Amy Shira Teitel’s Breaking the Chains of Gravity

Posted by David Eicher
on Friday, January 29, 2016

The world has been flooded in recent years with books about spaceflight, particularly centered on the Apollo era. Those who adore the golden age of space exploration are very well provisioned for their intellectual journeys into the past. But such is not the case, until now, for the formative years of space exploration —i.e., pre NASA.

Amy Shira Teitel is well known on social media for tireless promotion of the golden age of space exploration. She produced terrific video coverage of some highlight moments attached to the New Horizons flyby last summer. And now she has made a valuable and highly engaging debut as an author with her first book.

Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight Before NASA (304 pp., hardcover, Bloomsbury Signa, New York, 2016, $27, ISBN 978–1–4729–1117–9), will be an exhilarating read for those who are entranced by the early days of spaceflight.

Teitel begins the story in Germany in 1930 and winds through the years of the Second World War, describing the exploits of German engineers, the V2, Wernher von Braun, and the infancy of rocket propulsion for exploration rather than terror. She deftly describes the establishment of the Alamagordo Army Air Field, early postwar experiments with rocketry, and the transformation of new goals in the early days of the Cold War.

She examines in detail the early days of test pilot rocket plane flights, describing significant moments in the careers of Chuck Yeager, Scott Crossfield, and others. This is a book that weaves themes nicely into an entertaining narrative.

The book winds its way through geopolitics as the story leans into the establishment of a space agency that would become NASA and the original dreams of pushing ever higher and ever faster.

Space exploration fans will want to enjoy this book, a significant prequel to the well-known stories of Apollo that followed.

A wonderful read!

Follow Dave Eicher on Twitter, and please check his Author Page on Facebook.

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