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Soviet Robots in the Solar System: Mission Technologies and Discoveries (Springer Praxis Books / Space Exploration) Paperback – 30 Jun 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 476 pages
  • Publisher: Springer; 2011 edition (30 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441978976
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441978974
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 2.4 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,121,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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From the reviews:

“Anyone interested in planetary exploration should read the new book by Wesley T. Huntress, Jr. and Mikhail Ya. Marov, titled Soviet Robots in the Solar System. In addition to serving as a valuable catalog of all Soviet lunar and planetary missions, it is a remarkable description of a remarkable story. … It methodically describes people, spacecraft, missions, and scientific results … . It is a valuable reference for anyone in the space program.” (Lou Friedman, The Space Review, September, 2011)

“The book covers all the major campaigns from the first lunar launch, a failed mission to impact the Moon’s surface in 1958, to the last deep space mission to Mars in 1996. … a treasure trove of information for anyone interested in space exploration and a fascinating account of the rivalry between East and West to be the first in its implementation. … provides a wealth of detail on the scientific, engineering and technical aspects of the missions, as well as summary of their achievements.” (Best Astronomy Books Newsletter, November/December, 2011)

“The book spans the period between the first Soviet lunar attempt in 1958 and their last deep space mission to Mars in 1996, focusing solely on those missions targeting the moon and planets and purposefully excludes Solar and Earth-Moon environment exploration. … There is a huge amount of information here which is probably all in one place for the very first time. Apart from the scientific detail the historical side of the book is a revelation and is well worth reading for that reason alone.” (Best Astronomy Books, October, 2011)

“This book details the Soviet Union’s robotic space programme from the first lunar launch in 1958 to the Mars 96 mission. … this provides a solid background for a detailed account of lunar and planetary missions. Many rare photographs and diagrams are included. … The extensive research, knowledge and hard work of the authors has produced an outstanding book that should be considered a standard reference. … With an extensive bibliography, appendices and index this is an essential purchase for spacecraft enthusiasts.”­­­ (Robin Flegg, Astronomy Now, December, 2011)

“Serves as an excellent catalog of the Soviet Union’s lunar and planetary exploration program. In sum, it is a useful description of a remarkable story that captures considerable data in one place and offers unique photographs of Soviet hardware. … No question, this is the best overview of the Soviet planetary program published in the West. … useful as a source for understanding this significant aspect of space age rivalries between the United States and the Soviet Union. … it is a useful reference work.” (Roger D. Launius, Quest: The History of Spaceflight, Vol. 19 (1), 2012)

“Huntress (Carnegie Institution of Washington) and Marov (Russian Academy of Sciences) present a detailed survey of the Soviet missions to the moon, Mars, and Venus. … The descriptions of the rockets and the engineering details of the design and operation of the payloads are very good. The book is well illustrated, and the scientific and technical explanations are clear. A well-documented, useful work that will appeal to students of space history and space technology. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals.” (A. M. Strauss, Choice, Vol. 49 (5), January, 2012)

From the Back Cover

The Soviet robotic space exploration program began in a spirit of bold adventure and technical genius. It ended after the fall of the Soviet Union and the failure of its last mission to Mars in 1996. Soviet Robots in the Solar System chronicles the scientific and engineering accomplishments of this enterprise from its infancy to its demise. Each flight campaign is set into context of national politics and international competition with the United States.

Together with its many detailed illustrations and images, Soviet Robots in the Solar System

  • presents the most detailed technical description of Soviet robotic space flights
  • provides a unique insight into programmatic, engineering, and scientific issues
  • covers mission objectives, spacecraft engineering, flight details, scientific payload and results
  • describes in technical depth Soviet lunar and planetary probes

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Most of us living in the West have grown up with the excitement and thrill of the American space programme. How many people alive today have not heard of NASA? The acronym is synonymous with space exploration. The reasons are many, but one of the key factors is that NASA is a non military organization; it needs public support to function. It requires publicity.

In comparison the Soviet Union's space programme was controlled by the military and was shrouded in secrecy. Successful missions were announced, failures often kept classified. One might be surprised then by the number of Soviet achievements; first artificial satellite, first animal in space, first human in space, first woman in space, first spacewalk, first lunar impact, first lunar orbit, first image of the far side of the moon, first lunar soft landing, first robotic rover, first planetary probe, first planetary landing to list a few.

The veil of secrecy surrounding the Soviet space programme was partially lifted with Gorbachev's policy of Glasnost during the 1980's but full disclosure came only with the decline and eventual demise of the Soviet Union in the 1990's. A full account of the Soviet exploration of space has only recently come to light both in the East and West.

`Soviet Robots in the Solar System' tells this story in fine detail. Set against the cold war and the chilling development of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, which produced the rocket technology to enable large payloads to escape Earth's gravity, the book traces the dogged determination of the state and the dreams and ambitions of a select group of its people through the triumphs, the failures and the frustrations of sending machines into space.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The Ultimate Guide 26 Oct 2011
By Jeffrey F. Bell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are several books out there on Soviet/Russian unmanned space missions, but this is by far the best. Written by two scientist/managers deeply involved in the US and Soviet programs, it covers every imaginable aspect of the subject: political background, management, booster & spacecraft design, mission planning, science goals and results. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the topic.

Particularly interesting was the detailed descriptions of the dreadful series of 20 straight failed planetary missions in the early 1960s. It appears that Sergi Korolev, while an excellent bureaucratic infighter, was not so hot at engineering management. When the unmanned program was transferred to the control of Georgi Babakin at the former Lavotchkin aircraft bureau, he discovered that Korolev's OKB-1 had never tested any of these spacecraft in vacuum chambers or centrifuges! At that time in the US, this was called the "Shoot and Hope" philosophy and it didn't work there either.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Commendable Effort to Tell an Important Story by Two Practitioners at the Center of Planetary Science 19 Sep 2013
By Roger D. Launius - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It seems hard to believe now, but once there was a robotic space race to the Moon and planets of the solar system between the United States and the Soviet Union just as significant as the human race to the Moon. The two superpowers engaged in head-to-head competition and the results were similar to the human race, after a series of Soviet successes early on the U.S. emerged to dominate the story. But that domination did not take place until the 1970s. Indeed, the capabilities of Soviet planetary science were on broad display and their successes with robotic explorers were impressive.

The first target was the Moon. Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s when the United States was undertaking its accelerated efforts to explore the Moon, the Soviet program also had 20 successful robotic missions there and achieved several notable firsts: first probe to impact the Moon, first flyby and image of the lunar far side, first soft landing, first lunar orbiter, and first circumlunar probe to return to Earth. The two successful series of Soviet probes were the Luna (15 missions) and the Zond (5 missions). Lunar flyby missions (Luna 3; Zond 3, 6, 7, and 8) obtained photographs of the lunar surface, particularly the limb (southern) and far side regions. The Zond 6, 7, and 8 missions circled the Moon and returned to Earth, where they were recovered (Zond 6 and 7 in Siberia, and Zond 8 in the Indian Ocean). Three robotic missions (Luna 16, 20, and 24) also soft-landed and returned lunar samples to Earth. Between the end of the Apollo program in December 1972 and the return of Luna 24 in August 1976, the Soviets had the Moon to themselves and flew three more successful missions during this period.

After important early successes the Soviet Union lost its edge in planetary exploration during the 1970s. It never had much success with Mars exploration, for example. It has undertaken 17 missions to Mars since the beginning of the space age, with the first launched in 1960, and of those only one was successful while four were partially successful. The Soviets had more success with Venus: 29 missions undertaken with 13 successes and five partial successes. But in the middle part of the 1970s the rate of activity in sending our planetary probes declined. Efforts since that time have continued, but with less frequency and fully successful missions have been few and far between.

Interestingly, despite these successes over the years--the second most successful robotic exploration of the solar system undertaken anywhere in the world--few understand, and fewer still appreciate the history of Soviet planetary exploration. Soviet Robots in the Solar System: Mission Technologies and Discoveries, by Wesley T. Huntress Jr. and Mikhail Ya. Marov, serves as an excellent catalog of the Soviet Union's lunar and planetary exploration program. At sum, it is a useful description of a remarkable story that captures considerable data in one place and offers unique photographs of Soviet hardware.

One message comes through in this new book, the Soviet Union did not have anything approaching the funding and support achieved by NASA in the United States, did not have the same level of technical capability, and did not have the scientific base present in other nations. They did, however, have both a remarkable dedication to the effort and an ingenious collection of engineers and scientists and a resolve to continue planetary exploration in the face of great adversity. Huntress and Marov do a commendable job in capturing the essence of this story, offering the telling anecdote and the detailed consideration of how and by what method to undertake individual projects. No question, this is the best overview of the Soviet planetary program published in the West. It is also a compelling account of both triumph and failure--more failure than triumph--and will be permanently useful as a source for understanding this significant aspect of space age rivalries between the U.S. and the USSR.

Both authors are practitioners--scientists intimately engaged in planetary exploration programs--rather than historians, and the book betrays that perspective. Huntress was a leader of the NASA planetary science effort and Marov fulfilled a similar role in the Soviet Union/Russia. Both approach their topic as documentarians, seeking to get between two covers as much technical and scientific detail as possible and to illuminate key decisions. Taking a chronological approach, they describe central actors, spacecraft, missions, and scientific results. There is considerable repetition of information, something that might have been avoided by a more skilled writer. The result is not an easy reading experience, but it can be a worthwhile one. Mostly, however, it is a useful reference work.

Huntress and Marov emphasize how the Soviet planetary program, and this has been continued in the post-Soviet era, built incrementally on their earlier efforts. There has been a lot of commonality over the years of hardware and objectives on the various Moon/Mars/Venus projects. This is strikingly different from the U.S. approach, which tends to design a grand approach to exploring a solar system body and then press into service new technologies aboard one-off spacecraft to yield data in new and different arenas. One can justifiably criticize either approach to planetary exploration. One may also applaud each divergent approach. Each has its strengths and its weaknesses. Overall, the American effort has been more successful. Is that because of the greater amount of funding available or some other set of reasons? What is clear is that the Soviet efforts were never ad hoc and opportunistic, despite what many believed during the Cold War. Their planetary probes had their victories, and their scientists also had their discoveries.

With the recent failure of the Phobos-Grunt probe the Russian planetary exploration program is once again in the news and its leaders are on the hot seat in Russia. Perhaps it would be wise before voicing criticism of this failure to read this history. It will demonstrate that planetary scientists and engineers in the Soviet Union/Russia have been working with minimal resources, poor political support, and less than optimal technologies for many years. Despite that reality, they have enhanced understanding of the solar system in fundamental ways. Phobos-Grunt must be viewed as part of a long train of missions over the years. I hope it is not the last such mission undertaken.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Very good account 13 Jan 2013
By Horacio A. Galacho - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have the other books published by Springer/Praxis, about the subjet of soviet explorations on Moon, Mars and Venus. This is by far the best regarding technical information and/or drawings on the space probes but it is a little below on my own expectations. I think that the other books are not worst or better, they are complementary. Still is missing a good technical description of the earlier space probes (the period between 1962-1980). A good account about the functioning of Lunakhod 1 and 2, etc. This industrial effort was huge, the russian showed an unparelled tenacity as usual (albeit they not excelled on organizational skills) and it is worth to be reckoned with.
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