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Book Review: Russia in Space – The Past Explained, The Future Explored

Credit: Apogee Prime

Russia in Space – The Past Explained, The Future Explored by Anatoly Zak; Apogee Prime; Burlington, Ontario, Canada; $49.95 (soft cover); July 2013.

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This is an impressive, artfully done and seminal masterpiece. The 316-page, large format volume is a visual feast of information, written by an expert on Russia’s earliest vision of its human spaceflight initiatives in the 1960s right up to the present – and a peek into future plans.

Anatoly Zak is a writer and illustrator, specializing in the history of space exploration. A native of Russia, he attended the School of Journalism at Moscow State University.

Now in the United States, Zak earned a journalism degree from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. Also, he’s publisher of, a newsy reservoir of historical information, photography and imagery on space activities of the former USSR and what’s going on today.

In addition to writing and illustrating this book, Zak personally designed and laid out each of its pages, making use of Soviet and Russian blueprints.

This is a well-written book. Moreover, you can sense Zak’s passion throughout in producing this striking work of art and prose. He got me right from the start, on page 3, talking about the Soviet Union’s collapse and near death – but citing Bob Dylan: “When you think that you’ve lost everything, you find out you can always lose a little more.”

From the creation of the Russian space agency, troubles on Mir, work on the International Space Station to docking and rendezvous systems, Mars mission scenarios and future lunar base planning – this is a tour-de-force of information, all in one place. In addition, there’s a great reference section and handy chronology of key events that influenced Russian strategy in human spaceflight.

BTW: A huge tip of the helmet visor goes to Apogee Prime for producing this grand book.

In the book’s afterword, I found Zak’s narrative quite telling. “Half a century after [Yuri] Gagarin’s triumphant space flight, the Russian human space program was seeking a direction,” he writes. The author then adds: “Unfortunately NASA, which historically provided the most powerful stimulus to Russian space planning, was also delivering a mixed message” in terms of a long-term plan for human space exploration.

This book achieves its goal, in my view, of spotlighting the technical know-how and hardware brought into being by Russian space engineers – an appraisal that underscores the outlook that major space powers — working together — can forge a new dynamic in exploring outer space.

For more information on this book, go to:

By Leonard David


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