Paolo Ulivi and David Harland have written nothing less than a detailed history of unmanned missions exploring our Solar System.
In a fascinating and exhaustive study, they plot the history of unmanned space travel from the 1950s right up to the present day, in many cases using previously unavailable sources.
As in their previous book Lunar Exploration, the subject is treated wherever possible from an engineering and scientific standpoint. Technical descriptions of the spacecraft, of their mission designs and of instrumentations are provided.
Scientific results are discussed in considerable depth, together with details of mission management.
The book is extremely comprehensive, covering missions over the last half century, and some of the latest missions and their results appear in a popular science book for the first time.
This book also uses sources only recently made available on the Soviet space program, in addition to some obscure and rarely used references on the European space program.
The authors even cover many unflown missions, an amazing window on ideas that went unfulfilled at the time but which may still be proven and useful in the future.
The Second World War left among its many and painful heritages a new technology, ballistic missiles, that was to change the world, providing a way to carry into space instruments, satellites and probes that revolutionized science and technology. Prior to launching artificial satellites, both the then Soviet Union and the United States developed more powerful intercontinental missiles with a range of thousands of miles. In the 1950s, the Soviets designed the huge 8K71 "Semiorka" (little seven, after the military designator R 7), a single staged rocket equipped with four large boosters and able to carry an heavy thermonuclear warhead to the continental US. In the USA, competition between the different armed forces prevailed, and the Army developed the medium range Redstone and Jupiter missiles, whilst the Air Force developed the Thor and two different ICBMs, Atlas and Titan and the Navy developed the Polaris submarine launched missiles. The potential of all of these rockets to boost spacecraft were huge, but while in the Soviet Union it was decided to modify an 8K71 to carry a scientific payload into space, the United States decided that the Navy would develop a tiny new rocket called Vanguard, specifically designed for the task. This decision was to have grave repercussions: on 4 October 1957 the Soviet Union launched its PS-1 satellite, better known as Sputnik, which rocked the USA. This was compounded a month later by the launch of the PS-2, carrying the dog Laika. Following the explosion of the first Vanguard on December 6, the US Army then had the task to restore the American confidence by successfully carrying Explorer 1 into space on 1 February 1958 using the modified Redstone rocket called Juno 1. During the same year, the superpowers started working on new versions of their missiles able to carry small payloads to the Moon and, potentially, to the near planets. The space race had begun.
From the reviews: "This book ! presents the accomplishments of robotic exploration of the major planets and their moons from Mercury to Neptune. Ulivi and Harland do a splendid job describing observations made using these ! 'robots' to take pictures and explore the infrared and radio emissions, aurora, magnetic fields, and magnetospheres of these planets, their satellites, and the interplanetary medium. ! More than 46 pages of references, further readings, excellent photographs and extensive illustrations, full author list, 6-page glossary, and 10-page index. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels." (W. E. Howard, CHOICE, Vol. 45 (8), 2008) "Robotic Exploration of the Solar System would address events that had happened over the period from 1957 up to the present day. ! this is a fantastic book -- there is much in it that I, as a devotee of the subject for longer than either of the authors, can draw from it. It really is encyclopaedic in its coverage and is a wonderful work for old timers ! and for students, new to the field, to consult to get up to speed." (Colin Pillinger, The Observatory, Vol. 128 (1203), 2008) "The best book I read so far on space exploration. ...The combination of Harland the historian, and Ulivi the astronomer ... make this an outstanding contribution. First, this book describes the state of the knowledge of the solar system just before space exploration begins. Second, this book is comprehensive, in that it includes US, European and Soviet/Russian contributions. ... An excellent basis for those who are looking for a global view of this part of the history of science." (Patrick Haubrechts, amazon.com)