EDUCATION: Space Flight's Untold History

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Science  18 Mar 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5716, pp. 1701
DOI: 10.1126/science.307.5716.1701a

The Soviet Soyuz 5 mission in 1969 wasn't one to boast about. The craft reentered Earth's atmosphere nose first and nearly burned up before righting itself. Cosmonaut Valentinovich Volynov then shattered his teeth during the rough, off-target landing. Little-known facts and behind-the-scenes stories like this one typify the Encyclopedia Astronautica, a massive space-flight compendium from enthusiast Mark Wade.

Offering contributions by Wade and other writers, the encyclopedia can satisfy readers' hunger for, say, biographical details on the German rocket pioneer Hermann Oberth or maps of the Soviets' Baikonur Cosmodrome. Intriguing historical entries put a new spin on some familiar events. For example, in one article Wade summarizes the evidence that the race to the moon, which seemed like a runaway win for the Americans, was a squeaker. The Soviets planned secret launches into lunar orbit and onto the surface; only when both efforts failed at the last minute did they begin to deny they were competing. The site also covers recent space developments, such as the launch of the Delta IV Heavy in 2004, the first large-payload rocket the United States has introduced since the 1960s.

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