from its American partners, and the ultimate cost of NASA's all-too-often self-imposed ignorance about its "space partner."

A space sleuth with unparalleled access to official Russian archives, facilities, and key individuals, Oberg leads the reader through the attics of the Russian space program to uncover the greed, corruption, and covered-up setbacks that have brought the program to virtual collapse. He describes the U.S.-Mir venture and NASA's reluctance to learn from its lessons. He explores the "jewel in the crown" of the alliance, the International Space Station, a project begun with the best intentions, but which is now in danger of running aground on reefs of self-delusion. Finally, in an impassioned plea, Oberg urges the alliance to "break free of the star-crossed orbits of misperception that bind us to the ground." Only then, insists the author, will we be truly allied, with a reach that can grasp the stars.

"Space is empty, but it is not a blank slate. Travelers there must carry their own air, food, and water, but they also carry the heavy burden of their history. They carry with them what they know, or think they know, about each other. So for the last half century, as Russia and America pioneered the space frontier beyond the physical boundaries of their home planet, they interacted with each other in a context that was rooted firmly back on Earth."­­from the Introduction

Tensions have run high between the U.S. and Russian space programs since Sputnik first winked across the night sky in 1957. Thirty-six years later, after a chilly race for space, the U.S.-Russian space alliance was born. And while the alliance aims for a bold new era of space exploration and cooperation, this "marriage made in the heavens" has been plagued from the start by misunderstanding, suspicion, high-level chicanery, and outright official lies.

Now, space shuttle veteran and Russian space program expert James Oberg provides an authoritative and comprehensive look inside the history of the relationship between the U.S. and Russian space programs, and the current state of "cooperation" that exists between the two. In a compelling narrative, interweaving policy analysis, technical description, and no small amount of human drama, Oberg tells the complete untold story of this shaky marriage for the first time, revealing the dangerous secrets that threaten to tear the alliance apart.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Inaccurate perceptions over the efficacy of the Russian space program long fueled the U.S.-Russian space race and are now driving current cooperation efforts, Oberg argues in this insider account. A self-described lifelong space nut and an expert on the Russian space program, Oberg shows that despite U.S. fear over the Soviet Union's achievements in space, the failed missions during communism's decay were nothing new: the U.S.S.R. had simply covered up their earlier mistakes, such as fires aboard Soviet space stations. And not surprisingly, these mistakes only multiplied as funding for the Soviet space program dried up in the late 1980s and early '90s. But Oberg has a larger ax to grind here joint space efforts. Since the mid-1970s, the U.S. and the Soviet Union increasingly tried to cooperate in space; Oberg opposes this teamwork for two reasons, the first being that space cooperation didn't produce the mutual understanding it was supposed to. He's on solid ground here, particularly when he discusses the communist era. But what really seems to gnaw at him is that cooperation has become NASA's major justification for space missions. As he puts it, "If the Russians aren't involved, the project shouldn't occur" is the prevailing attitude. While Oberg includes interesting information about past and future space programs, he fails to provide enough fodder to convince the non-space enthusiast that pursuing new U.S.-manned flights to the moon or even Mars is worth the time or the money. (Nov.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Oberg (Uncovering Soviet Disasters: Exploring the Limits of Glasnost), a former NASA contract employee, believes that Russia (and before it the Soviet Union) has cooperated with the United States on space missions not to promote international goodwill or advance scientific research but rather to secure funding for its own space program, maintain a continued presence in the international space market, and obtain access to U.S. technology. The U.S.-Russian space partnership, which occurred in 1993 when the "Space Race" finally ended, has cost the United States billions, and return on the investment has been minimal. The author blames primarily NASA, accusing the agency of overlooking significant cultural differences that hinder cooperation between the two nations, passively accepting delayed deliveries of overpriced and possibly unsafe space equipment, ignoring the lessons learned during previous cooperative ventures, and covering up its own errors and inefficiencies. Yet, sour as he may seem, Oberg still believes that the United States and Russia could have a promising future as space partners provided both nations bring realistic expectations to the relationship. For this work of investigative journalism, Oberg had access to Russian agencies, people, and archives relating to the space program. For academic and larger public libraries. Nancy R. Curtis, Univ. of Maine Lib., Orono Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780071418119
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education
  • Publication date: 10/17/2001
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • File size: 521 KB

Meet the Author

James Oberg was a space engineer for 22 years in NASA's mission control in Houston. He has been the space consultant for ABC News, United Press International, and several foreign networks. Oberg is widely recognized as a world authority on the Russian space program, and he has been invited on several occasions to testify before Congress on the problems facing the Russian space industry. He is the author of 10 books, including the classic, Red Star in Orbit, and about a thousand magazine and newspaper articles on all aspects of space flight.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
Chapter 1 Zenith 17
Chapter 2 History 33
Chapter 3 Decaying Orbit 51
Chapter 4 International Orbits 65
Chapter 5 Origins of the Partnership 83
Chapter 6 Mir Breakdowns 97
Chapter 7 Mir Screw-Ups 115
Chapter 8 The Mir Safety Debate 133
Chapter 9 Rescue and Recovery 149
Chapter 10 Lessons Learned and Unlearned 165
Chapter 11 Soyuz Secrets 185
Chapter 12 ISS in the Wilderness 199
Chapter 13 Culture Gap 215
Chapter 14 Staking Out the Orbit 231
Chapter 15 Follow the Money 249
Chapter 16 ISS Opens 261
Chapter 17 Last Days of Mir 277
Chapter 18 Day-by-Day in Orbit 295
Chapter 19 Future Orbits 309
Notes 329
Name Index 345
Subject Index 351
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2001


    This is a brilliant book! The author takes you into the grimy diplomatic/political heart of the US/Russian space cooperation, and shows you the REAL story behind all the happy talk from NASA. It's full of great personalities, funny and absurd facts, great insightful observations from a real pro who knows his subject. Every diplomat, politician, technology person, and common citizen should read it before we embark on any more international technology cooperations. Oberg's writing is sparkling and splendid, never turgid, technical, and boring like most space books. I hope it wins the Pulitzer Prize!

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