Ambassadors from Earth reminds us that our first mad scrambles to reach orbit, the moon, and the planets were littered with enough histrionics and cliff-hanging turmoil to rival the most far-out sci-fi film. But it all really happened!
Drawing on original interviews with key players and bolstered by previously unpublished photographs, journal excerpts, and primary source documents, Jay Gallentine delivers a quirky and unforgettable look at the lives and legacy of the people who conceived, built, and guided our first unmanned spacecraft and planetary probes. From the Sputnik and Explorer satellites of the late 1950s, to the thrilling Voyager "Grand Tour" of the '70s and '80s, they yielded some of the most celebrated successes and spectacular failures of the space age.
Confessed one participant, "We were making it up as we went along."
Gallentine fearlessly clambers to the bottom of a surprisingly bitter controversy over who first developed the technique of using gravity to steer a spacecraft. Also of special note are his candid discussions with James Van Allen, the discoverer of the rings of planetary radiation that now bear his name.
List of Illustrations
1. Aboard the Glacier
2. Problem Child
3. The Convict
4. Light Fuse, GET AWAY
5. New Moon
6. Let's Make a Deal
7. The Creators and the Makers
8. Storming the Sea of Dreams
9. Moving at the Speed of Design
10. Job Number MA-11
11. The Science and the Cyclist
12. Get Off the Bus
13. Swing in Time
14. The Meeting and the Mechta
15. Think Like Gravity
16. Didn't They Get It?
17. The Death and the Funeral
18. One Hundred Percent Failure
19. Three-Problem Shipley
20. Pete and Al's Little Field Trip
21. Irradiated Plans
23. Get It
24. Instant Science
25. Circles of Gold
26. Last Light
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
"An intriguing and essential read on the history of unmanned space programs and especially the tug-of-war between the United States and the Soviety Union for space supremacy in the late 1950s and the decade of the 1960s."
– Dale A. Stirling, Journal for the History of Discoveries
"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
"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
"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