An encyclopedic history of space exploration by an insider and veteran reporter who has lost nothing in his enthusiasm and respect for what humankind has wrought. But he tells it like it is, which means constant rivalry that pitted the air force against the CIA for control of spy satellites and saw the Department Of Defense turn apoplectic with the anointing of a new civilian space agency, NASA, born in 1958. Stir into this brew the science-driven egos at Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech and the rocket boys at Huntsville who were led by the indomitable Wernher von Braun. Now add the critical ingredient: the Cold War and nuclear threat and the loss of face that came with Sputnik and Gagarin. To counter that threat and restore a nation's pride, Kennedy's promise to put a man on the moon before the end of the '60s and explore ""this new ocean"" was well-nigh inevitable. It also meant that science for science's sake would take a backseat to realpolitik and the media. Burrows chronicles the events in authoritative if often over-rich detail, but he is enough of a fine reporter to lace the narrative with juicy quotes. When Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay was told of a plan to built a rocket plane to fly into orbit, he reportedly had only one question: ""Where's the bomb bay?"" Burrows is also not one to overlook the peccadilloes of the original Right Stuff Seven (excepting Glenn). Because of the separate tracks of the manned space program versus the planetary fly-bys and the need to cover Russian as well as American activities in these areas, there is some back-tracking and redundancy in the chronologies, and there are oft-repeated sermons on the disasters of life and science under Communism. But overall, this is likely to be the bible for those tracking a unique period in Earth history--the ""first"" space age as Burrows terms it.