This is an excellently written account of the U.S. space project. A constant sense of human values imbues many of the more technical passages with a literary vigor and insight that question the ethical sense while informing the mind. Also, Mr. Alexander accents the peculiarly American quality of our space effort by contrasting its sophisticated science with its ""quiet tinkering and junkyard gadgetry"". He can characterize a research lab in a phrase: ""The prevailing speech there has a blurred softness.."" His book reviews the scientific, political and economic meanings of the project, then fastens on ""the ultimate machinery"" itself. And fascinating machinery it is. Between chapters (in lyric italics) runs an imaginative preconstruction of the first flight in practice, all the way and back, which is a piece of striking story-telling. With some wryness, the author spends a chapter assessing the Russian program and compares single-minded Russian technology with the diffusiveness of ours. But that machinery stays foremost in the reader's mind. Makes you want to trade in your Ferrari.