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Book of Flight: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
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Book of Flight: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

by Judith Rinard

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The dream of flight is as old as human history. Based on the outstanding collection of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, Book of Flight traces the remarkable story of the pioneers, inventors, scientists and pilots who turned this dream into reality.

An exciting journey through time, the book includes such remarkable achievements


The dream of flight is as old as human history. Based on the outstanding collection of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, Book of Flight traces the remarkable story of the pioneers, inventors, scientists and pilots who turned this dream into reality.

An exciting journey through time, the book includes such remarkable achievements as:

  • The development of ballooning
  • The earliest human gliders
  • The Wright Brothers' first sustained flights
  • Charles Lindbergh's solo trip across the Atlantic
  • Amelia Earhart's courageous flights
  • The tragic explosion of the airship Hindenburg
  • The dogfights of the first and second world wars
  • Chuck Yeager's historic blast through the sound barrier
  • The Apollo astronauts'
    first steps on the moon
  • The development of the Space Shuttle and the Hubble Space Telescope
  • The building of the International Space Station.

New and updated for this edition:

  • Mission to Mars
  • Latest information on the Space Shuttle program, the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station.

Packed with fascinating illustrations and photographs, Book of Flight is ideal for enthusiasts of all ages.

Editorial Reviews

Booklist - Todd Morning
[Review of 1st edition:] Large colorful photographs and a fast-moving text are sure to make this ... a crowd pleaser. ... Well-written, succinct text.
Science Books and Films
[Review of 1st edition:] A superbly illustrated book, this informal pictorial history of flight will delight any aerospace enthusiast, young or old.
Canadian Materials, Vol 14, No. 16 - Thomas F. Chambers
The Book of Flight could be used for recreation and also in the classroom.
Publishers Weekly
Aviation enthusiasts will also welcome The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Book of Flight by Judith Rinard. Packed with over 400 photographs and illustrations, this informative offering looks at humankind's earliest airborne efforts, including a sidebar about Leonardo da Vinci's famous sketches of "ornithopters," or "flapping-wing machines," and the Wright Brothers' 1903 flight at Kitty Hawk. Later sections focus on postwar barnstormers, Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. ( Nov.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Humans had dreamed of flying for eons. The National Air and Space Museum celebrates every phase of mankind's ascent into the sky. This publication takes a look at that collection and highlights many of its exhibits. Balloons and gliders were the first devices that went airborne. There were numerous attempts at powered flights, but of course, the Wright brothers were the first. With their flight in Kitty Hawk in 1903, they uncovered the secret of controlled human flight. Millions view that plane, the Flyer, every year at the Air and Space Museum. Flight took off in the early 1900s and aircraft played an important role in WWI. After the war, planes grew in importance as they were used for travel, freight and even entertainment. This overview of aviation takes us up to the present day and space stations, shuttles and even missions to Mars. Well illustrated, primarily with photographs, this is good preparation for a visit to the museum or a good souvenir. 2001, Firefly Books, $24.95 and $14.95. Ages 8 up. Reviewer: Kristin Harris<%ISBN%>155209619X
This illustration-packed book is a tribute to the famous Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum telling of the history of flight, highlighting famous pilots and aircraft, and taking us to the end of the 20th century and NASA's mission to Mars. Like museum exhibits, the emphasis is not on text, but rather on the visual and on the organization of materials. Flight has changed exploration; it has changed warfare, and this book tells that story, mostly through full-color illustrations. This is definitely an excellent book to prepare a student for a trip to the museum. It also is a substitute experience for all those students unable to actually visit the museum themselves. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Firefly, 128p. illus. index., $14.95 Ages 13 to adult. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; KLIATT , November 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 6)
Highlighting the collection of the National Air and Space Museum, this book will have immediate appeal for that small but voracious group of aircraft enthusiasts. Arranged around numerous small topics ranging from ballooning to the Wright brothers, World War I fighters, and the Apollo missions and beyond, the browsable format of the book also will interest those less familiar with the subject. Each topic, covered by a two-page spread, is enlarged with color photos, quotations, captions, and small text boxes that provide concise coverage. Because the book draws from the museum's collection for its content, aircraft receives top billing, although Rinard succeeds equally well in bringing to life the people who built and flew these machines. Compared with similar books, such as Century of Flight (Time Life Books, 1999), Rinard's work better explores the roles of women and minorities in aviation, thus illuminating the ways aviation has fulfilled personal as well as national dreams. Rinard touches on modern space missions, but aircraft in the world wars as well as in the Golden Age of Aviation are represented well. Noticeably lacking from a book purporting to chronicle technological advancement, however, is mention of the National Air and Space Museum's Web site or any other online resources. Nevertheless the appealing format, replete with color photos and fascinating snippets of information, will make this book tempting for teens and adults alike. It is recommended for both school and public libraries, $14.95 Trade pb. Glossary. Index. Illus. Photos. Maps. Source Notes. Further Reading. Chronology. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA witha special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Firefly, 128p, $24.95. Ages 11 to 18. Reviewer: Caitlin Augusta SOURCE: VOYA, February 2002 (Vol. 24, No.6)
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-These large-sized, profusely illustrated surveys cover the same territory, but with very different emphases. Both are organized as sequences of topical spreads, on each of which large pictures of aircraft or spacecraft and smaller scenes or schematics mingle with detailed explanatory captions. Flight, aimed at somewhat less proficient readers, takes an overall subject approach, devoting one section to military uses of flight, four to civil or research aviation, then closing with a gallery of pioneer machines. Its art, which is mostly painted or computer generated, has a clean, uncluttered look. In contrast, The Book of Flight is a photo-documentary, with a chronological structure, more images per page on average, and relatively more space allotted to fighting machines and those designed to travel into space. It focuses largely on the United States's contributions to aviation and astronautics. Flight has but half the page count, but takes a more international view and contains information-on hang gliding, for instance, and NASA's recent cancellation of the X-33 space-plane project-which is missing from the Smithsonian title. The differences between the two books are enough to make them complementary, rather than rival, additions to library collections; consider Flight as a systematic, visually appealing update for older picture albums, and even though there is little new material in The Book of Flight, the dramatic, sharply detailed illustrations make it a viable alternative to Century of Flight (Time-Life, 1999).-John Peters, New York Public Library Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Rainbo Electronic Reviews
If you've always been in awe of those daring pilots of the 20th Century who brought us from the earliest forms of flying to today's space program, you'll love this book.... The history of flight is presented with tributes to both the men and the machines in this fantastic picture book. It's the kind of book you can reaad over and over again, just to learn more about how these brave men and women (we can't forget, can we?) gave us this amazing legacy and inspiring technology.

Product Details

Firefly Books, Limited
Publication date:
Edition description:
Second edition, revised
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.37(d)
Age Range:
10 - 15 Years

Read an Excerpt


Imagine a time when people only dreamed of flying, when the sight of a jet streaking across the sky would have been astounding, and the idea of launching a rocket into space too fantastic to comprehend. You may be surprised to learn that time was not very long ago. It is possible that someone you know was born before airliners and jets even existed.

The stories you are about to read -- and the amazing pictures you will see -- capture the wonder and excitement of a history that is still unfolding. At the dawn of the 20th century, the first powered aircraft took to the skies. By the century's end, the International Space Station was on its way to becoming a reality. In the first years of the new millennium, engineers are developing reusable space vehicles, designing airplanes that will fly at five times the speed of sound and exploring a human mission to Mars.

The pioneers of flight paved the way for a future filled with adventure and achievement, a fact demonstrated every day at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. Filled with history-making aircraft and spacecraft, the Museum brings to life the work of the inventors and scientists who created them, portrays the courageous aviators and astronauts who flew them and explains how our world is changing because of the progress in aviation and space exploration. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Book of Flight celebrates the Museum's famous collection and reveals highlights of its many exhibitions.

In the following pages, for example, you will be introduced to two brothers -- Wilbur and Orville Wright. As children they made and flew kites. When they got older they designed and built bicycles. Soon they were able to put their mechanical skills to use in achieving their dream: On December 17, 1903, on a windswept beach near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, they flew the first powered airplane into the history books. Millions of people come to see the original Wright Flyer at the National Air and Space Museum every year

People also come to the Museum to see other early airplanes like the Spirit of St. Louis. In it, a 25-year-old airmail pilot named Charles Lindbergh flew nonstop from New York to Paris in 1927, a 33 1/2 hour flight that six other pilots died trying to achieve. Five years later, Amelia Earhart became the first woman pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic. Her bright red Lockheed Vega sits in the Museum's Pioneers of Flight gallery.

Aviation's powerful influence on world history is shown in exhibits that describe military activities over the decades. In the Book of Flight, you'll learn all about famous battles and discover how the first bombers and fighter planes worked. You will meet heroes like America's World War I flying ace, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, as well as other military legends such as Baron Manfred von Richthofen, also known as the "Red Baron." (Do you know what famous cartoon character is still waging war on the Red Baron? Look for the answer in one of the book's many Fun Facts.)

The courage of World War II fliers is shown in the inspiring story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American fighter pilots. This skilled and daring group fought against great odds to defend our country on two fronts -- against the enemy in Europe and against racial prejudice in this country.

By the middle of the 20th century, aircraft designers were focusing on speed. Suspended from the Museum's ceiling is the Bell X-1, a bright orange, bullet-shaped plane equipped with a rocket engine. In 1947 an American test pilot named Chuck Yeager accelerated it to 700 miles per hour to break the sound barrier for the first time.

It was not long after this milestone that the race to conquer space was on. In 1962 America's effort to orbit the earth was successful. Astronaut John Glenn's Mercury Friendship 7 capsule is now on display in the Milestones of Flight gallery. Other Museum exhibits trace the expansion and progress of space exploration, as well as the science and technology behind the breakthroughs. Hundreds of displays and artifacts -- rockets, capsules, tools, vehicles, equipment, space suits, even space food -- tell this continuing story.

One of the National Air and Space Museum's most popular displays features a rock from the Moon. This four-billion-year-old sample was taken from the lunar surface in 1972 by astronauts participating in the Apollo 17 mission.

Since it opened on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 1976, the Air and Space Museum has welcomed more than 212 million people. The world's most visited museum, it is the length of three city blocks and has exhibitions on two floors. Amazingly, however, there is room for only 10 percent of the national collection of aviation and space artifacts. For this reason, the museum is constructing a new building that will be large enough to display an additional 80 percent of the collection.

In December 2003, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Wilbur and Orville Wright's historic flight will be celebrated by opening the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport. This amazing facility will be ten stories high and three football fields long. It is named for the man who provided a major contribution to help construct it.

Visitors to the Udvar-Hazy Center will be able to walk among artifacts on the floor and also along elevated "skyways" to view hanging aircraft. Many engines, rockets, satellites, helicopters, airliners and experimental flying machines will be displayed for the first time in a museum setting. Over 200 aircraft and 135 spacecraft will be on view, including the prototype space shuttle Enterprise and the SR-71 Blackbird, the world's fastest airplane.

There will be an observation tower overlooking Dulles air traffic, plus restaurants and shops. Visitors will also be able to enjoy exciting movies in a large-screen theater, and ride thrilling simulators.

As the Director of the National Air and Space Museum, I feel I am one of the luckiest men on the planet. I not only have the chance to be in the world's most fascinating museum everyday, I also know what it is like to be in the cockpit, having served for many years as a Marine Corps pilot. In addition, I was privileged to continue my flying and play a role in the space program by working at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Although my career has included many roles, the one I care most about is being a father and grandfather. It is for this reason that I want to preserve and share the magnificent history and technology of aviation and space exploration ith and others.

Over the past century, we have come a long way. But for future generations, the best is yet to come.

General John R. "Jack" Dailey, USMC (Ret)
National Air and Space Museum

Meet the Author

Judith E. Rinard was a staff writer for National Geographic, where she specialized in scientific subjects for more than 20 years.

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