NASA's history is a familiar story, culminating with the agency successfully landing men on the moon in 1969, but its prehistory is an important and rarely told tale. America's space agency drew together some of the best minds the non-Soviet world had to offer.Read more...
NASA's history is a familiar story, culminating with the agency successfully landing men on the moon in 1969, but its prehistory is an important and rarely told tale. America's space agency drew together some of the best minds the non-Soviet world had to offer. At the end of World War II, Wernher von Braun escaped Nazi Germany and came to America where he began developing missiles for the United States Army. The engineer behind the V-2 rocket, von Braun dreamt of sending rockets into space. Ten years later his Jupiter rocket was the only one capable of launching a satellite into orbit.
The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and the U.S. Air Force, meanwhile, brought rocket technology into the world of manned flight. NACA test pilots like Neil Armstrong flew cutting-edge aircraft in the thin upper atmosphere while Air Force pilots rode to the fringes of space in balloons to see how humans handled radiation at high altitude.
Breaking the Chains of Gravity looks at the evolving roots of America's space program--the scientific advances, the personalities, and the rivalries between the various arms of the United States military. After the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957, getting a man in space suddenly became a national imperative, leading President Dwight D. Eisenhower to pull various pieces together to create the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-11-23
- Reviewer: Staff
Teitel, an expert in the history of spaceflight and the host of the YouTube channel Vintage Space, illuminates the foundations of American spaceflight with this exceptional and detailed prehistory of the field. Jules Vernes 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon inspired a generation of rocket engineers and scientists in the early 20th century. Searching for more power than gunpowder could provide, Romanian-born physicist Hermann Oberth designed the earliest liquid-fueled rockets, and his 1923 book, The Rocket into Planetary Space, spurred the formation of Germanys Society for Space Travel, a home for kindred space-gazing engineers and scientists. One of those was rocketry pioneer Wernher von Braun, whose work on the Nazis V-2 rocket program that (with some fast talking) eventually earned him and his team postwar jobs working at Americas new White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Teitel takes readers through the nitty-gritty of government-program goals, advances in design and technology, and a host of animal flights, charting the ever-winding path to the 1958 creation of NASA amid Americas political and scientific focus on manned spaceflight. Even for readers already familiar with NASAs story, Teitels history is fascinating new territory, filled with a galaxy of lively characters who share a stubborn determination to reach orbit. (Jan.)