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Space Shuttle Decision, 1965-1972 (History of the Space Shuttle, Volume 1) Paperback – May 17, 2002

4.0 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

T. A. Heppenheimer is the author of seven books including The Space Shuttle Decision, 1965-1972: History of the Space Shuttle, Volume 1 (Smithsonian Books, 2002) and Countdown: A History of the Space Program (1995). He is a freelance writer and has written cover stories for many magazines, including American Heritage, Popular Science, and Science Digest.
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Product Details

  • Series: History of the Space Shuttle (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 488 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press (April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1588340147
  • ISBN-13: 978-1588340146
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #662,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. B. Currier on August 20, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I remember when the Shuttle program was being debated in the early 1970s, but at the time I viewed it as a simple pro-space (good!) vs. anti-space (bad!) argument. Partly this was my relative youth, and partly the fault of the over-simplified reporting of the time. This book provides the background--technical, financial, and political--to show that the decision was far more complex than that. And it left me with a greater appreciation of the Shuttle and both its strengths and limitations.
The book covers the difficulties NASA had in trying to figure out what to do after Apollo, when public and financial support for the space program was waning. The Vietnam war, a faltering economy, the election of Richard Nixon, the decline of the Soviet space program, and a new focus on earthbound problems all made NASA's grand plans for manned Mars missions, space stations, and moon bases financially out of reach. The days of Apollo-era blank-check budgeting for NASA had actually ended in 1966.
Eventually focusing on reducing the cost of getting payloads into space--with grander plans deferred to the future--the Shuttle program went through many possible configurations. For the technically inclined, some of the discarded shuttle concepts are fascinating. And the amount of technology that had already been developed for other programs was a surprise to me. But as important as the technical issues were, the process of getting a budget through the White House and a hostile Congress were just as difficult. The result of this meeting of technology and budget is the Shuttle that flys today.
Rather than focusing only on the final Shuttle design, the author takes us through various technology stories that defined the environment in which the Shuttle was being contemplated.
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In my previous studies of the Space Race and America's space program, I focused on our response to Sputnik and the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo Programs. While I had read about many of the various aspects of the Shuttle Program I have never read specifically about the genesis, evolution and production of the Shuttle. I was amazed by the depth and breadth of sources, information and analysis presented by Heppenheimer in this book. I didn't know just how long the gestation period was for NASA figuring out just what they wanted in a reusable spacecraft system. The numerous proposals and revisions were an interesting evolution that was greatly impacted by politics and the need for federal funding to bring the Shuttle to fruition. Coming off of the high of landing Americans on the moon and safely returning them to earth had many in NASA thinking about targeting Mars as the next major goal. The reality of the budgetary pressures brought by the Vietnam War, the Great Society, and the short-term budgetary planning process crippled the proposed post- Apollo applications to build a space station, a reusable Shuttle, a return to build bases on the moon and manned missions to Mars. NASA had to scrap or radically change their post-Apollo ambitions to get Apollo missions 16 and 17, Skylab and finally the Shuttle. The political battle to finally arrive at a Shuttle design that could make it through Congress revealed the many compromises made that would later come back to haunt NASA with the tragic loss of Challenger and Columbia. Heppenheimer details the lengthy process the leadership of NASA went through to accommodate the US Air Force in return for their political support which resulted in major changes to the final Shuttle design.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
I finished reading this book after the loss of Columbia. It left me with a feeling that the current shuttle was the spacecraft nobody wanted except for the OMB. We have paid for inept space policy in both money and blood. This book outlines the decisions made by NASA and gives a good background as to what the aerospace industry was feeling after the heady days of the early 60's. NASA had to constantly redesign the shuttle not because of technical hurdles but mostly due to political and fiscal considerations. The tragic losses of both Challenger and Columbia are foreshadowed quite spookily in historical NASA documents of the 60's and 70's.
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I wish I could say I read this book, however I received Volume II from the person who sold it to me. Otherwise the T.A. Heppenheimer books are always complete and accurate. I can tell you his "Countdown: A History of Space Flight" was one of the best. My volume II of this book seems well researched and impressive.
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Format: Paperback
Mr. Heppenheimer has executed a masterful piece of research and writing. Combing through the wide-ranging historical aspects that led to the final configuration of the Space Shuttle, he has painstakingly reconstructed the technological, political and economic hurdles that had to be overcome to produce this modern marvel. While this first of three volumes deals with the initial decision (1965-1972), it lays the groundwork for what is to come and eagerly anticipated by the reader. It also foreshadows the tragedies that would befall the project. While its depth and tedious detail precludes casual reading for all but the serious student of aerospace technology, it provides fascinating insight into such obscure bureaucracies as the "Office of Management and Budget" (formerly BoB). Brief side excursions that examine the Boeing 747 and Supersonic transport development are easily endured although they add little to the Shuttle story.
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