Korolev: How One Man Masterminded the Soviet Drive to Beat America to the Moon: How One Man Masterminded the Soviet Drive to Beat the Americans to the Moon Paperback – 11 Mar 1999
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Would you like to tell us about a lower price?
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
"In this exceptional book, James Harford pieces together a most compelling and well-written tale . . . must reading."-Space News"A fascinating and perceptive history of the Russian space program.... Avid space enthusiasts will find this story a necessary addition to their knowledge of space exploration."-Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., former Director of Flight Operations, NASA "His erudite and meticulously researched charting of the life and times of Korolev provides unique insights. . . . This is a fascinating book . . . for the space expert and enthusiast alike. Great stuff."-New Scientist
This text details and analyzes the history of the Soviet space programme and tells the story of its charismatic founder Sergei Korolev. Although virtually unknown both in his own country and in the West, Korolev is considered by experts to be as, if not more, important than Wernher von Braun. Harford traces the space programme from the 1930s to the 1970s, focusing on the man who started the "space race" and dominated the programme until his death in 1966. It shows how a huge military-industry-university complex comprised of gifted, dedicated engineers and scientists met the gigantic challenge of pioneering the space age under a repressive, secretive regime with limited technology. This is a personal story in which Korolev emerged from imprisonment as a spy in a Siberian gulag to full freedom to lead the space programme he dominated until his sudden death, which is still shrouded in mystery. The evolution of the Soviet space programme, which created the Space Age, is one of the most important developments of the 20th century.The book is based on extensive interviews with and memoirs of participating engineers and scientists, as well as family and friends of Korolev; the author was involved with the U.S. space programme for more than 40 years and his association with those who participated in the Soviet space programme goes back to 1959.
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
There might be better Korolev biographys around but it you cant find any and are interested in the subject then read this.
Top international reviews
Pas rancunier le gars, après avoir fait 7 ans de goulag offerts par Staline.
Passionnante biographie ou comment faire beaucoup avec une technologie rustique dérivée des V2 allemands.
I thought that the most interesting chapters were 12, 13, and 15. Chapter 12 discusses the some of the organizational, administrative, and industrial features of the Soviet rocket and space programs of the 1940s through the 1960s and occasionally compares the Soviet activities with the American NASA program. One subject that I found especially interesting was the comparison of the US and Soviet industrial and technological capabilities at the end of World War II in 1945 and 1946, when the Soviet rocket program began. At the end of WW II, the US was the word leader in the areas of radio communications and navigation, radar, computers, and aviation manufacturing. The Soviets had nothing comparable and had to create entire industries, scientific research institutes, and engineering design organizations from scratch. They also had to establish university level scientific and engineering schools and industrial manufacturing vocational schools.
There is also discussion throughout several chapters (especially 12 and 13) on the relative efficiencies of the US and Soviet industrial economies, especially those aspects related to the rockets and space programs of the two countries. At their peaks in the mid to late 1960s, the Soviet rocket and space sector probably had around 800,000 people while the US had a little over 400,000. Considering that the US achieved a moon landing and the Soviets did not, it would appear that the Soviet rocket / space industry labor force was no more than half as efficient as the US labor force. Since the collapse of USSR in the early 1990s, much archival material on the former Soviet economy has become available. I have read in other books published over the past 20 years that generally estimate that an average Soviet industrial worker was about 1/3 as efficient or productive as a US industrial worker and a Soviet agricultural worker was perhaps 1/5 as productive as a US agricultural worker or farmer. So it would seem to be consistent that the high-priority Soviet rocket and space programs were ½ as efficient as the US equivalent.
Chapters 15 and 17 discuss the reasons why the Soviets were unable to land men on the moon ahead of the Americans and why they eventually just gave up such a mission entirely. Essentially, their overall industrial and technological backwardness finally caught up with them. Many of the early successes, such as Sputniks 1 through 3 and the early manned space missions, were really political prestige projects so people like Khrushchev could boast of the superiority of communism over capitalism. There were also a huge number of failures in the form of rocket launching failures, radio and telemetry failures, and satellite communications failures that were never publicized.
There are also some incredible descriptions of how the Soviets achieved what they did. For example, the Soviet scientists and engineers in the 1950s and even into the 1960s generally had no access to computers or in many cases even mechanical adding machines. There are stories of how young Soviet engineers would perform complex trajectory and ballistic calculations by multiplying six-digit trigonometric sine and cosine values by other 6-digit numbers by hand! The calculations would take weeks, even months, to perform.
Chapter 13 describes the relatively simple Soviet technology compared to what the Americans were accustomed to. Soviet manufacturing quality control was primitive. Electrical circuits and entire satellites were constructed by hand soldering and welding and polishing. The Soviets apparently understood in general the requirements for clean construction, but had no concept of the clean rooms used by NASA in satellite construction. The Soviets also apparently performed nowhere near the level of component and overall systems testing that American contractors and NASA performed.
In my opinion, a more extensive book on the Soviet rocket and space flight story is “Rockets and People, Volume 2 – Creating a Rocket Industry” by Boris Chertok. That book tells the story of the entire Soviet complex or system that developed and produced the rockets, guided missiles, space capsules, satellites, and lunar and planetary probes. There is also some side discussion on the Soviet atomic bomb and thermonuclear weapons programs involving Sakharov, Kurchatov, and Keldysh.
Harford’s book is similar to Chertok’s in that it discusses the bureaucracies and management structures that evolved during the 1950s and 1960s, the design bureaus (OKBs), scientific research institutes (NIIs), Ministries, Council of Ministers State Scientific Committees, political leaders and their roles, and industrial ministries and organizations. But it doesn’t provide the level of detail on the administrative and industrial structure that Chertok’s book provides. Chertok’s book includes much description of the old USSR industrial, research, and organizational structure that evolved to become the military industrial complex that eventually was administered overall by the Military Industrial Committee (VPK). The Chertok book also describes the organizational changes that occurred over time as the various NIIs, OKBs, Ministries, and so forth were split into separate entities, combined into single all-encompassing organizations, and so forth.
For an additional story of the development of the Soviet anti-aircraft and ABM missile systems, I recommend the book “Intercept 1961 – The Birth of Soviet Missile Defense” by Gruntman (2015). It is an excellent account of the development of those missile systems from the 1940s and 1950s through the 1980s. Similar to Harford’s and Chertok’s books, it’s a detailed history of the entire background to what the Soviets did to accomplish that item. There is also extensive technical discussion of how the Soviets solved the theoretical, research, and engineering problems involved in developing the necessary missiles, tracking and scanning radars, communication systems, and computer systems. There is also much information on what the Americans knew about all this by means of radio and telemetry eavesdropping from secret bases in Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan. The book contains numerous photos from American U-2 overflights from 1956 - 1960 and from the early spy satellites such as Corona and Big Bird. There is also information on related Soviet ICBM and IRBM missile programs and their associated organization leaders such as Yangel and Cholomei
And for a really good book on the magnitude and national economic influence of the Soviet military industrial complex (MIC), I suggest reading the book “The Price of the Past -- Russia’s Struggle with the Legacy of a Militarized Economy” by Gaddy (1996). It describes the history of the Soviet military industry from the 1930s through the eventual collapse of the USSR in the 1980s and 1990s. There is considerable detail on the function of the Military Industrial Committee (VPK) and it's subordinate industrial ministries. The best part of the book is the discussion on how the military industry (which included the space and rocket programs) really accomplished its function and the economic consequences. Essentially, it plundered the civilian economic sector with impunity. Massive forced subsidies and hidden costs were just part of the game. The book provides plenty of statistics on the extent of the MIC in terms of labor, investment, and influence of the MIC on the Soviet economy and the society in general.
If there is a detriment to the book it would be that his technical expertise comes in during discussions of rockets and rocket engines. Without prior knowledge of the intricacies of rocket dynamics, the information becomes meaningless to the reader.
Having an extensive interest and curiosity into the space race, and with having read numerous volumes on the topic prior to picking this book up, I rate it five-stars.
Hartford's book is a must read for anyone wanting to learn about Korolev. His story may surprise you. The journey of a young flying enthusiast, his imprisonment and sentencing to a gulag preceded his slow rise to the stars.
An excellent book, thoroughly researched and well written make for a well-informed, even riveting, biography well worth the reading. Most highly recommended.
I would highly recommend this book if you are interested in the history of space. If you want some inspiration in life of what one man can do then this is a great read.