Introduction to The Mammoth Book of Space Exploration and Disasters
The Mammoth Book of Space Exploration and Disasters by Richard Russell Lawrence is a comprehensive collection of over 50 first-hand accounts of sub-orbital, orbital, and deep space adventures, spanning from the development of the rocket to the present day. The book is divided into five chapters, each detailing a significant period in space exploration. It provides a fascinating insight into the history of space exploration, as well as the courage, determination, and resourcefulness of the astronauts and cosmonauts who have ventured into the unknown.
Chapter 1: At Heaven’s Door – Testing the Limits
The book starts with Chapter 1, which covers the development of jet and rocket propulsion from the end of the Second World War to the penetration of the upper atmosphere. The early accounts include Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier with a broken arm and the test pilots’ own explanations of the dangerous new technology of rocket-propelled craft. The chapter provides an excellent introduction to the challenges and risks involved in space exploration, as the early pioneers pushed the limits of technology to reach new heights.
Chapter 2: Rockets Away – Escape from Earth
Chapter 2 relives the early days of space flight, including the US Mercury program, with the astronauts revealing just how much they had to do. Among their accounts, John Glenn’s first American orbital flight stands out for its memorable description of “Zero G and I feel fine.” The chapter provides a detailed account of the challenges involved in space flight, including the difficulties of weightlessness, re-entry, and the dangers of micrometeoroids. It highlights the bravery and ingenuity of the astronauts, who faced and overcame significant obstacles to achieve their goals.
Chapter 3: Man in Space – The Glory Days
Chapter 3 covers the period from 1963 until 1974, including the US Gemini and Apollo and the Soviet Soyuz programs. The vivid descriptions include Alexei Leonov’s fight for his life as the first man to spacewalk when he found himself unable to get back into the spacecraft without taking the risk of deflating his space suit. Later he and his fellow cosmonaut crash-landed and had to spend the night sheltering from wild wolves. The triumph of Apollo 11 is follow by the mishap of Apollo 12 and the famous “problem” of Apollo 13. The chapter demonstrates the resilience and teamwork of the astronauts and ground crew, who overcame significant setbacks to achieve their goals.
Chapter 4 of The Mammoth Book of Space Exploration and Disasters
Records the cancellations and setbacks during the period after 1974, including the Shuttle disasters (1986 and 2003) plus the endless crises aboard the space station Mir in 1997. The US-Russian crew suffered from depression, a near miss, fire, loss of power, and a collision. In addition, they had to make a succession of difficult repairs to keep the station functioning. The chapter highlights the risks and dangers of space exploration, as well as the human factors involved in long-duration missions.
Chapter 5: Into the Void – The Search for New Horizons
Chapter 5 of The Mammoth Book of Space Exploration and Disasters
Covers the recent developments in space exploration, including the International Space Station and the Mars rovers. The accounts here include the excitement of the Hubble telescope. The crash of the Mars Polar Lander, and the successes of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. The chapter highlights the ongoing search for new horizons in space exploration. As well as the technical and scientific challenges involved.
One of the most interesting stories in this section is the account of Anousheh Ansari. The first female space tourist, who spent eight days aboard the International Space Station in 2006. Ansari’s story is a reminder that space exploration is not limit to government programs. That private citizens are also contributing to the expansion of human knowledge and experience.
“The Mammoth Book of Space Exploration and Disasters” by Richard Russell Lawrence is a fascinating and informative book. That provides a comprehensive overview of the history of space exploration. The book is organize into five chapters that cover the development of rocket and jet propulsion. The early days of space flight, the glory days of the Gemini and Apollo programs. The setbacks of the post-Apollo era, and the latest developments in space exploration.
The stories in the book are tell in the first-person by the astronauts and cosmonauts. Who experienced them, making the book both informative and engaging. The book also includes a number of photographs and illustrations that help bring the stories to life.