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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.
|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|