Infinity Beckoned illuminates a critical period of space history when humans dared an expansive leap into the inner solar system. With an irreverent and engaging style, Jay Gallentine conveys the trials and triumphs of the people on the ground who conceived and engineered the missions that put robotic spacecraft on the heavenly bodies nearest our own. These dedicated space pioneers include such individuals as Soviet Russia's director of planetary missions, who hated his job but kept at it for fifteen years, enduring a paranoid bureaucracy where even the copy machines were strictly regulated.
Based on numerous interviews, Gallentine delivers a rich variety of stories involving the men and women, American and Russian, responsible for such groundbreaking endeavors as the Mars Viking missions of the 1970s and the Soviet Venera flights to Venus in the 1980s. From the dreamers responsible for the Venus landing who discovered that dropping down through heavy clouds of sulfuric acid and 900-degree heat was best accomplished by surfing to the five-man teams puppeteering the Soviet moon rovers from a top-secret, off-the-map town without a name, the people who come to life in these pages persevered in often trying, thankless circumstances. Their legacy is our better understanding of our own planet and our place in the cosmos.
List of Illustrations
1. Beach Brainstorm
2. What If…
3. Dead at Birth
4. Failure to Communicate
5. Halt the Work, Destroy All Materials
6. There and Back Again
7. Sitting Cosmonauts
8. Cauldron of Contradictions
10. "Prepared Area"
11. Laying Eggs (Somehow)
12. How Low Can You Go?
13. Three Mistakes
14. Devil from Redondo
15. The Boy to Be Beaten
16. How to Buy a Computer That Does Not Exist
18. Gulliver’s Travels
19. Too Much Too Soon
20. Scientific Charity
21. Last Man Home
22. Bonneville, Notch Rock, Double-Squirt, Sudden Death
24. Sons of a Bitch
25. The Sum of All Nations
26. Hang Time
27. The Rules of Resigning
28. Wonders Never Cease
Jay Gallentine is a historian and filmmaker who has spent more than ten years researching the history of unmanned spaceflight. He is the author of Ambassadors from Earth: Pioneering Explorations with Unmanned Spacecraft (Nebraska, 2009), winner of the 2009 Eugene M. Emme Award for Astronautical Literature.
Bobak Ferdowsi is a systems engineer from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
"Based on numerous interviews, Gallentine delivers a rich variety of stories involving the men and women, American and Russian, responsible for such groundbreaking endeavors as the Mars Viking missions of the 1970s and the Soviet Venera flights to Venus in the 1980s [...] Their legacy is our better understanding of our own planet and our place in the cosmos."
– Lunar and Planetary Information Bulletin
"In this lively and memorable journey, Jay Gallentine captures the amazing people behind history's robotic explorers, who journeyed where no machines had gone before."
– Andrew Chaikin, author of A Man on the Moon and A Passion for Mars
"Jay Gallentine has written a truly engaging account of lunar and planetary exploration in the halcyon days of the 1970s and 1980s, when scientists and engineers were boldly pushing into the unknown. What makes this book so valuable is not only Gallentine's in-depth research – he tracked down many forgotten luminaries on both sides of the Iron Curtain – but his ability to bring to life the struggles, triumphs, and disappointments of the first great era of deep space exploration. Highly recommended."
– Asif Siddiqi, author of The Red Rockets' Glare: Spaceflight and the Soviet Imagination, 1857–1957
"Before and after the moon race that saw American astronauts standing triumphantly on the lunar surface, there was also a robotic race to the moon, Venus, and Mars between the United States and the Soviet Union. Infinity Beckoned is a stirring account of that race and its bobs and weaves over more than thirty years as both nations expanded knowledge of the solar system, expended resources for science, and competed for stature on the world stage."
– Roger Launius, associate director for collections and curatorial affairs at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution
"Space literature, like space itself, can be humbling. Just when you think you've begun to get it mapped out, you realize there are things you've never seen, territories you've not imagined, or, in the case of Jay Gallentine's artful Infinity Beckoned, stories you'd never heard [...] With Infinity Beckoned you'll read a big piece of history you never even knew was there."
– Jeffrey Kluger, coauthor of Apollo 13