Outposts on the Frontier: A Fifty-Year History of Space Stations

Outposts on the Frontier: A Fifty-Year History of Space Stations

Outposts on the Frontier: A Fifty-Year History of Space Stations

Outposts on the Frontier: A Fifty-Year History of Space Stations


The International Space Station (ISS) is the largest man-made structure to orbit Earth and has been conducting research for close to a decade and a half. Yet it is only the latest in a long line of space stations and laboratories that have flown in orbit since the early 1970s. The histories of these earlier programs have been all but forgotten as the public focused on other, higher-profile adventures such as the Apollo moon landings.

A vast trove of stories filled with excitement, danger, humor, sadness, failure, and success, Outposts on the Frontier reveals how the Soviets and the Americans combined strengths to build space stations over the past fifty years. At the heart of these scientific advances are people of both greatness and modesty. Jay Chladek documents the historical tapestry of the people, the early attempts at space station programs, and how astronauts and engineers have contributed to and shaped the ISS in surprising ways. Outposts on the Frontier delves into the intriguing stories behind the USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory, the Almaz and Salyut programs, Skylab, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, Spacelab, Mir station, Spacehab, and the ISS, and gives past-due attention to Vladimir Chelomei, the Russian designer whose influence in space station development is as significant as Sergei Korolev's in rocketry.

Outposts on the Frontier is an informative and dynamic history of humankind's first outposts on the frontier of space.


I have known Jay Chladek for about a decade. Essentially acquainted through the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum, located just off Interstate 80 in my home town of Ashland, Nebraska, Jay and my mother Alice were frequent attendees at various museum events. Recognizing in each other in a simultaneous zeal for space, along with an overwhelming desire to occupy front-row seats (Mom didn’t want to look at the back of Jay’s head), they continued to strike up conversations at book signings and lectures, most notably those by nasa astronauts. it was through their developing friendship—further enhanced by my standing as Nebraska’s first and only astronaut—and the completion of my first mission to the space station in 2007 that we would meet and ultimately become friends.

As an astronaut, I had the wonderful privilege of flying in space … twice. While the hours spent orbiting Earth were memorable, far more hours were spent between the countries of the United States and Russia—key training locations for any astronaut destined for the International Space Station (ISS). How interesting that during the time of my training and spaceflights, the United States and Russia would work together as space-faring partners rather than competitors. These were two prideful space programs, the envy of the entire world. Driven almost solely by the enormous number of dedicated people toiling behind the scenes, they were all working together, half a world apart. They had a single—and remarkably easy-to-state—goal: the safe delivery and return of humans to outer space, including protecting and sustaining these beings known as astronauts and cosmonauts as they lived and worked side by side in space for months at a time. a goal not so easy to execute, these prideful nations were faced with political and financial woes on the ground, catalyzed by the oft-antagonistic relationship of the upper levels of their respective governments.

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