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Author Topic:   After Sputnik: 50 Years (Martin Collins)
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 42981
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 03-29-2007 05:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Smithsonian release
Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Marks 50 Years of Spaceflight with "After Sputnik"

The Sweeping Story Told Through Artifacts and Images

Oct. 4, 2007 marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, the event that began the Space Age. "After Sputnik: 50 Years of the Space Age," edited by curator Martin Collins (Smithsonian Books/April 1/$35, hardcover) tells the story of the first half century of space exploration through a close consideration of 140 objects selected from the holdings of the National Air and Space Museum, home to the world's premier collection of space artifacts.

Spaceflight has cut a broad swath through the contemporary experience, intertwining with politics, business, foreign affairs, popular culture, science and technology. It has shaped and transformed mankind. "After Sputnik" explores this epic history in a unique way, using rich, beautiful images of the Museum's artifacts to carry the story. The book features 225 all new four-color and black-and-white photographs of a variety of items — what Collins calls the "real stuff" of history — many of them well known, others less so, but all unforgettable. Among them are the following:

  • Spacesuits used by John Glenn and Neil Armstrong
  • Spacecraft, such as the Freedom 7 Mercury capsule, Gemini VII, the Apollo 11 command module Columbia, the space shuttle Enterprise and the first privately financed space vehicle, SpaceShipOne, among others
  • Space-related gear: A functional rocket belt from the 1950s; a lunar rover; a Manned Maneuvering Unit for spacewalks; the Mars Pathfinder, and more
  • Space-related collectibles, from a Buck Rogers trading card to a Sputnik music box and Apollo-Soyuz cigarettes
  • Such pop culture depictions of space travel as Jules Verne's "From the Earth to the Moon," "Star Trek," "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Alien"
An authoritative text accompanies each artifact, containing detailed background information about the object and its role in the story of space exploration. In addition, Collins introduces each chapter with a thoughtful essay that provides context and focus for the featured artifacts, with subjects ranging from the evolution of the concept of spaceflight in the decades prior to Sputnik to the impact that space technology has had on humans and their perception of the world.

"The book presents each artifact as an individual story, seen in detail but connected to larger outlines of American history and spaceflight's role in shaping our world," Collins noted. "Individually and in total, the artifacts in this book invite the reader to reflect on the space age as a lived, flesh-and-blood undertaking and a venture that has remapped the human experience."

spacecraft guy

Posts: 37
From: San Francisco, CA USA
Registered: Sep 2006

posted 04-02-2007 11:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacecraft guy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is one of the better books regarding the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum collection that I've seen.

Good photography and a good, balanced choice of subjects with informative text regarding the history of the artifacts. I wish that some entries were more detailed. The picture of the MMU shows more of the not so great spacesuit replica than the MMU, and the pictures of the mothership model from "Close Encounters" are much better than the one of the Star Trek Enterprise model.

But they do show where Mike Collins signed his farewell to CM Columbia, which I always looked for when I was at the museum and never saw.

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 42981
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-03-2007 08:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I bought a copy of After Sputnik from Borders today. As 'spacecraft guy' wrote, the imagery and variety of artifacts is a definite draw.

I particularly enjoy that not every item profiled is a major artifact, in either size or historical importance. There are some delightful 'sideshows' — from a tube of Soviet green cabbage soup and a Revel Vostok model to a pack of Apollo Soyuz cigarettes and astronaut Pamela Melroy's scrunchie.

Of course, there are pivotal pieces of space history in After Sputnik too, including John Glenn's Mercury and Neil Armstrong's Apollo spacesuits to the Apollo Command Module Simulator and the space shuttle Enterprise.

I haven't had a chance to read the accompanying essays, but some quick first impressions:

  • I really like the photographs of the artifacts as they are set against a clean black background (and not just because it's the same approach I use for my personal collection gallery). Some of these images have been seen before (in fact, the same shot of SpaceShipOne appears in another Smithsonian publication also on store shelves, which I accidentally discovered while browsing the new titles), but many appear unique or new to After Sputnik.

  • As mentioned, the selection of artifacts is delightfully eclectic, which makes this the perfect book for space memorabilia collectors and space history enthusiasts. There's a special sense of pride that accompanies turning a page and discovering an item identical to one that you own.* That occurred for me a few times throughout the book, and there are other examples from the pages that are now on my eBay saved searches.

  • In addition to varying artifacts, After Sputnik also varies themes and programs. Organized chronologically (which makes sense for a book celebrating a 50 year anniversary), the artifacts share the story of multiple space programs (U.S., Russian and Chinese), multiple disciplines (civilian, military and commercial) and multiple realities (science fiction vs. science fact).
I believe that After Sputnik would be enjoyable for anyone who also enjoys reading collectSPACE.

* As an aside, it may be possible for just about anyone to do this with a $5 purchase. Unless I am mistaken, the Gemini 5 patch that appears on page 103 is a common AB Emblem souvenir replica (the book credits the patch to Mance Clayton, who donated his collection of patches in 1982).


Posts: 2331
From: Sturgeon Bay, WI
Registered: Jan 2000

posted 04-04-2007 11:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I looked through this at the bookstore the other day during my lunch break. I saw it and thought "Oh, another book full of the usual NASA photos, sigh," but no!

It has a lot of really fascinating stuff in it. I'll have to order a copy of this for my collection.

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