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This New Ocean
ISBN 0375754857 / 9780375754852 / 0-375-75485-7
Publisher Modern Library
List price $19.95
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More comprehensive than The Right Stuff, more critical than Apollo 13, This New Ocean is a near-perfect history of the men (and occasional women) who have "slipped the surly bonds of Earth." Eminent science journalist and space expert William E. Burrows covers just about everyone in history--from Daedalus to John Glenn--who ever designed or flew a rocket, trying to "ride the arrow" to the moon and beyond. It's a trail of testosterone from start to finish, but it makes for an engrossing read. One of Burrows's most interesting points is that without the cold war we never would have made it into space. He writes, "...the rocket would forever serve two masters at the same time, or rather a single master with two dispositions: one for war and one for peace." Werner von Braun, Robert Goddard, and other rocketry pioneers may indeed have wanted to explore space, but they knew the only way to get there was on the military's back.
Burrows extensively researched his subject, and he seems to want to include a little bit of everything; too much detail bogs down the narrative in places. Then again, he is no apologist for the space programs of the United States and the former U.S.S.R., and to tell their complete stories requires laying a great deal of political and scientific groundwork. When it comes to the great, memorable moments in space history, Burrows really shines. In telling the stories of Sputnik's first orbit, Neil Armstrong's moonwalk, Challenger's fiery death, and Sojourner's Martian road trip, he captures both the gee-whiz technological accomplishment and the very human emotions of the men and women involved. --Therese Littleton [via]