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
From Publishers Weekly
"The cold war was over. The great space race was over. And the first space age was over, too." With these simple sentences, written in the past tense, Burrows (Deep Black; Exploring Space, etc.), director of NYU's Science and Environmental Reporting Program, connects with Gen-X readers, to whom space exploration has always been part of history; with pre-baby boomers, who have seen the full unfolding of humanity's great leap outward in their lifetimes; and with everyone in between. Burrows's richly documented book tells the story of how simple earthlingsAfallible creatures living under imperfect political systemsAtranscended foibles, corruption, depravity and flawed machines to discover other worlds and, what is more important, their own. For the space enthusiast, Burrows offers a complete, authoritative history of the technology that allowed us to explore space and the people who created and managed that technology. For those who struggle to understand the nature of humanity, it offers new insights into old paradoxes. For those who ask where we are going, it offers hope. Although we have the potential to destroy our species and our planet, the second space age now beginning, Burrows makes clear, will be marked by our arrival and survival in other worlds. The legacy of the first space age, as expressed through his remarkable book, is the knowledge that our species is capable of both outliving our planet and destroying it. The legacy of the second will be the choices we make based on that knowledge. We are voyagers embarking on yet another "new ocean"; Burrows provides invaluable lessons to help us navigate the sea of stars. Sixteen pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.