This New Ocean: The Story of the First Space Age Hardcover – Sep 22 1998
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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
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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Burrows offers the best attempt so far at a comprehensive history of the Space Age in a single volume. There are two flaws. Read morePublished on Oct. 2 2001 by Matthew A. Bille
This book is very loosely a space exploration history dealing with the actual missions. It is more of how space exploration happens and not what happened during the missions. Read morePublished on March 29 2001 by John Hawkins
Rather than providing us with an impartial, well-told narrative of space exploration, Burrows apparently feels the need to tell the story of virtually every political and... Read morePublished on June 4 2000 by Tyler Peterson
Whew! I feel as if I've spent a significant chunk of my life reading this book! It's a sweeping history of the space program that delves deeply into the background and... Read morePublished on April 16 2000 by Kevin W. Parker
More a political history than a technical one, and not very engaging. I agree, though, that the research is broad.Published on Oct. 14 1999
An exhaustive and outstanding compendium that catalogues the entire space effort over the past fifty years with emphasis on both civilian and military ventures as well as manned... Read morePublished on Sept. 16 1999
This was an enjoyable read and it would take a good read to make me hang in there for 650 pages (not counting biblio and index). Read morePublished on July 28 1999
William Burrows has compiled a complete and detailed history of the space program from the earliest thoughts and writings about the nature of space and space travel, to the present... Read morePublished on April 27 1999
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