Looking for a history of the early space age
September 14, 2019 2:46 AM   Subscribe

Is there a history of the early space age that covers the Soviet and the American programs? I'd prefer the history avoid the nationalism and technophilia that pervades most of the accounts of space exploration that I've encountered.
posted by rdr to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
For a personal look at the space race from both perspectives you could take a look at David Scott's (Gemini 8, Apollo 9, Apollo 15) and Aexi Leonev's (Voskhod 2, Apollo-Soyuz) book Two Sides of the Moon.

While her focus is on the American program, Amy Shira Teitel's book Breaking the Chains of Gravity covers the very early space program, focusing on pre-NASA.
posted by lharmon at 4:40 AM on September 14, 2019 [4 favorites]


The Space Rocket History podcast goes into a fair amount of detail and he also provides his sources if you need more detail. That may be a good overview and jumping off point at least.
posted by hankscorpio83 at 5:27 AM on September 14, 2019


Red Moon Rising is a history that focuses primarily on the Soviet space program. It won't fill your whole request, but it's probably a good counterpart to Breaking the Chains of Gravity from the Soviet side.
posted by Alterscape at 6:05 AM on September 14, 2019


Von Braun by Michael Neufeld covers pre-WWII through the Apollo aftermath, focused on Wernher Von Braun of course, but he was so central it is also a history of the early space age. This biography by a historian is much more thorough and critical than coverage of Von Braun and the space program was during his lifetime.

The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age by Walter A. MacDougal is another book that avoids technophilia and nationalism. It won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1986.
posted by JonJacky at 9:05 AM on September 14, 2019


James Oberg was the first great chronicler of space.
posted by SemiSalt at 9:10 AM on September 14, 2019


Seconding The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age by Walter A. MacDougal.
posted by Rob Rockets at 10:05 AM on September 14, 2019


James Oberg was the first great chronicler of space.

Came in here to recommend his Red Star In Orbit. The above-mentioned Red Moon Rising is also worthwhile; its focus is more the pre-manned satellite launches, on both sides.
posted by Rash at 12:58 PM on September 14, 2019


Nthing Oberg-- I used to exchange with him on USENET back in the 90s, and he was thoughtful and comprehensive about Soviet space program history.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:15 PM on September 14, 2019


Events in Space by Wiley Ley, published in 1969, is a good, contemporary account of early space flight, if you can find a copy of it. The writer was one of the original Germans who got the whole thing started, and follows the development from an international perspective.
posted by lordcorvid at 8:34 PM on September 14, 2019


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