Ambassadors from Earth: Pioneering Explorations with Unmanned Spacecraft: Outward Odyssey: A People's History of Spaceflight Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Ambassadors from Earth relates the story of the first unmanned space probes and planetary explorers - from the Sputnik and Explorer satellites launched in the late 1950's to the thrilling interstellar Voyager missions of the '70's - that yielded some of the most celebrated successes and spectacular failures of the space age.
Keep in mind that our first mad scrambles to reach orbit, the moon, and the planets were littered with enough histrionics and cliffhanging turmoil to rival the most far-out sci-fi film. Utilizing original interviews with key players, journal excerpts, and primary source documents, Jay 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. Of special note is his in-depth interview with James Van Allen, the discoverer of the rings of planetary radiation that now bear his name.
Ambassadors from Earth is an engaging bumper-car ride through a fog of head-banging uncertainty, bleeding-edge technology, personality clashes, organizational frustrations, brutal schedules, and the occasional bright spot. Confessed one participant, “We were making it up as we went along”.
The book is published by University of Nebraska Press. The audiobook is published by University Press Audiobooks.
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|Listening Length||20 hours and 1 minute|
|Narrator||Douglas R Pratt|
|Audible.ca Release Date||March 28 2020|
|Publisher||University Press Audiobooks|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #84,341 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#213 in Astronomy & Space Science (Audible Books & Originals)
#256 in Computer History & Culture (Audible Books & Originals)
#307 in Physics (Audible Books & Originals)
Top reviews from other countries
University of Nebraska Press, 2009, 544 pp, £ 23.99 (HB)
Ambassadors from Earth is the fifth book in the Outward Odyssey - A People's History of Spaceflight series and chronicles the early history of unmanned robotic satellites and planetary probes, from Sputnik & Explorer through Pioneer & Voyager. The author focused on the genuine backroom people, who solved technical problems and struggled to make things work. An interesting insight in the human drama of passionate pioneers, that took place during the cold war's space race between the Soviet Union and the United States of America. Jay Gallentine managed to capture the human and technological aspects of the competitors in this space race for the Moon, Venus, Mars, the outer planets and beyond.
Thanks to in depth details, readers become aware that an unmanned space probe is a very sophisticated thing so a lot of people are involved in spacecraft & mission design, engineering & scientific instruments, guidance & control, onboard propulsion, power supply, computers & data handling, telecommunications, launch vehicle integration, Earth-based support systems, and many planetary scientists to analyze the returned data.
Utilizing original interviews with key players, bolstered by never-before-seen photographs, journal excerpts, and primary source documents, Jay 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. Of special note is his in-depth interview with renowned space scientist James Van Allen (1914-2008), the discoverer of the rings of planetary radiation that now bear his name. I had the privilege of reading the first draft of the long-awaited "Ambassadors from Earth" and conclude the book makes very interesting reading and will certainly become a classic in its genre. Moreover, a follow-up book on post-1977 unmanned spaceflight mission is in works!
Belgium & Croatia
On the one hand, it is about as good a one-volume history of the early days of the Space Age as I've read recently. Focused on U.S. and Soviet unmanned missions, it includes much previously unpublished information, including interviews from such primary sources as the late Dr. James A. Van Allen, the University of Iowa space scientist who for decades was a major champion of unmanned space exploration. It offers many new insights into the American and Soviet space programs of the time, as both nations vied for technological superiority in the Cold War. It is an excellent volume not only for knowledgeable space enthusiasts, but also for casual readers just looking for an informative, useful summary. Unlike many spaceflight books, the number of technical errors in "Ambassadors From Earth" is very small, and they do not detract from the story.
On the other hand, the style of writing really put me off at first. Author Jay Gallentine tells the story of events that happened decades ago in an exceptionally conversational style and in very modern idiom. For example, just from a couple of pages taken at random, consider the following phrases: "Germany wasn't ready to start firing their doohickey..." (the V-2 rocket), "He remained patently uninterested in allowing his shiny new plaything to be appropriated..." (Bernard Schriever and the Atlas ICBM) and "...a party built to full rockin' swing at the Bahama Beach Club..." (after the successful launch of Explorer 1). Not wrong, exactly, but also not the type of sober prose one would expect to find in a serious book about spaceflight history.
So I debated with myself for a while before assigning "Ambassadors From Earth" a five-star rating. It is vastly different in tone from most books in the genre. But it also has broad scope, nearly flawless accuracy and unmatched sheer page-turning readability. So, on balance, I think these factors far outweigh its modern conversational style and make it very accessible to new generations of readers who might not be willing to tackle more stodgy tomes. For this alone, it deserves the highest rating.