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A Dictionary of the Space Age

Paul Dickson

Publication Year: 2009

The launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957 ushered in an exciting era of scientific and technological advancement. As television news anchors, radio hosts, and journalists reported the happenings of the American and the Soviet space programs to millions of captivated citizens, words that belonged to the worlds of science, aviation, and science fiction suddenly became part of the colloquial language. What’s more, NASA used a litany of acronyms in much of its official correspondence in an effort to transmit as much information in as little time as possible. To translate this peculiar vocabulary, Paul Dickson has compiled the curious lingo and mystifying acronyms of NASA in an accessible dictionary of the names, words, and phrases of the Space Age. Aviators, fighter pilots, and test pilots coined the phrases “spam in a can” (how astronauts felt prelaunch as they sat in a tiny capsule atop a rocket booster); “tickety-boo” (things are fine), and “the Eagle has landed” (Neil Armstrong’s famous quote when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon). This dictionary captures a broader foundation for language of the Space Age based on the historic principles employed by the Oxford English Dictionary and Webster’s New Third International Dictionary. Word histories for major terms are detailed in a conversational tone, and technical terms are deciphered for the interested student and lay reader. This is a must-own reference for space history buffs.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: New Series in NASA History

Cover Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii

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pp. ix

More than three decades have passed since Origins of NASA Names was published in the NASA History Series in 1976. As that volume rolled off the press during the nation’s bicentennial year, the final remnants of the Apollo program had been played out, with three crews having visited Skylab in 1973–74 and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project having come to a successful completion in July 1975. The Space Shuttle was still five years ...

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Introduction and Notes on Method

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pp. xi-xxii

It was silver in color, about the size of a beach ball, and weighed a mere 184 pounds (83 kg). Yet for all its simplicity, small size, and inability to do more than orbit the Earth and transmit seemingly meaningless radio blips, the influence of Sputnik on America and the world was enormous and totally unpredicted. The reaction to Sputnik, including early attempts by America to get ...


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pp. xxiii-xxiv

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A Dictionary of the Space Age

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pp. 3-244

Ablelaunch vehicle upper stage). An upper stage used in combination with Thor or Atlas first stages. It was one of several upper stages derived in 1958 from Vanguard launch vehicle components by the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, Douglas Aircraft Company, and Space Technology Laboratories. The name signified “A” or “first” (from the military practice of having communication ...

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pp. 245-246

First and foremost, I would like to thank the NASA History Office for its sponsorship and support of this project: Steven J. Dick, NASA Chief Historian; Steve Garber, NASA Historian; Jane Odom, Chief Archivist; Colin Fries, John Hargenrader, and Liz Suckow, archivists; and Nadine Andreassen, program support assistant. My thanks also to Chris Gamble and other anonymous referees for ...


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pp. 247-260

E-ISBN-13: 9780801895043
E-ISBN-10: 0801895049
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801891151
Print-ISBN-10: 0801891159

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: New Series in NASA History