- File Size: 42022 KB
- Print Length: 385 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1610398718
- Publisher: PublicAffairs (June 25, 2019)
- Publication Date: June 25, 2019
- Sold by: Hachette Book Group
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07J4Y96XB
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,013,987 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Escape from Earth: A Secret History of the Space Rocket Kindle Edition
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|Length: 385 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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"Exquisitely researched, thoughtfully written, Escape from Earth is a fascinating exploration of an endlessly intriguing and remarkable subject. Fraser MacDonald has not only brought to life Frank Malina, he has captured perfectly the political and scientific contradictions of the dawn of the Space Age."―Henry Hemming, author of The Ingenious Mr. Pyke and Agents of Influence
"A fascinating history of America's ascent into space that literally rewrites our understanding of the rocket age; a story that mixes sex, Nazis, Communists, the FBI, and rockets and along the way reminds us how complicated and untidy even celebrated history can be. Escape from Earth is an instant addition to the rocketry canon, right there with Operation Paperclip and Hidden Figures."―Garrett Graff, bestselling author of Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itself-While the Rest of Us Die
"Fraser MacDonald's taut, deeply researched account of Malina's career is packed with luminaries such as Theodore von Kármán, and insights into the zeitgeist of a fraught era."―Nature
"Fraser MacDonald has crafted a compelling, authoritative, surprising, and beautifully written book about the dawn of the space age."―The New York Journal of Books
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The major revelation of this book, though, isn't that the history has mostly been forgotten, but WHY it has mostly been forgotten. MacDonald, through exhaustive research (including access to previously-unseen FBI files and the private, family documents of the central players) reveals that being on the right side of science doesn't necessarily put you on the right side of history. Or more accurately, the right side of prevailing ideologies about Great Men and American-ness.
MacDonald carries off this ambitious project (it IS literally rocket science!) with seamless organization and an ever-present punchy wit. It isn't often that a non-fiction scientific history can make you laugh out loud. I LOLed repeatedly while reading this. During the chapter about the involvement of a CalTech scientist with the Über quirky OTO cult, I did a spit-take with my tea.
I'd rank this book right alongside The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in the canon of great histories of science. Like Skloot's book, Escape from Earth reveals that there's no such thing as pure science. When it comes to humans and their tangled motivations, there's no easy escape.
The aspects MacDonald dwells on earn high marks. As he states in his final chapter “this makes for a messy history.” The messy parts include the interactions among some of the principals and their battles with the self-defeating politics and policies of the time. Other histories and GALCIT reports are complements; they dwell on the brilliance and historic importance of the of aerospace achievements and prophesies by von Kármán, Malina, Summerfield, Hsue-Shen Tsien, A. M. O. Smith, et al during the hectic WW2 interval. We can only wonder what the United States might have been accomplished if chaos had not been inflicted.
Turns out the book devotes only a dozen or so pages to rocketry. As pointed out in other reviews, the author documents the lifelong impacts to those Caltech scientists who joined Unit 122 of the Communist Party in the late 30s. While interesting, there's little rocket science in this book.
Top international reviews
At times the lives in this book seems to delve into unbelievably weird worlds, but the author never loses sight of the achievements they made.
A fascinating read of some incredible characters whom history has largely forgotten and yet to whom we owe a huge debt of technological gratitude - even if we find some of the stranger things in their private lives alarmingly unusual.