The Red Rockets' Glare: Spaceflight and the Soviet Imagination, 1857-1957

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The Red Rockets’ Glare is the first academic study on the birth of the Soviet space program and one of the first social histories of Soviet science. Based on many years of archival research, the book situates the birth of cosmic enthusiasm within the social and cultural upheavals of Russian and Soviet history. Asif A. Siddiqi frames the origins of Sputnik by bridging imagination with engineering – seeing them not as dialectic, discrete, and sequential but as mutable, intertwined, and concurrent. Imagination and engineering not only fed each other but were also co-produced by key actors who maintained a delicate line between secret work on rockets (which interested the military) and public prognostications on the cosmos (which captivated the populace). Sputnik, he argues, was the outcome of both large-scale state imperatives to harness science and technology and populist phenomena that frequently owed little to the whims and needs of the state apparatus.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Asif Siddiqi, who has already written the best books on the Soviet space effort, has now given us a wonderful exploration of the social and cultural dimensions of this effort; he has given voice to those on the periphery: the populist phenomena of utopian ideas and popular imagination.” – Loren Graham, Professor Emeritus of the History of Science, MIT, and currently Research Associate, Harvard University

“This is an excellent book. Examining the roots of Soviet success in space exploration, Asif Siddiqi writes about Konstantin Tsiolkovski – a humble Russian schoolteacher who became one of the greatest dreamers in the world and changed it forever. Siddiqi writes about people who paved the road in space – the bumpy road through Stalin’s GULAG toward worldwide recognition. This is the story of people who made history.” – Sergei Khrushchev, rocket scientist and now Senior Fellow, Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute for International Studies, Brown University

“Asif Siddiqi’s book is a pathbreaking work in the history of rocketry and spaceflight and the history of Soviet science and technology. Superbly written and based on fundamentally new archival research, The Red Rockets’ Glare illuminates the complex origins of spaceflight enthusiasm in Russia and the USSR in the century before the launch of Sputnik. It is destined to become the classic work on the origin of the Soviet space program.” – Michael J. Neufeld, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

“Asif Siddiqi is to be commended for gathering such an impressive array of secondary sources, memoirs, and newly discovered archival materials to describe the origins and evolution of the Soviet rocketry program. This is an innovative and significant contribution to both Russian history and the history of spaceflight.” – Scott Palmer, Western Illinois University

"...a book that forces a reconsideration not just of Sputnik, but of the broader categories of Soviet science and socialist science that dominated professional scholarship on both sides of the Iron Curtain during much of the Cold War and beyond." – Ethan Pollack, Times Literary Supplement

"Asif Siddiqi has written the most important book on the history of Russian technology since Kendall Bailes's 1978 Technology and Society under Lenin and Stalin. Like Bailes, Siddiqi interweaves social and political history with the narrative of technology development, making this volume essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the interplay of science, technology, and Russian society in the twentieth century." – Harley Balzer, Technology and Culture

"Siddiqi's book provides an indispensable and valuable resource for historians interested in a richly nuanced picture of Soviet space triumph." -Andrew L. Jenks, The Russian Review

"Based on massive research in the Russian Academy of Sciences archive; the economic, military, and scientific-documentation archives of the Soviet state; and a huge amount of published material, Red Rocket’s Glare not only tells its fascinating story well, but is of such high intellectual rigor as to transcend the boundaries of several historical categories and genres." -Lewis H. Siegelbaum, The Journal of Modern History

" extraordinary social and cultural history of Soviet space science that opens new ways of thinking about popular science in communist contexts." -Sigrid Schmalzer, Historical Studies of the Natural Sciences

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521897600
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2010
  • Series: Cambridge Centennial of Flight Series
  • Pages: 414
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Asif A. Siddiqi is an Assistant Professor of History at Fordham University. He specializes in the social and cultural history of modern Russia and the history of science and technology. His work has been supported by the American Historical Association, the Smithsonian Institution, the Social Science Research Council, the National Science Foundation, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His prior book, Challenge to Apollo: The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945–1974 (2000), received a number of awards including a citation by the Wall Street Journal as one of the best books ever written on space exploration. He received his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University and currently lives in New York.

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Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. A space for science and a science for space; 2. 'Grief and genius'; 3. Imagining the cosmos; 4. Local action, state imperatives; 5. 'All of this requires investigation'; 6. Russians in Germany; 7. Cold War and the creation of the Soviet ICBM; 8. Fellow travelers; 9. Launching Sputnik; Conclusion.

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