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Project Vanguard: The NASA History Paperback – January 9, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Reprint edition (January 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486467554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486467559
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.7 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #189,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on March 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
This classic work by two superb historians, Constance McLaughlin Green and Milton Lomask, was originally published in 1969 and is now back in print after many years of being unavailable. It was an early history sponsored by the NASA History Office and it has long been viewed as definitive. Dover Books is to be congratulated for making it available once again in an inexpensive paperback edition.

This work tells the story of Project Vanguard, the Naval Research Laboratory's effort to develop the world's first Earth orbital satellite. Chosen as the U.S. effort on September 9, 1955, to support the scientific inquiry of the International Geophysical Year (IGY)--in part because it did not interfere with high-priority ballistic missile development programs--it proved somewhat less successful than intended but ultimately quite important from a scientific perspective. President Eisenhower's Vanguard decision called for existing organizations within the Department of Defense to develop and launch a small scientific satellite "under international auspices, such as the International Geophysical Year, in order to emphasize its peaceful purposes[;]...considerable prestige and psychological benefits will accrue to the nation which first is successful in launching a satellite...especially if the USSR were to be the first to establish a satellite." The U.S. approved a budget of $23.5 million, modest but considered adequate for the effort by scientific and technical personnel, to carry out the program.

Vanguard enjoyed exceptional publicity throughout the second half of 1955 and all of 1956 and 1957, but the technological demands upon the program were too great and the funding levels too small to foster much success. From initial cost estimates, Vanguard mushroomed to a cost of $67.
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A well researched if dry history of America's Project Vanguard. Work on Vanguard began before NASA, but it achieved orbit after the U.S. space agency was created. Vanguard was both a rocket and an orbiting satellite. Originally intended to be America's first payload in space, it was eclipsed by Explorer which achieved orbit sooner. While Vanguard's 1957 launch failure was well publicized (re: the famous news headline: "Kaputnik!"), it was still an amazing technical success story. U.S. Army, later NASA, space researcher Dr. John A. O'Keefe discovered Earth's slight pear shape thanks to Vanguard data. This book is the only in-print history of Project Vanguard, so it's an important reference tool for space enthusiasts.
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Format: Paperback
It's good to see this excellent book back in print. It's the definitive history of America's first satellites program. The authors take the reader through the troubled start to the program, the countless technical challenges in doing something no one had ever done, and the budgetary and political environments of the day. They document the most important fact about this program: that it was a success. Vanguard unfortunately had its first launch failure at the worst possible time, when the pressure to match Sputnik 1 was immense and the press attention unprecedented, but it made major contributions to science and to satellite technology (such as the first use of solar cells in orbit) and the even greater contributions to launch vehicle technology, which led to the tremendously successful Delta series and are still paying dividends today. When Erika Vadnais and I wrote our book on this era, The First Space Race, and examined and interviewed all the sources we could find on Vanguard, we didn't identify a single error in this book. Project Vanguard is a must-read for all students of space history.
Matt Bille, author, The First Space Race: Launching the World's First Satellites (TAMU, 2006)
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Format: Paperback
I think it safe to say that many of the younger generations have never heard of Project Vanguard. Put simply, Vanguard was supposed to launch in the world's first artificial satellite during the International Geophysical Year of 1957-1958. It failed to accomplish this ... and in fact, it was not even the first American satellite (that honor went to Explorer/Jupiter).
This book is well written and does a good job describing the history and technology behind the Vanguard project. It is certainly of interested to those with a strong interest in the space history, as well as to space-buffs in general. Perhaps the best part of the book is the introduction, written by no other than Charles Lindberg. I found the choice of Lindbergh surprising. But Lindberg does such a good job in describing the psychology of the times that I think no one could improve upon the topic.
On page 20 appears a photo of a very young and debonair von Braun. (No wonder so many resent him.) This shows that contrary of general opinion, von Braun did have early influence on Vanguard.
In my opinion the biggest weakness of the book is that it tries too hard to paint Vanguard as a huge success. Vanguard did have some success, and a lot of clever engineering went into it. But ultimately it failed in its primary mission. Furthermore, three successful satellites in eleven attempts is not a sterling record. The reasons for the shortcoming are complex, but ultimately come down to rivalry with the Army, and an underestimation of the USSR.
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