Of Rockets and People
Sarah Z H
When was the last time you had met a space historian? For me the answer is, about a week and a few days! Asif Azam Siddiqi,A Bangladeshi American space historian who at present teaches history at Fordham University just published his second book entitled The Red Rockets’ Glare:Spaceflight and the Soviet Imagination,1857-1957.As part of sharing his story of becoming a space enthusiast Dr.Siddiqi revealed that he was realistic enough to understand that he would not be an astronaut but his passion for the boundless namely galaxies and the universe landed him where he is today.His first book Challange to Apollo:The Soviet Union and the Space Race,1945-1974 being the first comprehensive story of the Soviet space program was published by NASA History Office in 2000.
His specialization lies in the history of science and technology and modern Russian history. After his first book with NASA his interests took a more serious turn towards a broader range of subjects and not just space. The Red Rockets’ Glare: Spaceflight and the Soviet Imagination,1857-1957 thus is primarily grounded on the social and cultural roots of cosmic enthusiasm in modern Russia.The book was produced after his yearlong stay in Russia and extensive archival research.Dr. Sidiqqi vouches that the book is very much about regular people and why they have been historically interested in space. The argument used in this book is that people are looking for utopian answers to their earthly problems and space provides them with cosmic ideas or answers. It approaches the birth of cosmic enthusiasm within the social and cultural boundaries of Russian and Soviet history. The first two or three chapters frame bridging imagination with engineering; muting philosophy, intellect and culture. In his own words the book works clearly as a link between humble men who later became the greatest dreamers of the world and also people who paved their road in space, people who made history.
The book is published by Cambridge University Press and has been officially endorsed by well known academics, including Dr.Loren Graham, Professor Emeritus of the History of Science at MIT and Harvard and Dr.Sergei Khrushchev, the son of the former Soviet premier and currently a researcher at Brown University.
However, his contribution to space history also features the academic year 2008-2009 that was spent as an invited visiting scholar at MIT's Program on Science, Technology, and Society. He worked on the Space Policy and Society Group, which was commissioned to produce a report on the future of Human space flight. In December 2008,as part of the MIT group, he briefed members of the U.S House and Senate on the policy options available to NASA under the new Obama Administration. Later, at a forum for leading Washington policy-makers held in May 2009,he represented the MIT group. Dr.Sidiqqi performed in the same capacity at a subsequent forum held at MIT in December 2009,where he served on a panel with Norm Augustine, the chair of the commission appointed by Obama to review options for NASA's future. The culmination of this work was a monograph, which he co-authored, entitled The Future of Human Spaceflight:Objectives and Policy Implications in a Global Context, which was published by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr.Sidiqqi who has received many honours including prestigious yearlong fellowships from the American Historical Association (AHA), the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), and the National Science Foundation and many more was very modest in saying that he had been very fortunate to be given these recognitions. In retrospect he believes he has accomplished only what he had loved and the act of making the complicated simple works as a path breaking fundamental regarding the history of rocketry and space flight.