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Rockets and People, Volume II: Creating a Rocket Industry (NASA History) (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – September 2006


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It Shouldn't Be So Interesting, but It Is! 24. November 2012
Von Terry Sunday - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
In addition to ending the Cold War and defusing the tensions that had raged between the Earth's two superpowers for decades, the dissolution of the Soviet Union opened the floodgates for a surge of insider information about the formerly secret Soviet space program. Hundreds of new books are now available on the history and technology of Soviet cosmonautics. Unfortunately, very few of them have been translated into English from the original Russian. The memoirs of the late Academician Boris Yevseyevich Chertok (1912-2011) are an exception--and a very important one indeed. Dr. Chertok's four-volume opus "Rockets and People" is the remarkable first-person story of a man who participated hands-on in the Soviet Union's space program for 60 years.

I originally bought only Volume IV, "The Moon Race," because I'm especially interested in Chief Designer Sergei Pavlovich Korolev's N-1 launch vehicle that was to be used to launch Soviet cosmonauts to the moon. I got what I was looking for. For example, Dr. Chertok covered the four N-1 launch failures in exquisite detail, at many pages each and with descriptions of the sequences of events literally to thousandths of a second. I had not originally planned to buy the other three volumes of "Rockets and People," but "The Moon Race" was so good, so detailed and so comprehensive that I bought the others as well.

Volume II, "Creating a Rocket Industry," is also superb. It covers the time from 1946, when Dr. Chertok and his comrades returned to the Soviet Union after assessing the Nazi A-4 program in post-War Germany, to the early 1960s and the first Mars and Venus interplanetary launches. He covers the development of the R-7 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) in remarkable depth and breadth. Derivatives of the R-7, the world's most successful rocket by any measure, have been flying for 55 years. Today it is the ONLY way to transport crews to the International Space Station. Dr. Chertok also covers in exceptional detail the tragic "Nedelin Disaster" of October 1960, when an R-16 exploded on the launch pad and killed more than 100 workers.

In addition to his nuts-and-bolts discussions of rocket hardware, Dr. Chertok devotes much of this 669-page volume to describing the people, management and personal rivalries in the Soviet space program. Involving many polysyllabic, indecipherable Russian names and impenetrable communist bureaucracies, I expected those parts to be boring (hence the title of my review). But it wasn't! Even Dr. Chertok's descriptions of, for example, Party decrees, high-level commission meetings and political maneuvering among rival design bureaus have a page-turning immediacy that makes "Creating a Rocket Industry" a joy to read. Kudos to the translation team for making what could be dry subjects so very highly readable. Useful footnotes by series editor Asif Siddiqi clarify obscure technical terms, organizations and participants, and put the events Dr. Chertok describes into the proper historical perspective. As with any "oral history," readers should seek independent verification of some of Dr. Chertok's memories before accepting them at face value.

In my opinion, there are no better books than the "Rockets and People" series if you're seriously interested in the history and technology of Soviet spaceflight. One final word: you can download Dr. Chertok's memoirs free in PDF form from NASA's website--they're "SP" publications in the NASA History Series. But I, for one, prefer to have volumes on my bookshelf that I can pull out whenever I choose. I think the physical books are well worth the cost.
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