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This New Ocean: The Story of the First Space Age (Modern Library Paperbacks) Paperback – November 5, 1999


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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; 1 edition (November 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375754857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375754852
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #765,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

More comprehensive than The Right Stuff, more critical than Apollo 13, This New Ocean is a near-perfect history of the men (and occasional women) who have "slipped the surly bonds of Earth." Eminent science journalist and space expert William E. Burrows covers just about everyone in history--from Daedalus to John Glenn--who ever designed or flew a rocket, trying to "ride the arrow" to the moon and beyond. It's a trail of testosterone from start to finish, but it makes for an engrossing read. One of Burrows's most interesting points is that without the cold war we never would have made it into space. He writes, "...the rocket would forever serve two masters at the same time, or rather a single master with two dispositions: one for war and one for peace." Werner von Braun, Robert Goddard, and other rocketry pioneers may indeed have wanted to explore space, but they knew the only way to get there was on the military's back.

Burrows extensively researched his subject, and he seems to want to include a little bit of everything; too much detail bogs down the narrative in places. Then again, he is no apologist for the space programs of the United States and the former U.S.S.R., and to tell their complete stories requires laying a great deal of political and scientific groundwork. When it comes to the great, memorable moments in space history, Burrows really shines. In telling the stories of Sputnik's first orbit, Neil Armstrong's moonwalk, Challenger's fiery death, and Sojourner's Martian road trip, he captures both the gee-whiz technological accomplishment and the very human emotions of the men and women involved. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"The cold war was over. The great space race was over. And the first space age was over, too." With these simple sentences, written in the past tense, Burrows (Deep Black; Exploring Space, etc.), director of NYU's Science and Environmental Reporting Program, connects with Gen-X readers, to whom space exploration has always been part of history; with pre-baby boomers, who have seen the full unfolding of humanity's great leap outward in their lifetimes; and with everyone in between. Burrows's richly documented book tells the story of how simple earthlingsAfallible creatures living under imperfect political systemsAtranscended foibles, corruption, depravity and flawed machines to discover other worlds and, what is more important, their own. For the space enthusiast, Burrows offers a complete, authoritative history of the technology that allowed us to explore space and the people who created and managed that technology. For those who struggle to understand the nature of humanity, it offers new insights into old paradoxes. For those who ask where we are going, it offers hope. Although we have the potential to destroy our species and our planet, the second space age now beginning, Burrows makes clear, will be marked by our arrival and survival in other worlds. The legacy of the first space age, as expressed through his remarkable book, is the knowledge that our species is capable of both outliving our planet and destroying it. The legacy of the second will be the choices we make based on that knowledge. We are voyagers embarking on yet another "new ocean"; Burrows provides invaluable lessons to help us navigate the sea of stars. Sixteen pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
An exhaustive and outstanding compendium that catalogues the entire space effort over the past fifty years with emphasis on both civilian and military ventures as well as manned and unmanned ventures. I have been reading about the space program for over 20 years and I was impressed with the amount of detail that the author was able to uncover. I also very much like the way he gave equal time to the oft-ignored gemini program and the equally ignored mariner and viking missions. In contrast to other reader reviews, I found his political commentary to be relatively fair. Overall, a great read but only one for those with a deep and genuine interest in all aspects of the subject. 700 pages of dense material. "Lost Moon" it is not.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Kevin W. Parker on April 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Whew! I feel as if I've spent a significant chunk of my life reading this book! It's a sweeping history of the space program that delves deeply into the background and circumstances, so much so that it's not till the halfway point of the book that it gets to Gagarin, Shepard, and the first manned space flights.
The first part is actually the strongest, covering in detail what went before (going clear back to Daedalus!), particularly the contributions of Tsiolkovsky, Goddard, Oberth, and the German V-2 team.
Even when it does get to what we think of as the space program proper, technogeeks may be disappointed because it's short on technical detail but but long on the individuals and circumstances responsible for the rockets: not what the Saturn V was but how and why it came to be.
The breadth leads to some mildly startling brevity: Apollo 11 is covered in a sometimes annoyingly inaccurate three pages: The alarms on the landing approach were not "ignored" by the controller but understood as not being critical, and there were more than six seconds of fuel left in the engines at touchdown.
But there are other books for that (Chaikin's of course being the first to come to mind). What I read here but not elsewhere in addition to the background included extensive coverage of the military space program, particularly reconaissance satellites but also the never-to-be Dyna-Soar and Manned Orbiting Laboratory programs.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
William Burrows has compiled a complete and detailed history of the space program from the earliest thoughts and writings about the nature of space and space travel, to the present day struggles of NASA with the space station. Especially interesting is his tracing of the dynamic tension and close brotherhood between the "civilian" space program and the "military" program, although they were supposed to be separate.
As a long-time worker in the civilian space program I can attest to the accuracy of Burrow's writing about it. The only flaw in the book is its tendency to belabor the same points a bit, e.g. that the military and civilian space programs were inextricably linked. Also, the book is so replete with names that it can be a little confusing.
Nevertheless, this is a book that should be on the shelf of everyone interested in space exploration.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 23, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The first two chapters offer a summary of humankind's attempts at space travel OVER THE LAST THOUSAND PLUS YEARS -- information which can be found easily no where else. From early Chinese rocketry to the public ridiclue suffered by Goddard, Burrows offers the most intelligently written comprehensive text on the history of space exploration available, with a constant, striking sense of humor. After the second chapter his writing becomes a much more obtuse, detailed study, but only because he conveys that much more information -- if you are serious about the subject, there is no more important source. Please read it. Please pass it to a friend. We need more authors as inspiring as this one and this book needs more readers! If you are writing fiction, a historical study, a screenplay, or doing general research -- PLEASE -- do not consider your work complete without having finished this wonderful book!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth Gosier on June 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book very much, and thought it filled a niche I hadn't thought of before. Its strongest focus seems to be on the political environment of space exploration, where "political" has 2 meanings: 1) The traditional fight for funds in the US Congress and also the environments in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, and 2) the infighting for limited funds among the different areas of the civilian and military space establishments. (The "office politics" of space, if you will.)
In this context, the book could be thought of as a space history from a management point of view. There's not a lot of technical detail here, esp. for those who have read a lot of space books. But Burrows does a good job of explaining why certain decisions were made in the different programs, given the historical context. It leads to a greater understanding of why we have the systems we have today, and how they have evolved, fight by political fight. The parts about the US spy satellites, the space shuttle, and solar system exploration were definitely enlightening from this point of view.
As noted with other reviews, "This New Ocean" has rather startling breadth, but sometimes maddeningly little depth. This is OK and to be expected in a survey book; my only problem was that it felt uneven. Some parts were covered with a broad stroke that gave the outlines but not every last detail, while others felt tacked on or thrown in. In particular, the development of the Russian space program after Khrushchev felt shallow, esp. coming after an extended section on the US program. This was a little unsatisfying, given the importance of Russian rockets in the more commercial environment of the post-Cold War world.
Overall though, this book is clearly recommended reading. It enlarged my view beyond just the science and technology to see how things get done, and has stimulated me and made me aware of new areas and ideas to learn about.
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