Breaking the Chains of Gravity


Most of us are familiar with the fact that NASA put a man on the moon in 1969. It was the pinnacle of spaceflight and one that hasn’t (yet) been surpassed. But how did they get to that point? For that you have to go back to Germany in the 1930s. That’s where this book starts and it runs up to NASA’s inception.

I take umbrage at the sub-title: The Story of Spaceflight before NASA. Well, that’s not true, because there’s almost nothing about the Soviet developments bar scant mention of their successful launches. There’s no mention of Tsiolkovsky either, or that American Robert Goddard is credited with launching the first liquid-fueled rocket, long before the Germans did. They’re just some of many omissions.

That aside, we get a narrative that largely follows Wernher von Braun’s career with the occasional aside to pick up other people or advances. It’s interesting enough, especially seeing how many times programmes came close to being cancelled and how the different military branches competed with one another (nothing changes).

It’s quite a dry sequence though and seems to peter out rather than finish with a bang, if you’ll forgive the pun.

It’s read perfectly well by Laurence Bouvard, but she can’t do much to overcome what amounts to a timeline of inane facts.

Accurate it may be and it was quite interesting to see how all the strands pulled together to form the space agency, but it feels incomplete and lacks human interest.

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This was an copy of the book

Reviewed: 16th October 2016