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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...
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.
PRAISE FOR STAR-CROSSED ORBITS by James Oberg:
Dr. H.H. 'Jack' Schmitt, Apollo moon walker, US Senator: "A unique background and base of experience underlies this remarkable book by Jim Oberg. It is must reading for anyone who wishes to understand the culture with which one must deal when attempting to cooperate with Russia or counter its initiatives, whether peaceful or otherwise. Times change with the clock. Cultures change much more slowly if at all."
Admiral Richard Truly, Space Shuttle Astronaut and former NASA Administrator: "Jim Oberg's new book is an absolute 'must read' for those who have followed the first decades of the human exploration of space. He reveals all sorts of insider information on all sides of the relationship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, later Russia, as they attempted to forge a successful partnership in space. Of particular interest to the reader is his clear-eyed, cold-blooded look at the real costs and benefits of this joint endeavor. Don't miss this one!"
Gene Kranz, Apollo Flight Director, author of 'Failure is Not An Option': "[Star-Crossed Orbits] is a great piece of investigative journalism. [Its] detailed, comprehensive and well-documented description of the political environment that shaped the International Space Station is a service to NASA and the nation. [Oberg's] background as writer, historian, Russian space expert and former member of the Mission Operations team assures the depth and credibility needed for this work.
The events [he] describes in [his] book are as real today as they were almost a decade ago when a small band of NASA engineers and astronauts challenged the politically driven redesign of the 'Freedom' station. At that time we knew little of the forces arrayed against us as the Administrator's redesign team incorporated Russia as an in-line element of the space system and operations, violating three decades of American manned space flight experience. It is unfortunate that those responsible for the US-Russia agreements and the resultant problems in the program baseline are no longer available to be held accountable for their work. [This] book is a must read for program managers, engineers and scientists engaged in present and future projects with Russia. "
Walter Cunningham, Apollo VII Astronaut (first manned Apollo mission): "Finally, someone is telling it like it is about the Russian manned space program - the good, the bad and the ugly. The Russians pulled the wool over our eyes for decades. It continues even today, only now America is paying for it. I have relied on Jim for years because no one knows it or tells it like he does."
Frederick C. Durant III, Former Assistant Director, National Air and Space Museum: "In this reasoned indictment, James Oberg reveals the self delusional and cynically deceptive deals in which the US allowed Russia to be a controlling partner in constructing the International Space station. He details the terrible cost in time, national treasure and integrity that this caused - and how, despite these self-inflicted barriers, America's much-maligned space workers successfully built it anyway."
|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|
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!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.