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This New Ocean: The Story of the First Space Age Hardcover – Sep 22 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 912 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (Sept. 22 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679445218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679445210
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 17.7 x 4.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,132,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

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.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book very much, and thought it filled a niche I hadn't thought of before. Its strongest focus seems to be on the political environment of space exploration, where "political" has 2 meanings: 1) The traditional fight for funds in the US Congress and also the environments in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, and 2) the infighting for limited funds among the different areas of the civilian and military space establishments. (The "office politics" of space, if you will.)
In this context, the book could be thought of as a space history from a management point of view. There's not a lot of technical detail here, esp. for those who have read a lot of space books. But Burrows does a good job of explaining why certain decisions were made in the different programs, given the historical context. It leads to a greater understanding of why we have the systems we have today, and how they have evolved, fight by political fight. The parts about the US spy satellites, the space shuttle, and solar system exploration were definitely enlightening from this point of view.
As noted with other reviews, "This New Ocean" has rather startling breadth, but sometimes maddeningly little depth. This is OK and to be expected in a survey book; my only problem was that it felt uneven. Some parts were covered with a broad stroke that gave the outlines but not every last detail, while others felt tacked on or thrown in. In particular, the development of the Russian space program after Khrushchev felt shallow, esp. coming after an extended section on the US program. This was a little unsatisfying, given the importance of Russian rockets in the more commercial environment of the post-Cold War world.
Overall though, this book is clearly recommended reading. It enlarged my view beyond just the science and technology to see how things get done, and has stimulated me and made me aware of new areas and ideas to learn about.
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Format: Paperback
William E. Burrows brings to the task of writing a comprehensive history of spaceflight a wealth of background and understanding. He added to that in-depth research and lucid writing to place between two covers the most exhaustive and complex history of the subject ever published. At some level, perhaps, he tries to do too much, but overall he succeeds admirably in explaining the political, technical, scientific, economic, and cultural history of humanity's recent adventure in space. It is a long read, and sometimes requires effort on the part of the reader to wade through exceptionally complex scenes, but "The New Ocean" is overall a stunning achievement. The chances are pretty good that readers will be able to answer almost any question they might have about spaceflight by referring to this book. And if they cannot find everything they want on the subject, the exhaustive bibliographical references point to additional material. I recommend this as a starting point for serious exploration of the history of spaceflight worldwide.
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Format: Paperback
The breadth of "This New Ocean" forces Burrows to treat the most compelling technical and personal achievements of the Space Age too lightly. With rocket launches more reliable today than fifty years ago, it's difficult to understand what the big deal was about the early rocket launches. A deeper engineering background than he offers would permit a better appreciation of the early rocketeers' work. Moreover, Burrows' writing seems heavy-handed at times (especially in condemning the effects of the Soviet political structure on research there). Burrows seems most comfortable writing on space-based reconnaissance (thanks to his earlier work on that subject), and he carefully relates the internecine funding battles of the 1950s and 1970s to the political climates of those times.
This volume is best used to place technological developments in a political context; look to Baker's "History of Manned Space Flight" or "The Rocket" for more careful consideration of the engineering.
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Format: Paperback
On the 30th anniversary of the 1st lunar landing, it was refreshing to read an account of the space race that looks past the heroics of manned space flight into the real dynamics of space exploration - the cold war and the internecing politics that fueled both civilian and military applications for spaceflight technologies. Beginning in the early 20th century and progressing with wartime Germany's co-opting of rocket science, we see a hobby for dilettantes become a mortally serios scientific endaevor. America's efforts, long considered lackluster throuought the war, had progressed far enough by its end to have surpassed the work of Robert Goddard, America's homegrown rocket-visionary. Progressing through the cold-war, overcoming Eisenhower's warnings of the big government needed to run both warlike and peaceful space efforts, the space race accelerates the pace of military technology and the military-industril complex, even as the US gov't strives to present civilian applications for rockets - manned exploration and satellites. As comprehensive a work as this, the author sometimes swamped by his own history. That the author can display a definite bias against manned spaceflight seems less a black mark against this heavy tome than a reminder that he has reoriented himself. A heavy work you'll have to read over and over.
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