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Ambassadors from Earth: Pioneering Explorations with Unmanned Spacecraft (Outward Odyssey: A People's History of Spaceflight) Hardcover – 24 Nov 2009


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (24 Nov 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803222203
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803222205
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16.4 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,021,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"The story of unmanned planetary exploration deserves retelling to each new generation---and it has found an expert chronicler in Jay Gallentine. His lively, readable, and expertly researched book documents this saga from its roots in WWII to the latest findings-presenting both the human and the technological dimensions of our ventures into space." --Jon Lomberg, Design Director, Voyager Interstellar Record

"An exciting, engrossing tale of the early days of space flight---capturing the human drama with its inside look at the competitors in the space race reaching for the Moon, Venus, Mars and beyond. It's like listening to the stories of the sailors on Captain Cook's voyages as they discovered new worlds." --Louis Friedman, executive director, the Planetary Society

"Gallentine's book weaves highly accessible and rich tales of the lives of some of the passionate pioneers behind these space machines. Flooded with details that reveal the contingent and fragile nature of these adventures, Ambassadors from Earth reminds us that behind the scenes in these exciting enterprises are genuine human beings who struggle to make something work. Read this and be inspired." --Rob Manning, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Program chief engineer

About the Author

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

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Philip Corneille on 29 Sep 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ambassadors From Earth - Pioneering Explorations with Unmanned Spacecraft
Jay Gallentine
University of Nebraska Press, 2009, 544 pp, £ 23.99 (HB)
ISBN 978-0-8032-2220-5

Ambassadors from Earth is the fifth book in the Outward Odyssey - A People's History of Spaceflight series and chronicles the early history of unmanned robotic satellites and planetary probes, from Sputnik & Explorer through Pioneer & Voyager. The author focused on the genuine backroom people, who solved technical problems and struggled to make things work. An interesting insight in the human drama of passionate pioneers, that took place during the cold war's space race between the Soviet Union and the United States of America. Jay Gallentine managed to capture the human and technological aspects of the competitors in this space race for the Moon, Venus, Mars, the outer planets and beyond.
Thanks to in depth details, readers become aware that an unmanned space probe is a very sophisticated thing so a lot of people are involved in spacecraft & mission design, engineering & scientific instruments, guidance & control, onboard propulsion, power supply, computers & data handling, telecommunications, launch vehicle integration, Earth-based support systems, and many planetary scientists to analyze the returned data.
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A good general read , that introduces some fascinating missions to space without any spam in the can - if you are interested in space exploration worth the effort but beware - if you are easily irritated by America the Beautiful sentiment and poor standards of language . Sadly Jay Gallentines mangling of the English Language and use of football jock dumbed down prose is irritating as it obstructs and damages the narrative - for example Korolev and the the Russian design Bureau apparently battled with ..." secondary projects that multiplied like horny bunnies" pg 63 - oh dear me - Andrew Chaikin or Frances French and Colin Burgess where are you when we need you ? I would rather read into the shadow of the moon or Into that silent sea or Cadburys Space Race .. For better writing and a wider perspective - here is an American space race historian glossing over Von Brauns use of Slave Labour and the devastation wreaked on London by the V2 (Gallentine offensively underplays this for comic effect ). Poor writing aside however it does illuminate some of the characters of un manned exploration and is very absorbing . At times you can loose yourself in the wonders of satellite exploration - if you can go with the teenage potboiler passages there is a reward to be gained - but learn to write for adults Mr Gallentine and take off your all American high school blinkers - it would help your cause not hinder it Dave Hawkes
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 15 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
"The Right Stuff" For Unmanned Spaceflight 28 Sep 2009
By nprev - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Ambassadors From Earth" provides a panaoramic overview of the early days of spaceflight that is free of official spin and loaded with insider details. The author took the rare opportunity to conduct in-depth interviews of the surviving pioneers of this heady era, and produced a highly readable and entertaining historical record of the very human mistakes, egoes, politics, and flashes of sheer genius that put us on the road to the stars.

Featuring previously unprinted photographs from the author's own collection, the book also provides one of the best accounts yet written in the West of the Soviet efforts behind Sputnik and other early probes, warts and all. This would never--COULD never--have been revealed during the Cold War.

If anything, the book is too short for the sheer number of topics it covers. Many of the discrete projects of the era, such as the struggle of the US Ranger program, are worthy of books unto themselves. The work is of considerable value in its own right as a study of the development of systems engineering processes and quality control that have become the standard guiding practices of the aerospace industry, and indeed of project management in general.

"Ambassadors" is a must-read for historians, project managers, and anyone else interested in truly understanding the toil behind the nearly miraculous achievement of of unmanned spaceflight, which now influences literally every aspect of our lives.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A definitive history of unmanned space exploration 24 Dec 2009
By Phyl L. Good - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
If you have even a moderate interest in the history of the space program, suit up, belt yourself in securely, and prepare for a fantastic ride. From the earliest days, both in the Soviet Union and the United States, Gallentine traces the history of space exploration in wonderful detail, scientist by scientist, development by development, scientific decision by political decision. And of course, failure after failure after smashing success.

You might think a book like this would be rather a dull history, but you couldn't be farther from the truth. Yes, Gallentine researched all those things to within an inch of their lives, so all the important details are here. But with his casual, conversational style and keen storytelling ability, he brings the events to life in a tale that is absolutely riveting.

Beginning with James Van Allen's discovery of the radiation belts around the earth, then backtracking to the first development of rockets by Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States during World War Two, the tale soon splits into two main branches, following teams of scientists in the USSR and the US as they race to find ways of getting first a satellite into space, and then finally 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 ever knew 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 in the first place, then had 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 much of the work was political, either struggling to get the politicians on their side or, sometimes worse, having them on their side and then having to live up to their impossible demands and deadlines. (Khrushchev wants a six-month already-impossible satellite schedule moved up three months to coincide with a significant Soviet anniversary? Piece of cake, right?)

Occasionally Gallentine's style gets just a bit too "gosh darnit" for comfort. But those brief moments are quickly forgotten as he sweeps you into the next big development, and then the casual style puts you right in the moment. He brings the main characters in the space exploration race vividly alive, and puts you on the edge of your seat as the story progresses, even while you already know how it turned out.

If you love the idea of space exploration, and have any interest at all in how the human race started with missiles and ended up going to the Moon and extending its consciousness into the farthest reaches of the solar system, you will want this book.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
informative book 7 Nov 2009
By Craig B. Clark - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very enjoyable, and written so that it is easy to follow and understand the material within the book. I found it easy reading and covered parts of space history that I am aware of but also added information about those topics which added to my previous knowledge. It was fast reading.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Vibrant, Fun and Much Needed 11 Aug 2010
By David Clow - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Much as I admire Roger Launius's work, I have to take small issue with his criticism of this. To my mind, the informality Jay Gallentine brought to "Ambassadors from Earth" only helped convey his enthusiasm for these strange buglike gadgets and helped to humanize the entire unmanned space effort. A subject like this could easily have been delivered as a dry, bloodless recitation of the engineering. Gallentine put a heartbeat into it all, showing us the people, the passion and the sheer crazy impossibility of it being confronted and overcome. I expected to learn a lot from this, and I id. I didn't expect to laugh out loud, and I did. For both, my hat's off to the writer.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A General History of Robotic Space Exploration 8 May 2010
By Roger D. Launius - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Contrary to the reverence accorded the astronauts as space explorers, the wide majority of exploration of the solar system has been done by small, ingenious, little-known robots sent as human emissaries to every planet circling our sun. Indeed, not since the last Apollo mission in 1972 has a human engaged in any exploration whatsoever in space; it has been completely carried out by robotic probes. "Ambassadors from Earth" is a serviceable general, one-volume history of these efforts to understand the universe. It is probably as good as anything yet published on this subject, but there are not many strong overviews available.

"Ambassadors from Earth" has several strengths. The most significant is that this work offers an accessible account the American and Soviet planetary missions of the space race era, as well as the more widespread efforts of more recent times, benefiting from the opening of documentary materials from the Soviet Union. Additionally, author Jay Galentine collected interviews with many people associated with these missions and quotes liberally from them. I certainly encourage him to make sure that these are deposited in an archive for others to also use.

There are also shortcomings in this book. The author writes in a jarringly informal manner, for example referring to rockets as "doohickeys" and "shiny new playthings" seems out of place. This idiomatic prose seems especially inappropriate when narrating the history of one of the most modern and difficult feats ever undertaken by human ingenuity. More disturbing, the opportunity for sustained analysis offered itself in this work and Galentine failed to seize it. Carpe diem; well perhaps next time. This is a narrative , and judged on that basis it is quite successful. It will be of interest to space enthusiasts but of modest use to those seeking anything more deeply analytical that a "once over lightly" knowledge of this important subject in world history.
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