Infinity Beckoned: Adventuring through the Inner Solar System, 1969-1989

Infinity Beckoned: Adventuring through the Inner Solar System, 1969-1989

Infinity Beckoned: Adventuring through the Inner Solar System, 1969-1989

Infinity Beckoned: Adventuring through the Inner Solar System, 1969-1989


Infinity Beckoned illuminates a critical period of space history when humans dared an expansive leap into the inner solar system. With an irreverent and engaging style, Jay Gallentine conveys the trials and triumphs of the people on the ground who conceived and engineered the missions that put robotic spacecraft on the heavenly bodies nearest our own. These dedicated space pioneers include such individuals as Soviet Russia's director of planetary missions, who hated his job but kept at it for fifteen years, enduring a paranoid bureaucracy where even the copy machines were strictly regulated. Based on numerous interviews, Gallentine delivers a rich variety of stories involving the men and women, American and Russian, responsible for such groundbreaking endeavors as the Mars Viking missions of the 1970s and the Soviet Venera flights to Venus in the 1980s. From the dreamers responsible for the Venus landing who discovered that dropping down through heavy clouds of sulfuric acid and 900-degree heat was best accomplished by surfing to the five-man teams puppeteering the Soviet moon rovers from a top-secret, off-the-map town without a name, the people who come to life in these pages persevered in often trying, thankless circumstances. Their legacy is our better understanding of our own planet and our place in the cosmos.


Listen, and you might hear them. Or you might not.

Either way they’re out there: drumbeats. With low lumbering tones, they sound in a fashion that is barely discernable from the ever-present murmurs of earthly background noise. Although very faint the beats are immensely powerful, and only certain individuals hear them. For those tuned in, they are a beacon. An undercurrent of rhythm. A call to arms— urgently shaking people out of bed in the morning, tugging, sending hands lunging for coffee, whiplashing them out the door to seek what they cannot help but. The incessant tempo energetically propels these individuals through adversity and frustration and the sweet nectar of success and cannot be turned off and simply will not let them rest for long.

The drums have always been out there, quietly summoning, but picked up strength around the time World War II ended and these newfangled things called rockets gradually took to the skies. Of course it’s not rockets per se that were so new or fangled at that time; the concept arced back through millennia of pesky technological maturation. Over two thousand years ago, curious Greek handymen filled hollow balls with water and lit fires underneath. Steam would blow out through little nozzles on the balls’ midsections and spin them round. Outcome: plaything. Hundreds of years later, Chinese soldiers employed tiny gunpowder rockets against the Mongols. By today’s standards they were more firework than arsenal; Wisconsin residents get stronger stuff in a Happy Meal. But China’s “flaming arrows” represented another stepping-stone laid down upon evolutionary waters. Rockets, in concept and in practice, are very old indeed.

That which emerged in the late 1940s, then, was an idea hitting puberty: rockets able to carry things of substance to great heights and over long distances. In particular, the German war machine sired a four-story cylin-

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