Space Exploration and Humanity

A Historical Encyclopedia

by History Committee of the American Astronautical Society
Stephen B. Johnson, General Editor
Timothy M. Chamberlin, Michael L. Ciancone, Katherine Scott Sturdevant, and Rick W. Sturdevant, Section Editors
David Leverington, Technical Consultant


Born of unquenchable curiosity, fueled by astounding technology, the exploration of space is one of humankind's definitive achievements. As history, it offers real-life drama no fiction can match—a multigenerational global saga filled with vivid and eccentric personalities, high stakes politics, bold scientific leaps, and legend-in-the-making tales of courage, heartbreak, failure, and triumph.

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Cover image for Space Exploration and Humanity

August 2010


Pages 1318
Volumes 2
Size 7x10
Topics World History/Science and Technology
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A complete history of human endeavors in space, this book also moves beyond the traditional topics of human spaceflight, space technology, and space science to include political, social, cultural, and economic issues, and also commercial, civilian, and military applications.

In two expertly written volumes, Space Exploration and Humanity: A Historical Encyclopedia covers all aspects of space flight in all participating nations, ranging from the Cold War–era beginnings of the space race to the lunar landings and the Apollo-Soyuz mission; from the Shuttle disasters and the Hubble telescope to Galileo, the Mars Rover, and the International Space Station. The book moves beyond the traditional topics of human spaceflight, space technology, and space science to include political, social, cultural, and economic issues, and also commercial, civilian, and military applications.

Produced in conjunction with the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, this work divides its coverage into six sections, each beginning with an overview essay, followed by an alphabetically organized series of entries on topics such as astrophysics and planetary science; civilian and commercial space applications; human spaceflight and microgravity science; space and society; and space technology and engineering. Whether investigating a specific issue or event or tracing an overarching historic trend, students and general readers will find this an invaluable resource for launching their study of one of humanity's most extraordinary endeavors.


  • 580 articles describing various aspects of manned and unmanned space exploration, including a full range of social, technological, and political issues, such as government policy, nationalism, and the technology/military-driven economy
  • Six overview essays, introducing each of the encyclopedia's major sections and putting that aspect of space exploration into historical context
  • 136 contributors, many who are leading space historians and experts affiliated with the American Astronautical Society, make firsthand knowledge and fresh insights accessible to all audiences
  • Numerous photos, including stunning shots from space, star charts, technical drawings, and more
  • Short bibliographies conclude each entry, pointing readers to the best sources to find out more about the topic
  • A Glossary defining the various technical terms encountered in the encyclopedia


  • Sets a new standard for covering a topic of high interest for secondary and undergraduate students and the general public alike
  • Authorship includes most of the leading historians of space and technology, thus giving it an authoritativeness that is unmatched
  • More comprehensive than any other title on the market, exploring the entirety of human interaction with space, including U.S., Russian, Chinese, and European space programs
  • Ties the scientific achievements of the world's space programs to the changing social environments of the 1960s–1990s
Author Info

Stephen B. Johnson, PhD, is associate research professor in the National Institute for Science, Space, and Security Centers at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and is currently assigned to NASA Marshall Space Flight Center for the Ares I Project and Constellation Program. Acquiring his doctorate at the University of Minnesota in the History of Science and Technology, his published works include The Secret of Apollo, which won the 2002 Eugene Emme Award for Astronautical Literature, and The United States Air Force and the Culture of Innovation 1945-1965; numerous journal articles in publications such as Technology and Culture, History and Technology, Air Power History, and the Journal of Industrial History; and essays in books including Critical Issues in the History of Spaceflight, The Societal Impact of Spaceflight, and The Business of Systems Integration. He was the editor of Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly from 1998-2005. Johnson has contributed to encyclopedias such as The Readers Guide to the History of Science and American National Biography. He is the general editor for the encyclopedia project, and the area editor for the Astrophysics and Planetary Science, Civilian and Commercial Applications, Technology and Engineering sections of the encyclopedia.

Timothy M. Chamberlin is design editor for the Tulsa World newspaper in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His work includes coverage of the Space Shuttle Columbia accident and the future of spaceflight for The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina. He has developed a website for finding relevant information about current U.S. space policy and law and has written about space advisory committees appointed by the president for Space Times magazine. He is an honorary member of the American Astronautical Society (AAS) and serves as editor of the AAS History Committee's newsletter Explorer. Chamberlin holds a Master of Science degree in space studies from the University of North Dakota. He serves as the area editor for the Human Flight and Microgravity Science section of the encyclopedia.

Michael L. Ciancone is an engineer at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, where he provides technical support on human spaceflight safety to the Constellation Program. Ciancone is also a bibliophile who has maintained an active interest in pre-Sputnik rocket societies and spaceflight visionaries, as well as the cultural and social impacts of spaceflight. In connection with these interests, Ciancone chairs the American Astronautical Society (AAS) History Committee and coordinates the review panel for the annual Emme Award for Astronautical Literature. He is also a member of the History Committee of the International Academy of Astronautics. Ciancone has written papers on spaceflight visionaries such as David Lasser and Luigi Gussalli, and has served as curator for an exhibit at the Western Reserve Historical Society on "Cleveland and Outer Space, The Cleveland Rocket Society (1933-37)." His published works include The Literary Legacy of the Space Age – An Annotated Bibliography of pre-1958 Books on Rocketry & Space Travel and he is the volume editor for the papers presented during the IAA History Symposium of the 2002 World Space Congress in Houston, Texas. Ciancone serves as area editor for the Space and Society section of the encyclopedia project.

David Leverington, PhD, now retired, is a writer on the history of astronomy and space research. Educated at Oxford University in England with a degree in physics, he was the design manager of GEOS in the 1970s, Europe's first geosynchronous scientific satellite, and program manager at the European Space Agency of Meteosat, Europe's first meteorological satellite. Later he was engineering director in BAE Systems' Space Division, responsible, among other things, for Giotto, the spacecraft that intercepted Halley's Comet in 1986, the Photon Detector Assembly for the Hubble Space Telescope, the Envisat/Polar Platform, the Medium Energy Detector Assembly for Exosat, subsystems on the ISEE-B, Ulysses, and Hipparcos satellites, and remote sensing instruments that flew on the American UARS and TIROS N satellites. He was deputy CEO of British Aerospace Communications and on the management board of the UK's Earth Observation Data Centre. His published works include A History of Astronomy from 1890 to the Present, New Cosmic Horizons: Space Astronomy from the V2 to the Hubble Space Telescope, and Babylon to Voyager and Beyond: A History of Planetary Astronomy. Leverington has been published in many journals including Nature and the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, and he is a contributor to Elsevier's Encyclopedia of the Solar System, 2nd Edition. He is included in the marquis' Who's Who in the World 2006, and is a fellow of the UK's Royal Astronomical Society. He serves as technical consultant for the encyclopedia's Astronomy and Planetary Science section and its meteorological and civilian Earth observation articles.

Katherine Scott Sturdevant, MA and PhD candidate, is professor of history at Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs, CO. She has taught a wide range of undergraduate American history courses for 25 years and has been a scholarly historical editor for nearly 30 years. Her published works include Organizing and Preserving Your Heirloom Documents and Bringing Your Family History to Life through Social History. She received state and national teaching excellence awards and is active in many forms of curriculum innovation, public history publishing, interpretative training, source collection and preservation, historic preservation, and speaking for general audiences. She acted as the education editor for the early stages of the encyclopedia project, ensuring at the outset that the level of writing and editing is appropriate for the target audience of high school seniors, college freshmen, and general readers.

Rick W. Sturdevant, PhD, is deputy director of history at Headquarters Air Force Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, CO. He acquired his PhD in 1982 from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and joined the United States Air Force history program in April 1984 as chief historian for Air Force Communication Command's Airlift Communications Division at Scott Air Force Base, IL. In 1985, he moved to Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, to become chief historian for Space Communications Division, and in 1991 moved to the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) history office. In addition to producing classified periodic histories and special studies for AFSPC, Sturdevant has published extensively on the subject of military aerospace history in such periodicals as Space Times, High Frontier: The Journal for Space & Missile Professionals and Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, and written essays in a number of books, including in Beyond the Ionosphere: Fifty Years of Satellite Communication, To Reach the High Frontier: A History of U.S. Launch Vehicles, and Harnessing the Heavens: National Defense through Space. He has also contributed to encyclopedias such as Air Warfare: An International Encyclopedia and Encyclopedia of 20th-Century Technology. Sturdevant is editor of the International Academy of Astronautics and American Astronautical Society (AAS) history series. A recipient of the Air Force Exemplary Civilian Service Award and the AAS President's Recognition Award, he was elected an AAS Fellow in 2007. He serves as the area editor for the Military Applications section of the encyclopedia project.



"As a seminal work, this will be of use to almost any library. Major users, however, will be young adults and students looking for a place to start in understanding the important relationship of modern space exploration to humanity. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers."Choice

"While there is a fair amount of overlap between this work and the recently reviewed Spaceflight: A Historical Encyclopedia (3 vols., Greenwood), Johnson examines social aspects of voyages to other worlds, whereas Spaceflight focuses on technical/scientific details. Not a question of either/or, but both, if budgets allow, as these twin sets are highly recommended for all public and academic libraries."Library Journal

"...fills a void in the existing literature and will find a home in public, university, government, and corporate libraries and be a valuable reference for those who use it."Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly

"Space Exploration and Humanity: A Historical Encyclopedia can be highly recommended. Its broad synthesis is remarkable and addresses many topics never before presented in English. Its production reflects the highest professional standards, from organization, content selection, research, and writing to final publication. Editors and authors alike can share credit in this splendid achievement."



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