THE ROCKETMAKERS: The Dreamers Who Made Space Flight a Reality by Harry Wulforst

THE ROCKETMAKERS: The Dreamers Who Made Space Flight a Reality

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A brief but plodding chronology of the history of rocketmaking, by the author of the more successful Breakthrough to the Computer Age (1982). Professor Hermann Oberth hated movies, and he disliked his flashy job as rocket consultant to Fritz Lang on his 1929 film, Frau im Monde. However, the job did give the reclusive scientist a chance to clash horns with science writer Willy Ley, a brash young man who joined Oberth as one of the first members of the Berlin-based Society for Space Travel (VfR). The group--another of whose members was a recent high-school graduate, Werner von Braun--spent many years exploding rocket engines in the German countryside, while on the other side of the Atlantic Robert Goddard was doing the same. Goddard soon earned the attention of Charles Lindbergh and the financial backing of Harry Guggenheim, while the Germans found support from Hitler. Though the onset of WW II cut off communications between American and German rocket enthusiasts, after the Allied victory the two groups finally merged, and the development of ever more sophisticated rockets continued its uncertain but upward path at White Sands, Huntsville, Alabama, and Cocoa Beach. Wulforst's account offers a succinct, impersonal perspective on these events, but evokes too little of the inherent drama in this tale of creative genius in the service of politics. Thus even the concluding announcement of America's brave new Apollo space program rings hollow. A reliable research source, though Frederick Ordway's and Mitchell Sharpe's The Rocket Team (1979) still offers a much more vivid re-creation.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Orion/Crown