Unlike the NASA Mission Reports published by Apogee Books and edited by Robert Godwin which are loaded with many technical reports, other documents and crew debriefs, this latest entry about the Russian space program contains very little text, but is instead loaded with numerous photographs, technical drawings, cut-away-views, and artist sketches. Also, in contrast to the other Apogee Books publications, this book does not focus on a single aspect of space flight, but on the history of the Russian space program and specifically the Energia Corporation. While some may feel that this book is just another collection of space pictures, it is not. The photographs presented here tell the history of the Russian space program and have been chosen such that they present a great deal of general technical information. If you are interested the history of the Russian space program or the race to land a man on the moon, you can't go wrong purchasing this book.
The book opens with several small sections of text. One section is from the two editors of the book (the English and Russian) and the other section presents a brief history of the Energia Corporation. After this brief introduction, the remainder of the book presents the history of the Russian space program from its earliest days to the present. The picture section begins with the Russian space program after World War II and the use captured German hardware to begin the development of their ballistic missiles. It is quite easy to see that the Russian launch vehicles are direct descendants of the German launch vehicles. The book then moves on to the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, and the manned spaceflight program, which enabled the Russians to put the first person, Yuri Gargarin, into space. After this group of photographs, there are others that cover, planetary exploration, the development of the Soyuz capsule and its derivatives, the Soviet lunar landing program, the Russian space shuttle, Buran and of course to the Mir space station.
I found the sections of the Russian lunar landing program extremely interesting. While its easy to see the parallels between the US and Russian efforts, they developed some noticeable and unique methods to get a cosmonaut to the Moon. Additionally, the parts on the development of the Soyuz family of space vehicles and on the Buran space shuttle were equally engrossing. One interesting facet of the Russian space program that I gleaned from this book is that in the past 55 years the Russians have had only four different leaders.
This book was originally published in Russian by the Energia Corporation and translated into English. Furthermore, the photographs are not some faded Xeroxed pictures, but are high quality prints. I also feel that many of these pictures have never been released to the West or possibly never released at all.