To a Distant Day: The Rocket Pioneers

To a Distant Day: The Rocket Pioneers

To a Distant Day: The Rocket Pioneers

To a Distant Day: The Rocket Pioneers


"Insightful, instructive, and definitely worth the read."-Greg Andres, Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

"As someone who has been teaching a course on space exploration for many years and has visited most of NASA's space centers, I have found plenty of new and valuable material in To a Distant Day.... I recommend the book to all who wish to know more about the conditions, people, and discoveries between 1890 and 1960 that led to the space age."-Pangratios Papacosta, Physics Today

Although the dream of flying is as old as the human imagination, the notion of rocketing into space may have originated with Chinese gunpowder experiments during the Middle Ages. Rockets as both weapons and entertainment are examined in this engaging history of how human beings acquired 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 by generating 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, though opening the door to space, 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, giving 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.


This book got its start in 2003 when Colin Burgess, editor for the Outward Odyssey series of books on the history of space exploration, contacted me to ask if I was interested in writing a history of space exploration leading up to the time of the first human spaceflight in 1961. I had never thought of writing such a book, but as I considered the proposition and looked into the available literature, I warmed to the idea. One big reason was that our understanding of the events covered in this book has changed significantly in the past few years. The fall of the Soviet Union and the opening of its archives were factors in these changes, but as I looked around, I realized that historians were also challenging the established views of the early space pioneers from other parts of the world.

While writing this book, this recent scholarship caused me to reconsider my own views and understanding of many twentieth-century space efforts. I hope that readers of this book will gain a new appreciation of the events and individuals that led to the space race of the 1960s, and of the events that followed, which will be covered in other books in the Outward Odyssey series.

I also accepted Colin's commission because I had spent much of the past decade engaged in studies of the history of space exploration, first for a book I wrote on the Canadian and British engineers who joined the U.S. space program in 1959 when the Canadian government canceled a military aircraft program. When that book was complete, I began to pursue academic studies. During that time, I have been pondering a question that has as much to do with the future of space exploration as its past. In the 1960s, Apollo's journeys to the moon seemed to be a natural part of human progress. Many other people took it for granted that humans would be colonizing the moon and walking on Mars by the end of the twentieth century. As we now know, things didn't turn out that way. This turn of events inspires . . .

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