Super Structures in Space: From Satellites to Space Stations- a Guide to What's Out There

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9781858944173: Super Structures in Space: From Satellites to Space Stations- a Guide to What's Out There
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Since the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, hundreds of spacecraft--from satellites and probes to space stations--have ventured beyond Earth's atmosphere to orbit the globe, fly to other planets, peer into the depths of the universe, or encounter comets and asteroids. Many have become household names, their missions the focus of popular attention, while others undertake their equally important tasks in relative anonymity. Superstructures in Space is the first book to present pictorially the most important of these man-made objects. Featuring a wealth of breathtaking illustrations, this remarkable volume reveals the exciting story behind each selected spacecraft: its origins and development, its designers and manufacturers, and its launch and objectives.  It represents the first survey of the world's most significant and fascinating spacecraft at the dawn of the twenty-first century.  Superstructures in Space is an authoritative and engaging book written by an eminent aerospace historian that appeals to readers of all ages.

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From the Author:

I was approached by Merrell Publishers to write Superstructures in Space during an unusually active time in my career.  My book NASA: The Complete Illustrated History (also published by Merrell) had come out in a hardbound edition in 2005, and I was in the throes of reviewing and updating it for a paperback edition celebrating NASA's 50th anniversary in 2008.  At first, I thought that I should say no to the Superstructures offer.  But the more I mulled it over, the more their proposal seemed to offer a worthwhile challenge.

Superstructures in Space is actually a spin-off of an earlier Merrell publication entitled Superstructures: The World's Greatest Modern Structures (2004) by Neil Parkyn.  In it, the author tells the stories, with lavish pictorial accompanyment, of the world's great bridges, railways, aquaducts, sports complexes, skyscrapers, and the like.  It made for a big format, highly informative and entertaining illustrated book.  In offering to have me extend this worthwhile concept to space, the Merrell team made a wise exception to the earlier Superstructures volume--rather than concentrate on big or beautiful objects, they asked me to select spacecraft that had the greatest impact on practical affairs on Earth, as well as on the how human beings regarded the universe.

Since I am a professional historian, I asked myself if this book--which might have been organized as a pictorial catalog under other circumstances--could be fashioned into something like a history, using the techniques of historians.  I decided it was a challenge worth accepting.

I used two simple techniques to give the book a feeling of progression through time, a feature that all histories should have.  First, I organized it into four main sections--Human Spaceflight, Earth Observation, Exploring the Solar System, and Exploring the Universe--so that each followed progressively from the one before, shaping the narrative so that it began with individual human beings at one end of the continuum, and ended with the vastness of the universe at the other.  And within these sections, I arranged the 57 spacecraft that I selected so that they unfolded chronologically based on their dates of launch.  Having done that, I did my best to write the introductions to the four sections, as well as each of the 57 project essays, with reference to the sections and essays that came before or after, so that the reader could see the relationship of any one part to the whole.

Whether this plan succeeded--whether a reader might want to tackle Superstructures in Space from cover-to-cover like any history, in addition to dipping in here and there like a reference--I will leave to your judgment.  I do know that it was a very rewarding project that resulted in a beautiful book.  If you do read it, perhaps you will be surprised as I was at the extent to which human beings have become dependent on these spacecraft for knowledge, inspiration, and for the practicalities of daily life.

Michael Gorn

From the Inside Flap:

Since the launch of Sputnik I in 1957, hundreds of spacecraft--from satellites and probes to space stations--have ventured beyond Earth's atmosphere to orbit the globe, fly to other planets, peer into the depths of the universe, or encounter comets and asteroids.  Many of these spacecraft, including the Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Mars Exploration Rovers, have become household names, their missions the focus of popular attention; others, meanwhile, perform their equally important tasks in relative anonymity.  With Russia, China, and the United States all investing in new and ambitious projects, the next generation of spacecraft looks set to take humans back to the Moon--and to points beyond.  Superstructures in Space is the first book to present pictorially the world's most significant and fascinating spacecraft.  Lavishly illustrated throughout with hundreds of breathtaking photographs and drawings, this remarkable volume reveals in depth the full and exciting story behind each selected craft: its origins and developmebnt, its designers and manufacturers, and its launch objectives.  The book concentrates in particular on civil space programs, and looks in detail at four specific areas of interest: human spaceflight, Earth observation, exploring the Solar System, and exploring the universe.  Written by an eminent aerospace historian, Superstructures in Space is an authoritative and captivating work that will appeal to readers of all ages.

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