The Wrong Stuff

How the Soviet Space Program Crashed and Burned

Regular Price $30.00

Regular Price $39.00 CAD

Regular Price $30.00

Regular Price $39.00 CAD

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On Sale

Jun 4, 2024

Page Count

272 Pages




A witty, deeply researched history of the surprisingly ramshackle Soviet space program, and how its success was more spin than science.

In the wake of World War II, with America ascendant and the Soviet Union devastated by the conflict, the Space Race should have been over before it started. But the underdog Soviets scored a series of victories–starting with the 1957 launch of Sputnik and continuing in the years following–that seemed to achieve the impossible. It was proof, it seemed, that the USSR had manpower and collective will that went beyond America's material advantages. They had asserted themselves as a world power.

But in The Wrong Stuff, John Strausbaugh tells a different story. These achievements were amazing, yes, but they were also PR victories as much as scientific ones. The world saw a Potemkin spaceport; the internal facts were much sloppier, less impressive, more dysfunctional. The Soviet supply chain was a disaster, and many of its machines barely worked. The cosmonauts aboard its iconic launch of the Vostok 1 rocket had to go on a special diet, and take off their space suits, just to fit inside without causing a failure. Soviet scientists, under intense government pressure, had essentially made their rocket out of spit and band aids, and hurried to hide their work as soon as their worldwide demonstration was complete.

With a witty eye for detail and a gift for storytelling, John Strausbaugh takes us behind the Iron Curtain, and shows just how little there was to find there.


“Strausbaugh’s droll sense of humor fits well with this examination of the Soviet space program… [He] clearly enjoyed writing this entertaining book, an accessible, engaging story about an era that, for better or worse, is nearly forgotten.” —Kirkus
“Strausbaugh tells this extraordinary tale in a chatty, familiar voice that adds to the ironies of historical Soviet extraterrestrial adventuring.”
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