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The History of Space Exploration

Discoveries from the Ancient World to the Extraterrestrial Future

Roger D. Launius


Written by NASA’s former chief historian, here is an in-depth, fully illustrated history of space exploration

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For centuries humanity has engaged in a virtual exploration of space through astronomical observation, aided by astounding scientific and technological advances. In more than sixty years since the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, more than 6,000 functioning satellites have been launched into Earth’s orbit and beyond – some to the farthest reaches of the Solar System – and more than 540 people have travelled into space.

Unprecedented in its chronological and geographical scope, this book charts the history of space exploration from the first gunpowder rockets through the Moon landings, and into a future of space tourism. Numerous sidebars focus on the key individuals and inventions that brought us closer to the farthest reaches of the universe. Filled with astonishing images from the Smithsonian, NASA archives and other international collections, this is the most complete, fully illustrated survey of this universal human journey.

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'A richly illustrated chronicle of space exploration … captures the awe-inspiring side of space'

'A very easy to read and fact-packed overview of how space exploration was launched by imagination, nurtured by science, and built by technological drive and innovation'
Magonia Review of Books

'An informed and informative read that never talks down to its readers … a clean, uncluttered design'
BBC Sky at Night

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: PLC (no jacket)

Size: 25.4 x 21.6 cm

Extent: 400 pp

Publication date: 11 October 2018

ISBN: 9780500022023

Contents List

1. Laying the Foundations for Space Exploration • 2. WWII Paves the Way for Space Exploration • 3. Making Space Exploration Real • 4. The Space Age Dawns • 5. The Race to the Moon • 6. New Nations/New Missions • 7. Spaceplanes and Orbital Stations • 8. The Lure of the Red Planet • 9. Beyond Mars • 10. Transterrestrial Expectations

About the Author

Roger D. Launius has written or edited more than thirty books on aerospace history. Between 1990 and 2002 he served as chief historian of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He then proceeded to work in several positions at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., most recently as Associate Director for Collections and Curatorial Affairs.

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