Highlighting men and women across the globe who have dedicated themselves to pushing the limits of space exploration, this book surveys the programs, technological advancements, medical equipment, and automated systems that have made space travel possible. This is the complete story of manned space flight.
Beginning with the eighteenth-century invention of balloons that lifted early explorers into the stratosphere, Ted Spitzmiller describes how humans first came to employ lifting gasses such as hydrogen and helium. He traces the influence of nineteenth-century science fiction writers on the development of rocket science, looks at the role of rocket societies in the early twentieth century, and discusses the use of rockets in World War II warfare.
Moving into the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War era, Spitzmiller outlines the engineering and space medicine advances that finally enabled humans to fly beyond the earth's atmosphere. He recreates the excitement felt around the world at the first orbital flights of Yuri Gagarin and John Glenn. He recounts triumphs such as Neil Armstrong's "one small step" and tragedies such as the Challenger and Columbia disasters.
The story enters the present day with the development of the International Space Station, NASA's interest in asteroids and Mars, and the emergence of China as a major player in the space arena. Spitzmiller shows the impact of space flight on human history and speculates on the future of exploration beyond our current understandings of physics and the known boundaries of time and space.