Countdown: A History of Space Flight / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 92%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (20) from $1.99   
  • New (7) from $17.49   
  • Used (13) from $1.99   


This is the first book to take a historian's view of the space age, taking a realistic, unglamorized look at astronauts and technology. It answers questions regarding the United States decision to go to the moon, to abandon Skylab 2 and how the Cold War influenced the space race. It addresses the significance of satellite reconnaissance as well as the Soviet-manned moon effort, Apollo and the politics behind them. It presents newly released information from the former Soviet Union and looks to the future of the space program and the direction it needs to take to serve the public.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Lee Atwood
By far the most significant and technically insightful account of the ventures into the space environment I have seen. . . . [Heppenheimer] concentrates unerringly on key elements, both technical and managerial, in this account of man's initial space ventures..
Dale D. Myers
A fascinating, detailed comparison of the people and programs, the triumphs and failures of the two major space-faring nations; well presented and well told..
Andrew Chaikin
A hundred years ago, a brilliant Russian schoolteacher had a vision of human beings overcoming gravity to venture beyond their home planet. Today, astronauts and cosmonauts live together in space for months on end. What happened in between is a story of phenomenal ingenuity and perseverance by some of our century's greatest engineers, scientists, and explorers. No one is better equipped to tell that wondrous tale than Tom Heppenheimer. Combining an expert grasp of technology with a historian's perspective on world events, he weaves the story of space flight through the unfolding of the twentieth century. It's all here, from the early rocket experiments of Goddard and von Braun, to the Cold War race to the moon, to the era of international cooperation in space. This truly impressive book conveys the power that has lifted humanity off the earth—not only rockets, but people who dared to reach beyond their own limits..
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Like a skilled artisan, Heppenheimer Turbulent Skies weaves social, political, scientific, technological, military and economic threads of the history of space flight into a tapestry that reveals fascinating patterns and themes. He portrays technological brilliance mingled with colossal errors in judgment, the interplay of teamwork and bitter rivalry, the juxtaposition of the noblest and most venal national and personal goals, while presenting the still-unfolding story of humanity's greatest adventure. Key to the story are individuals who, though often operating behind the scenes, like Sergei Korolev, the founder of the Soviet space program, shaped intra-national and international events. Marked by comprehensive primary source and documentary research, and drawing on a trove of information not available before the fall of the Soviet Union, Heppenheimer'ss chronology is rich in scientific and technological detail, though readers will have to follow the book's extensive bibliography for a more complete picture. This is primarily a well-told story of humanity's quest to reach the cosmos, and of the very human individuals who, for good or ill, have left their mark on that great endeavor. May
Library Journal
The end of the Cold War has brought with it sweeping changes in both the American and the former Soviet Union's space programs, which received their primary impetus from the post-World War II nuclear stalemate but today are justified mainly on the basis of international cooperation. Science writer Heppenheimer's readable account provides a timely historical overview of the early visionaries, the engineers, and the geopolitical forces that placed men on the moon and created today's aerospace industry. Drawing on newly available Russian sources, the author places both Russian and American programs in their historical contexts, demonstrating that the two superpowers undertook their respective expensive manned programs mainly for the sake of prestige. However, he reluctantly concludes that, having failed in developing any support beyond the sponsoring governments, manned spaceflight may not have a future beyond the current U.S.-Russian joint space station venture. In contrast, he notes, the real achievements of space research are embodied in the advancements in communications technology and meteorology that are so ingrained in our daily lives. A thoughtful analysis that is highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.Thomas J. Frieling, Bainbridge Coll., Ga.
Kirkus Reviews
Once the exclusive province of science fiction, space flight is now the stuff of sober (though hardly dull) history.

Heppenheimer (The Coming Quake, 1988, etc.) begins his survey with Tsiolkovsky, Oberth, and Goddard, the early-20th-century pioneers of rocketry. Their work came to fruition in the German V-2 missile, the foundation on which both the Soviets and Americans built their space programs after WW II. The military applications of rocketry were the primary attractions to both countries, especially the Soviets, who after the war found themselves playing catch-up with the US. Stalin made it a national priority to create nuclear weapons and to find a way to deliver them to targets in America. It was his home-grown rocket scientists, led by Sergei Korolov, who made the breakthrough, symbolized by the launch of Sputnik I in 1957. That event pushed the space race into high gear—leading to the Apollo program and everything that has followed. Heppenheimer shines the light as much on the backstage movers and shakers as on the astronauts themselves, a logical choice given his contention that the real gains of the space program have been achieved by robot probes and other uncrewed vehicles, which are now so reliable and commonplace that the public hardly notices their launches. Drawing on newly released material from Soviet archives, the book gives the most complete look to date at the problems and accomplishments of the Russian space effort. While Americans were first on the moon, the Soviets have concentrated on orbiting space stations, learning more about the long-term effects of weightlessness on the human body. Heppenheimer ends with a forecast of our near future in space, including more manned flights to the moon.

Well-written, full of fascinating character studies and incidents, this is a solid, useful reference on what may be the defining accomplishment of our era.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471291053
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/29/1999
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 420
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Wonder-Weapons and Prison Camps: Rocketry under Stalin and Hitler 4
2 Ingenious Yankees: The Rise of America's Rocket Industry 30
3 Racing to Armageddon: The Superpowers Begin Their Missile Programs 59
4 The Mid-1950s: Spacecraft, Planned and Imagined 87
5 "The Russians Are Ahead of Us!": The Space Race Begins 115
6 A Promise of Moonglow: Space in the Wake of Sputnik 147
7 Afternoon in May: Kennedy Commits to the Moon 174
8 High-Water Mark: The Manned Moon Race 203
9 Lunar Aftermath: Space Stations and the Shuttle 240
10 Electrons in the Void: The Unmanned Space Programs 272
11 Space in the Eighties: The Efforts Falter 305
12 Renewal and Outlook: Commerce and Cooperation in Space 338
Notes 359
Bibliography 363
Index 377
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)