NASA's history is a familiar story, peaking with Neil Armstrong's small step on the Moon in 1969. But America's space agency--and in particular its Apollo lunar-landing program--wasn't created in a vacuum. It was assembled from pre-existing parts, drawing together some of the best minds the non-Soviet world had to offer. In 1930s Germany, rockets were the focus both of scientists hoping to explore space and of the Wehrmacht. These two strands came together in Wernher von Braun, an engineer who designed the rockets that became the devastating V-2. As the war came to its conclusion, von Braun orchestrated a daring escape from the ruins of Nazi Germany to America, where he began developing missiles for the US Army. Ten years later his Redstone rocket was the only one capable of launching a satellite into orbit. Just what that satellite would be was under the remit of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which pioneered a round-bottomed capsule that could also keep men safe returning from space. Meanwhile, US Air Force pilots were riding to the fringes of space in balloons to see how humans handled radiation at high altitude, while test pilots like Neil Armstrong flew cutting-edge, rocket-powered aircraft in the thin upper atmosphere. Amy Shira Teitel tells the story of America's nascent space program, its scientific advances, its personalities and the rivalries it caused between the various arms of the United States military, right up to the launch of Sputnik in 1957, when getting a man into space became a national imperative leading to the creation of NASA.--Adapted from book jacket.
NASA's history is a familiar story, but its prehistory is an important and rarely told tale. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and the U.S. Air Force brought rocket technology into the world of manned flight: NACA test pilots 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. At the end of World War II Wernher von Braun escaped Nazi Germany, began developing missiles for the United States Army, and ten years later his Jupiter rocket was the only one capable of launching a satellite into orbit. Teitel shows how, after the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957, President Eisenhower pulled it all together to create the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.