The Smithsonian History of Space Exploration: From the Ancient World to the Extraterrestrial Future
by Roger D. Launius
Comprehensive illustrated guide to the history of U.S. and international space exploration, both manned and unmanned
Throughout history, humans have been fascinated by space. From the Babylonian astronomers of 700 BCE who charted the paths of planets, to the ancient Inca and Aztec builders of early astronomical observatories, to the launch of Sputnik 1 and the Moon landing, through today's private and public space exploration endeavors, we have always looked to the skies to learn about our place in the universe. The Smithsonian History of Space Exploration is the first in-depth, fully illustrated history of global space discovery and exploration from ancient times to the modern era.
Space historian Roger D. Launius examines the thousands of years that humans have endeavored to understand the universe, including the pioneering work undertaken by the ancients of Greece, Rome, and China; the great astronomical discoveries of Renaissance thinkers such as Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler; and the technological and mechanical breakthroughs that have enabled the human race to explore far beyond our own planet in recent decades. He also reveals the future of space exploration, speculating on forthcoming space travel and humans' possible future as an extraterrestrial species. The Smithsonian History of Space Exploration is a must-read for space buffs and everyone intrigued by the history of scientific discovery.
Roger D. Launius
ROGER D. LAUNIUS is the former Associate Director of Collections and Curatorial Affairs at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. From 1990 to 2002, he served as chief historian of NASA. He has authored and coauthored numerous books, most recently Societal Impact of Spaceflight.
Launius argues that even these accomplishments are just a taste of what is possible, not only in terms of manned space exploration, but also in regard to our understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of life—and, perhaps, extraterrestrial intelligence. On every page, stunning photographs provide a visual history of the incredible people and mechanics behind each groundbreaking advance, setting this volume apart from others. Readers of all ages will discover something new every time they revisit these pages. Part history, part nostalgia, part cutting-edge science, this entertaining book reminds us of the magnitude of space flight—and hints at what's to come.
—Kirkus Reviews - Starred Review
Fun for reading cover to cover or dipping into, the book is also set up in a logical, roughly chronological flow, which will assist with research. Whether used as a beginning point for research (no source notes, alas), a lure for browsers, or an irresistible read for fans of strange new worlds (to infinity and beyond!), this will make a handsome addition to popular science collections.
The Smithsonian History of Space Exploration examines civilization’s continued desire to explore the next frontier as only the Smithsonian can do it. Roger D. Launius has put together an extraordinary history that I’m incredibly proud to be a part of. The great thing about this book is that, in addition to looking back at an amazing history in space, it also inspires us to look forward to an exciting future.
—Buzz Aldrin, Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 astronaut and author of No Dream Is Too High
Roger D. Launius has written a wonderfully clear history of space flight and space programs. For thousands of years, humans have looked to the skies for guidance, understanding, and spiritual comfort. Questions still stand, however: Why do we have space programs, and why is space exploration so important to our species? The answer is age-old: we do it because exploration is one of our driving needs. This interesting and concise book gives us the full story of space exploration in very readable form and helps us understand how we got to where we are today.
—Al Worden, Command Module Pilot for Apollo 15 and author of Falling to Earth
How, in the span of a single lifetime, did human beings develop and use the technology to leave their home planet and explore the universe? With his expert knowledge of space history, Launius conveys the extraordinary saga from its earliest beginnings through its spectacular triumphs and stinging failures to our ongoing struggle to become a multiplanet species.
—Andrew Chaikin, author of A Man on the Moon
It’s all here! In The Smithsonian History of Space Exploration, Launius provides brief and authoritative vignettes of every conceivable facet of the space enterprise, accompanied by many evocative images that capture the adventure of humanity’s push off its home planet.
—John M. Logsdon, Space Policy Institute, George Washington University