Ambassadors from Earth: Pioneering Explorations with Unmanned Spacecraft

Ambassadors from Earth: Pioneering Explorations with Unmanned Spacecraft

by Jay Gallentine


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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.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780803249233
Publisher: UNP - Nebraska Paperback
Publication date: 06/01/2014
Series: Outward Odyssey: A People's History of Spaceflight Series
Pages: 520
Sales rank: 313,974
Product dimensions: 8.70(w) x 5.70(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Jay Gallentine is a film and video engineer with a lifelong interest in space exploration.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations



1. Aboard the Glacier

2. Problem Child

3. The Convict

4. Light Fuse, GET AWAY

5. New Moon

6. Let's Make a Deal

7. The Creators and the Makers

8. Storming the Sea of Dreams

9. Moving at the Speed of Design

10. Job Number MA-11

11. The Science and the Cyclist

12. Get off the Bus

13. Swing in Time

14. The Meeting and the Mechta

15. Think like Gravity

16. Didn't They Get It?

17. The Death and the Funeral

18. One Hundred Percent Failure

19. Three-Problem Shipley

20. Pete and Al's Little Field Trip

21. Irradiated Plans

22. Embarking

23. Get It

24. Instant Science

25. Circles of Gold

26. Last Light

27. Continuum



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Ambassadors from Earth: Pioneering Explorations with Unmanned Spacecraft 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
kashicat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you've got even moderate interest in the history of humanity's space exploration, get ready for a fantastic flight. Jay Gallentine, a film and video professional in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has produced what might just be the definitive history, "Ambassadors From Earth: Pioneering Explorations with Unmanned Spacecraft." From the earliest days, both in the USSR and the US, Gallentine traces the history of space exploration in great detail, scientist by scientist, development by development, scientific decision by political decision. And of course, failure after failure after smashing success.When you read that description, you may think such a book would be kind of dull history, simply recounting events, dates, and names. But you couldn¿t be more mistaken. Yes, Gallentine researched all those things to within an inch of their lives, interviewing countless participants, reading reports and mountains of documents, collecting photographs (some never seen before), and so on. So all the important details are here. But with his casual, conversational style and keen storytelling ability, he brings everything to life as an absolutely riveting tale.Starting with James Van Allen¿s discovery of the earth's radiation belts, then backtracking to the first development of rockets by Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States during World War Two, the tale initially breaks into two main branches, following teams of scientists in the USSR and the US as they race to find ways of getting a satellite into space, followed by a living being. Much of the American history is well-known if you look in the right places, but Gallentine presents information from the Soviet side that nobody on this side of the Iron Curtain has known before. The book would be worth reading for that alone.Yet even on "this side," the public never knew the hair-tearing frustrations so many scientists lived with as they wrestled to get rockets off the ground, then were requited to deal with budgets, radiation, fuel loads, and how to fit cameras and experimental equipment into the smallest space possible that would still let them work optimally. Nor did most of us know how about the behind-the-scenes political work, either struggling to get politicians on their side or, sometimes worse, having them on their side and then having to live up to impossible demands and deadlines. (Khrushchev wants a six-month already-impossible satellite schedule moved up three months to coincide with a significant Soviet anniversary? No problem!)Occasionally Gallentine¿s style gets just a bit too "gosh darnit" for comfort. But those brief moments are quickly forgotten as he sweeps into the next big development, and then the casual style puts you right in the moment. As an example, take this description of the discussions about whether a ship like Voyager could even get through the asteroid belt:"Only three years beforehand some of the greatest minds in planetary science had locked themselves in rooms and sweatily banged their fists on the table and decidedly proclaimed that it couldn¿t be done. PhD¿s hung in the room like cigarette smoke. With neckties loosened and veins popping, the researchers tore into their paperwork and flip charts and frenetically squabbled. Papers flew. Nobody stopped talking. They drank gallons of coffee, hurled brimstone and lightning bolts, and preached sermons of destruction."Gallentine brings the main characters in the space race vividly to life, putting you on the edge of your seat as the story progresses, even though you already know how it turned out. And as he reaches the crescendo of the story, the brilliant performance of the two Voyager spacecraft in exploring the outer planets, you can hardly breathe as you wait with the scientists in heart-stopping suspense to see whether the cameras and instruments that worked so well at Jupiter would perform more wonders as they approached Saturn...then Uranus...then Neptune...If you love the idea of space exploration