Aiming For The Stars

Aiming For The Stars

by Tom D. Crouch
     
 

Aiming for the Stars explores the motivations, goals, trials, and triumphs of the people who pioneered space exploration from the sixteenth century to the modern era. Tom D. Crouch describes space travel's emergence from the pages of science fiction into the laboratories of twentieth-century rocketeers such as Wernher von Braun, who masterminded Nazi rocket

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Overview

Aiming for the Stars explores the motivations, goals, trials, and triumphs of the people who pioneered space exploration from the sixteenth century to the modern era. Tom D. Crouch describes space travel's emergence from the pages of science fiction into the laboratories of twentieth-century rocketeers such as Wernher von Braun, who masterminded Nazi rocket development and later became a key figure in the U.S. space program, and Sergei Korolev, an engineer whose successful launches became the foundation of Soviet Cold War policy. The book also explains the goals nad missions of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs and describes the 1986 Challenge disaster, the spacefaring adventurs of astronaut Shannon Lucid, and the fortunes of the Mir space station in the wake of glasnost. Linking individual obsessions and achievements with the political events and social currents that surrounded them, the book offers a wide-ranging view of the attempt to explore the final frontier.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
From Johannes Kepler's 17th-century drawing board to the Mars Society's Web site; from Apollo XI to Apollo XIII; from Russia's Mir space station (scheduled to return to Earth in bits) to American robots (scheduled to return to Mars, but when?), the story of human endeavors in outer space has plenty of physics and engineering, plenty of drama, plenty of heroism and not a few bits of hubris and folly. Crouch (whose previous work includes The Bishop's Boys, a biography of the Wright brothers) has produced a book far more informative than his gung-ho title suggests: his book explains, very accessibly, the prehistory and history of space flight, mixing accounts of key players (well known and unknown) with relevant technical and political history. Crouch covers not only rocket science pioneer Robert Goddard, but his German counterpart, Hermann Oberth, who in 1923 published Die Rakete zu den Planetenraumen (The Rocket into Interplanetary Space). Another chapter covers the U.S. and Soviet race to recruit ex-Nazi scientists: after Sputnik, a Pentagon spokesman was heard to complain, "We got the wrong Germans!" Wernher von Braun plays a big role in Crouch's account, but so do Soviet space expert Sergei Korolev, Caltech's eccentric experts John Parsons and Theodore von K rm n (who worked to invent better rocket motors) and the able technocrat James Webb, who took the helm of NASA after Kennedy promised the U.S. public the moon. Later chapters deal ably with the space stations of the 1970s, the space shuttle missions of the 1980s and the current use of commercial satellites and unmanned space exploration. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In this narrative history of the space age, Crouch (curator of Aeronautics, National Air and Space Museum) rounds up the usual suspects--Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and Robert H. Goddard, Wernher von Braun and Sergei Korolev. He does a capable job of laying out the story of space travel for a general audience, focusing especially on the contributions these major players made in their lifetimes. He details both the manned programs--from Vostok and Mercury, to Apollo and Soyuz and on through the Shuttle and the International Space Station--to the major unmanned probes that have been sent to the planets. The only problem with this latest single-volume space history is that it covers the same ground as two other excellent and recent efforts--T.A. Heppenheimer's Countdown (LJ 5/15/97) and William Burrows's This New Ocean (LJ 9/15/98). Recommended for libraries (both public and academic) not holding either of these earlier works.--Thomas J. Frieling, Bainbridge Coll. Lib., GA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
A senior curator of aeronautics at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum recounts the history of space flight from loose talk in the 16th century to the misfortunes of the Mir space station suffering neglect after . He describes the field's move from science fiction to laboratories in early 20th century America, Russia, and Germany; the rush for development during World War II and the Cold War; the goals and missions of US programs; the Challenge disaster; and the space adventures of Shannon Lucid. His emphasis throughout is on the personalities. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781560983866
Publisher:
Smithsonian Institution Press
Publication date:
09/17/1999
Pages:
354
Product dimensions:
0.94(w) x 9.00(h) x 6.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

(Robert) Goddard left Roswell in 1941 to work with U.S. Navy and Curtiss-Wright engineers on the development of jet-assisted-takeoff and variable-thrust, liquid-propellant rockets. By the spring of 1944 he was receiving detailed reports on a new German long-range rocket, the V-2. "The weapon is reported to be almost identical with the rocket we were working on in New Mexico at the time we changed over to war work," he wrote to Harry Guggenheim," except that it is larger."

Goddard provided the editor of the National Geographic News Bulletin with a list of his own patents for almost every aspect of V-2 design. "So closely do the mechanical features of the V-2 parallel the American projectile [Goddard's rocket]," the News Bulletin announced in January 1945, that some physicists think the Germans may have actually copied most of the design."

That, certainly, was the opinion of Robert Hutchings Goddard. On August 14, 1945, he died of throat cancer, convinced that his work had played a key role in the German's success. It simply was not true. The Germans had followed the same path as Goddard, quite unaware that he had been there before them. Under the inspired leadership of Wernher von Braun, they had surged past him without a backward glance, achieving Goddard's goal of sending a rocket to the edge of space.

Meet the Author

Tom D. Crouch is senior curator of aeronautics at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum and the author of numerous award-winning books on aerospace history.

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