Angle of Attack: Harrison Storms and the Race to the Moon

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Apollo, the most ambitious engineering project ever undertaken by man: to build a rocket 36 stories high, load it with the explosive power of a nuclear device, put men on top of it, and shoot it at the moon - this is a task more complicated by far than the Manhattan Project and the Panama Canal combined. Angle of Attack is the story of one of America's most triumphant achievements: two decades later the Apollo Mission stands as a stirring reminder of what this country is capable of when the chips are down. In the panic that follows the Soviet launch of Sputnik, it is Harrison Storms, the legendary chief engineer of North American Aviation, who captures the job of building the Apollo spacecraft. Storms is one of the country's foremost airplane designers, and at North American he is known, only half-jokingly, as The Creator. But building the ship that will carry the astronauts to the moon and back is a challenge of a new and frightening order. As Storms and his engineers feel their way through uncharted technologies on a killing schedule, the blizzard of changing orders from NASA keeps the design of the ship a constantly moving target. To wage the battle, Storms assembles a vast technical empire that includes some of the greatest minds in industrial America. Working with Werner von Braun and the German rocket scientists from Peenemunde, they chase the triple nines (tolerances of .999), driving themselves beyond endurance to heart attacks, breakdowns, and suicides, giving their careers, sometimes their lives, to this colossal machine. In brilliant, high-octane storytelling reminiscent of Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff, Mike Gray dramatizes the quest for the moon and celebrates the triumph of American technical genius.

As the world observes the 25th anniversary of the first man on the moon, this exciting book tells the gripping story of the engineers who answered President Kennedy's challenge and devoted their lives to accomplishing the impossible. "A fascinating book . . . about what Americans can achieve with vision and teamwork."--Buzz Aldrin.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This swaggering portrait of NASA's Apollo project might well be called Indiana Jones and the Engineering Mission of Destiny. Harrison Storms, the tough but adored head of North American Aviation's Space Division, has the title role, but Gray (The Warning) introduces hundreds of other characters, both human and mechanical (often blurring the distinctions)--a load that weighs heavily on his occasionally breathless prose. More than 30,000 people worked on the mission to put a man on the moon, beginning with the Cold War politics of the 1950s race for space and ending with that triumphal one small step in 1969. Under Storms's right stuff leadership, the project ran a corporate and governmental gauntlet toward a goal that defined the technological era: Man, Moon, Decade. Even NASA fans disillusioned by recent revelations of the agency's flaws will feel reinvigorated by the pure sense of mission manifest in this account. (Oct.)
On Harrison Storms, chief engineer of North American Aviation, and the team that built the Apollo spacecraft. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Kirkus Reviews
Rip-roaring history of the Apollo Project, which brought men to the moon in 1969, recounted at full-turbo power by screenwriter Gray (The China Syndrome, 1979; coauthor, The Warning, 1982). In retrospect, the pace was incredible: The US launched its first puny satellite in 1958, yet 11 years later deposited Neil Armstrong on lunar soil. How did we do it? This was a communal triumph, 400,000 men and women buzzing like a hive of bees on speed to launch a spaceship of 3,000,000 parts that "had to intersect with an almost mystical cohesion heretofore seen only in Nature herself." Gray zooms in on the project leaders—above all, a human whirlwind aptly named Harrison Storms, an aeronautic wizard, builder of the X-15 test plane and head of North American Aviation's Space Division. Storms first joins forces with German rocket-ace Werner von Braun, designer of the mammoth Saturn rocket, then signs on Maxine Faget, "a creative little live-wire" space- capsule designer; Charlie Feltz, "the Billy Goat Gruff of the machine shop"; and innumerable other Tom Swift clones—and the Race Is On. Gray milks much drama from the all-out intercorporate war to snare the spaceship contract from the federal government. Once Storms gets his mandate, scientific headaches pile up: Should the capsule have an explosive hatch? Should there be a separate lunar lander? A new rocket fuel must be invented, as well as insulation that can withstand reentry temperatures equal to those on the surface of the sun. Workers drop like flies from nervous breakdowns and heart seizures; divorce becomes endemic. Most terribly, three astronauts die in a capsule fire, suffocated by toxic fumes from burning Velcro. But500 million man-hours of labor come to fruition in 1969 as Storms watches his metallic behemoth roar into space from the Florida swamps. A breathtaking ride, with an ideal mix of human interest and technical detail, that burns almost as brightly as Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140232806
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 6/28/1994
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.68 (d)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2006

    An Incredible story few understand

    A true story that reads as a top notch fiction book. This novel tells the behind the scenes 'high drama' of the Apollo program as told from the vantage point of North American Aviation-one of the thousands of contractors working on the program. The story focal point is legendary aviation engineer Harrison Storms. He and the incredible cast of individuals in this book make for an incredible read. Its difficult to imagine us getting to the moon in the time we did without men like these.This is not so much a technical story of Apollo/Saturn as it is a story of how far the human spirit will go to achieve. There were many areas in this book which showcase human inginuity and imagination on an unprecedented level while also letting the reader understand the incredible stresses placed upon those involved.This is definitly not 'just another space book' and can be appreciated by young and old, male of female- my 75 year old mother read it and said 'I had no idea of the incredible 'other side' of the space program...the best book I've read that shows the human spirit in high gear'. After reading this book I felt a much higher appreciation of what was really going on during the Apollo era, I highly recommend this book to those literary thrill seekers that usually find factual books too bland.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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