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To Touch the Face of God: The Sacred, the Profane, and the American Space Program, 1957-1975 (New Series in NASA History) Hardcover – December 5, 2012

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews


Lively and interesting, this book accurately reflects the disorienting effects of ventures into Heaven by men in space suits.

(James Gilbert, University of Maryland, College Park)

To Touch the Face of God... support[s] the importance of the strength of individual faith, the power of community, and the American need for both heroes and villains of biblical proportions to change the world.

(David Rosman New York Journal of Books)

Oliver analyses spaceflight and religion in a sophisticated manner, well informed by the scholarly literature of 'new aerospace history,' which examines intersections between space history and other disciplines or themes... Oliver engages histories of theology and religious practice in a broad conversation of motivations, implications, transformations and reinforcements of religion in the history of spaceflight.

(Margaret Weitekamp Times Higher Education)

Religious and science colletions alike will relish this survey.

(Midwest Book Review)

To Touch the Face of God is well-written, with short, precise excursions into what almost amounts to poetry, for example: ‘They [the astronauts in space] could not sit for a morning in the manner of Thoreau, slowly incubating epiphany’... It is an important contribution to the study of the complex connections between spaceflight and religion and thus highly recommended.

(Thore Bjørnvig Quest: History of Spaceflight Quarterly)

Oliver's well-research book sparkles with graceful prose and cogent insights... Also refreshing is Oliver's breadth of knowledge, which leads to pregnant thoughts... To Touch the Face of God is a stimulating and original examination of the long Sixties. Looking at America through this unique window―actually a spaceship's portal―reveals things I had not seen before.

(Robert Spinney Fides Et Historia)

About the Author

Kendrick Oliver is a reader in American history in the Faculty of Humanities, University of Southampton, United Kingdom.


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Product Details

  • Series: New Series in NASA History
  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (December 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1421407884
  • ISBN-13: 978-1421407883
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,410,343 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Seeing the youthful book cover photograph of author Kendrick Oliver (born 1971), I must admire even more so his thorough, original, though slightly deficient, analysis of religion and spirituality of NASA, the astronauts themselves, and citizens at large during the cultural Space Age years. He has the perspective of a historian discovering archived materials and regarding evidence without prejudice, although his distance in time and also his British background does prove a disadvantage. I, on the other hand, was a participatory witness, growing up on TV's Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (1950-1955), a subscriber to the earliest NASA public documents, a Star Trek Trekker from the start, and of particular relevance to the topic, associated with astronaut Edgar Mitchell's Institute of Noetic Sciences. Thus, I keenly read Oliver's book and aver its high merit with minor caveats.

Most of us are familiar with readings from the Bible by astronauts while in space looking down to Earth. Moreover, many recall the release of the photograph of the entire Earth seen from a distance in the blackness of space and how it influenced poets and aware people of fragile "Spaceship Earth" at a time when global environmental concerns were drawing attention. We learn that they were not taken by artistic astronauts or after being emotionally moved by the view but instead were asked by NASA ahead of time as being useful. The book goes well beyond this overt information, discussing the very religious and mythical meanings of venturing beyond the planet and how their experience in space affected some astronauts' religious and spiritual beliefs.
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