ANGLE OF ATTACK: Harrison Storms and the Race to the Moon by Mike Gray
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ANGLE OF ATTACK: Harrison Storms and the Race to the Moon

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Rip-roaring history of the Apollo Project, which brought men to the moon in 1969, recounted at full-turbo power by screenwriter Gray (The China Syndrome, 1979; coauthor, The Warning, 1982). In retrospect, the pace was incredible: The US launched its first puny satellite in 1958, yet 11 years later deposited Neil Armstrong on lunar soil. How did we do it? This was a communal triumph, 400,000 men and women buzzing like a hive of bees on speed to launch a spaceship of 3,000,000 parts that ""had to intersect with an almost mystical cohesion heretofore seen only in Nature herself."" Gray zooms in on the project leaders--above all, a human whirlwind aptly named Harrison Storms, who died just last month. Storms--an aeronautic wizard, builder of the X-15 test plane and head of North American Aviation's Space Division--first joins forces with German rocket-ace Werner von Braun, designer of the mammoth Saturn rocket, then signs on Maxine Faget, ""a creative little live-wire"" spacecapsule designer; Charlie Feltz, ""the Billy Goat Gruff of the machine shop""; and innumerable other Tom Swift clones--and the Race Is On. Gray milks much drama from the all-out intercorporate war to snare the spaceship contract from the federal government. Once Storms gets his mandate, scientific headaches pile up: Should the capsule have an explosive hatch? Should there be a separate lunar lander? A new rocket fuel must be invented, as well as insulation that can withstand reentry temperatures equal to those on the surface of the sun. Workers drop like flies from nervous breakdowns and heart seizures; divorce becomes endemic. Most terribly, three astronauts die in a capsule fire, suffocated by toxic fumes from burning Velcro. But 500 million man-hours of labor come to fruition in 1969 as Storms watches his metallic behemoth roar into space from the Florida swamps. A breathtaking ride, with an ideal mix of human interest and technical detail, that bums almost as brightly as Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 039332513X
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Norton