Although the dream of flying is as old as the human imagination, the notion of actually rocketing into space may have originated with Chinese experiments with gunpowder in the Middle Ages. Rockets as weapons and entertainment, whether sprung from science fiction or arising out of practical necessity, are within the compass of this engaging history of how human beings actually gained the ability to catapult themselves into space.
Chris Gainor's irresistible narrative introduces us to pioneers such as Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Robert Goddard, and Hermann Oberth, who pointed the way to the cosmos and created the earliest wave of international enthusiasm for space exploration. It shows us German engineer Wernher von Braun creating the V-2, the first large rocket, which opened the door to space but failed utterly as the “wonder weapon” it was meant to be. From there Gainor follows the space race to the Soviet Union and the United States and gives us a close look at the competitive hysteria that led to Sputnik, satellites, space probes, and—finally—human flight into space in 1961. As much a story of cultural ambition and personal destiny as of scientific progress and technological history, To a Distant Day offers a complete and thoroughly compelling account of humanity’s determined efforts—sometimes poignant, sometimes amazing, sometimes mad—to leave the earth behind.