Ambassadors from Earth
Pioneering Explorations with Unmanned Spacecraft
By Jay Gallentine
(University of Nebraska Press, Hardcover, 9780803222205, 522pp.)
Publication Date: November 2009
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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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 occasional bright spot. Confessed one participant, “We were making it up as we went along.”
Jay Gallentine is a film and video engineer with a lifelong interest in space exploration.
"Many space buffs, especially young ones, should find this a satisfying narrative."—Publishers Weekly
"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
"[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
"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
"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