The revealing backstory of spaceflight before the establishment of NASA.
NASA's history is a familiar story, culminating with the agency successfully landing men on the moon in 1969, but its prehistory is an important and rarely told tale. Breaking the Chains of Gravity looks at the evolving roots of America's space program--the scientific advances, the personalities, and the rivalries between the various arms of the United States military.
America's space agency drew together some of the best minds the non-Soviet world had to offer. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and the U.S. Air Force, meanwhile, brought rocket technology into the world of manned flight.
The road to NASA and successful spaceflight was paved by fascinating stories and characters. At the end of World War II, Wernher von Braun escaped Nazi Germany and came to America where he began developing missiles for the United States Army. Ten years after he created the V-2 missile, his Jupiter rocket was the only one capable of launching a satellite into orbit. NACA test pilots like Neil Armstrong flew cutting-edge aircraft in the thin upper atmosphere while Air Force pilots rode to the fringes of space in balloons to see how humans handled radiation at high altitude. After the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957, getting a man in space suddenly became a national imperative, leading President Dwight D. Eisenhower to pull various pieces together to create the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Hobby Rocketeers 11
Chapter 2 The Rocket Loophole 27
Chapter 3 The Turning Tide of War 53
Chapter 4 Escape and Surrender 71
Chapter 5 Nazi Rockets in New Mexico 89
Chapter 6 Rockets Meet Airplanes 107
Chapter 7 A New War, a New Missile, and a New Leader 123
Chapter 8 Higher and Faster 133
Chapter 9 Edging into Hypersonics 155
Chapter 10 The Floating Astronaut 171
Chapter 11 Space Becomes an Option 191
Chapter 12 The First Satellite Race 211
Chapter 13 One Little Ball's Big Impact 225
Chapter 14 The Fight to Control Space 251
Epilogue: America Finds Its Footing in Space 267
Glossary of People 271
Glossary of Places and Organizations 273
Glossary of Rockets 275
Selected Notes 277
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Absolutely loved Amy's way of writing and getting into what as NASA before NASA began
Amy Shira Teitel has made a niche for herself in the science community through her Vintage Space YouTube page and twitter account (@atsvintagespace) discussing space-related topics. She took a very specialized area of study - science history - and created a means to share what she's found with her audience. One topic, even in the space nerd community that never gets a lot of discussion is the time period before the creation of NASA in 1958. It is this void that Ms. Teitel goes in search of the (under-)told story of those early days of spaceflight. This search obviously starts with Wernher von Braun and the Nazis. Even in the 1920s, von Braun and others in Germany were thinking ahead to a future with spaceflight. With most everything else in Germany during the change from the Weimar Republic to the Nazi, von Braun and his Verein fur Raumschiffahrt (VfR) associates were swept up in Hitler's grand designs to conquer Europe. While it can be stated that von Braun was in the SS, the author is sure to point out that von Braun was anything but a willing participant. As the war ended, von Braun knew his best chance was to cast his lot with the Americans. His Nazi past was to be an issue here and there, but lingering anti-German bigotry was put aside in the name of overcoming the alleged "missile gap" and later to catch up in the space race. We are given names, dates, programs, and acronyms that you almost need a program to keep them all straight. Fortunately, Ms. Teitel crafts a wonderful story that doesn't bore yet give the information to tell a good story. For fellow space nerds, it is literally the holy grail. The only real drawback to the story is the absence of early luminaries such as Robert Goddard. As she states in the preface, she wanted to make sure that this was a history that would be accessible to a wide audience, so certain elements were left out. Given that the main thrust of this history comes through German engineers, this is an understandable oversight and does not take away from the book. From her Instagram feed, it appears Ms. Teitel is working on another book. If so, this reviewer will welcome it with open arms as her first effort was a masterstroke of story-telling. BOTTOM LINE: Required reading for space nerds; good reading for the casual historian.