Up until a month ago I never knew about the book. Good friend Nikos mentioned it over beer. I was sold on it immediately and bought the kindle version.
I’ve read two more books that cover a lot of the political and technological situation of this era (that is when Eisenhower and Khrushchev held the helms). Where Wizards Stay Up Late about Internet’s prehistory and even more Red Plenty provide angles on what was happening in the US and the USSR at the time.
Among all the people who know who von Braun is, how many have ever heard of Korolev? A man whose name was a state secret? What was it that made him sell the Sputnik to the Premier where in fact he demanded ICBMs? And why did the USSR had such a pressing need for missiles? What was the engineering gap that the two superpowers wanted to bridge? How did the military-industrial complex, or big egos, ambitions and personal rivalries affect the space race? Because nothing was done in the name of science.
If you are like me and remember the SALT II and the SDI here is a glimpse on why these ever happened. The book comes with a lot of notes if you want to delve more into the history, biographies, physics, engineering, politics or even economics of rocketry. The book is literally a launchpad to many directions itself.
PS: How were trajectories calculated without computers? Would you be able to fly a “steampunk” drone today with a slide-rule like they did with their rockets? Think about that.