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Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel Hardcover – March 6, 2004

4.7 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the aftermath of the space shuttle Columbia disaster, Americans may have forgotten that for a quarter-century men and women circled Earth in space stations for as long as a year at a time. Most of these astronauts were from Russia and the Warsaw Pact countries. Zimmerman (Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8) recounts this era of space exploration, beginning with the American-Russian rivalry in the 1960s and concluding with their present-day collaboration on the International Space Station. He reminds us about the short-lived 1970s Skylab program, which was to have been followed by other U.S. space stations. Granted access to Russian archives and interviews with cosmonauts and their families, the author describes the Soviet program in great detail. The original Russian space stations, he reports, were intended primarily for propaganda and military purposes, but they also included a variety of scientific experiments and perfected the use of unmanned "freighters" to bring supplies and parts from Earth. If readers remember anything about the Russian program, it is probably the troubled final months of the Mir station, but Zimmerman describes the heroic efforts of cosmonauts to put out fires and make extended space walks to undertake complicated repairs. The Russians also conducted extensive research on the effects of living in space on the human body, research that will be invaluable for possible future travel to other planets. This book will be of interest primarily to scientists and hard-core science buffs, but it will undoubtedly be the leading book on the Russian space station program for the foreseeable future.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"...a scientifically vivid and intensely personal book... a grand chronicle of an overlooked human adventure..." -- Focus, December 2003

"...an exceedingly thorough and very enjoyable historical account. .. an easy-reading but detailed history of the space station..." -- Observatory, June 2004

"...an excellent interpretive history... This book is superior to many aerospace histories done by professional historians and 'space experts.'" -- Eyepiece, December 2003

"...the accounts of the close calls and disasters are often fascinating..." -- Library Journal

"...well-written, informative account... good read and perhaps the best source of information on a neglected part of space history" -- Astronomy, October 2003

"A seamless recounting of methodical discoveries and political maneuverings alike, Leaving Earth is a super contemporary history..." -- Library Bookwatch, December 2003

"Space enthusiasts worried about where the manned space program is headed will take some heart..." -- The Washington Times, August 31, 2003

"Zimmerman presents a profusion of striking vignettes..." -- Invention & Technology, Fall 2003

"an engaging narrative of human experiences with longer and longer space missions..." -- Nature, December 2003

Winner of 2003 Emme Award -- American Astronautical Society
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Joseph Henry Press; 1 edition (March 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0309085489
  • ISBN-13: 978-0309085489
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,432,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Robert Zimmerman, space historian and enthusiast, combines a love of technical issues with extensive background research in this account of the nine space stations flown so far by the Soviet Union (now Russia) and the United States. As the full title suggests, Zimmerman sees an important rarely stated purpose for the stations: learning how to maintain, operate, and work within vessels that closely resemble those that will first carry humans between the planets.

This detailed historical account of space station development is a powerful demonstration of how people have learned critical skills for living in space through repeated failure of almost every imaginable variety.

Today we remember Mir and Skylab, but the early Soviet Salyut stations were where much of the real learning happened. Fires, propellant leaks, repeated docking failures and failures in all sorts of science experiments (particularly attempts at plant growth) characterize much of the early history. Failures in crew relationships were at least as frequent - some crews (generally 2 men for the Salyuts) got along famously, but others quickly got on one another's nerves and bitterly endured through months of orbital isolation.

Human failure is here too - the toothaches, infections and heart problems of normal life, and then also the worrying problem of loss of bone mass - up to 2 percent a month, in zero gravity. And political failure, which showed up in relationships with ground controllers who seemed to cease caring, in later years, about what were very serious problems in orbit.

The first failures were docking problems, and sadly, the loss of three cosmonauts.
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Format: Hardcover
Zimmerman has crafted a compelling history of long duration space flight. By necessity, the story is 80% Soviet / Russian. Zimmerman must have tapped into some new sources for material as there are plenty of new revelations of both good and bad aspects from inside the Soviet program. I was especially impressed by Zimmerman's treatment of the underlying political machinations, both Soviet / Russian and American, and their effects on each country's space exploration program (and bonus: one of the few balanced accounts of Reaganomics!) The diagrams of the various stations are excellent, and you will find yourself constantly referring back to them as Zimmerman takes you through each station's growth and evolution.
On the down side, there is only one chapter devoted to all three Skylab missions, and I couldn't help but wish this received more attention. Additionally, the volume suffers from a lack of any photographs whatsoever.
All in all, this volume still ranks as one of the best factual accounts of manned space flight that I have read. It is an excellent companion to Burrough's "Dragonfly" and Burrows' "This New Ocean."
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Format: Hardcover
Every page of this interesting book is packed with details of the evolution of the Russian manned space program. It is very well researched and Robert Zimmerman does an excellent job describing the interaction between on-the-ground politics and space science. The stories of life, survival and endurance on the space stations is facinating. This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in the history of man's quest for conquering the many problems of surviving in the harsh space environment.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In a lot of thinking about the history of space in the American popular conception it ends with the 1969 Apollo moon landing and a win for the United States in the Space Race. The history since then, if considered at all, is seen as a footnote to this historic event and contains little of importance in itself.

Zimmerman's excellant book compels us to rethink this aspect of history which has largely been ignored in the United States. Part of the reason that it has been glossed over in the United States is because this is a history of Soviet triumphs in an era where U.S. achievements in space lacked high profile accomplishments. To someone unfamiliar with the history of space-stations it can come as somewhat of a shock to learn that between the deorbiting of Skylab and the ISS the United States had no presence on space-stations. The 70s and 80s were a period of Soviet re-consolidation of their programs and eventual dominance in space (similar to what happened with us in the Gemini program where we were able to catch up and surpass the USSR) with regards to space-stations in a way that should make us reconsider the traditional narratives of the Space Race and maybe relegate it to the graveyard of unhelpful historical terminology.

Zimmerman's detailed history focuses on many different facets of the U.S. and Soviet experience with building and living in these space stations. For instance, he examines the material differences between Skylab and the very early Soviet Solyut stations. Skylab was luxurious in comparison, while the crew of the early ones suffered severe psychological problems living in the cramped space of the station.
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