Although the dream of flying is as old as the human imagination, the notion of actually rocketing into space may have originated with Chinese experiments with gunpowder in the Middle Ages. Rockets as weapons and entertainment, whether sprung from science fiction or arising out of practical necessity, are within the compass of this engaging history of how human beings actually gained the ability to catapult themselves into space.
The authors narrative introduces pioneers such as Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Robert Goddard, and Hermann Oberth, who pointed the way to the cosmos and created the earliest wave of international enthusiasm for space exploration. It shows German engineer Wernher von Braun creating the V-2, the first large rocket, which opened the door to space but failed utterly as the wonder weapon it was meant to be. From there Gainor follows the space race to the Soviet Union and the United States and offers a close look at the competitive hysteria that led to Sputnik, satellites, space probes, and - finally - human flight into space in 1961.
Foreword by Alfred Worden; Acronyms and Abbreviations; 1. Space Dreams and War Drums; 2. Tsiolkovsky and the Birth of Soviet Astronautics; 3. Robert Goddard's Solitary Trail; 4. Hermann Oberth and Early German Rocketry; 5. Von Braun, Dornberger, and World War II; 6. Rockets, Balloons, and the Right Stuff; 7. Korolev and the First icbm; 8. The Military-Industrial Complex; 9. Sputniks and Muttniks; 10. The Birth of nasa; 11. Man in Space Soonest; Epilogue: July 16, 1969