2000-07-30: This New Ocean

This New Ocean

The Story of the First Space Age (1998)

by William E. Burrows (?)

This large book (700+ pages) could have been better edited. The author poured as much as he could into it, including some irrelevancies and inaccuracies.

The topic is interesting, and I had hopes of better when I began reading. In the end, I finished it simply because I had already invested so much time in it.

Among the problems were a basic lack of familiarity with the physics of space flight. This should not have been a problem, except that Burrows kept inserting mistaken allusions to theories (such as the three-body problem) to justify talking about an event or individual. In addition, he repeated the same mistakes, apparently to give more weight to the event or individual, or perhaps to show off.

Although the political systems of the USA and USSR were certainly relevant to the space race, he inserted sections which seemed intended to simply sound erudite, without contributing anything to the understanding of the story (such as the causes of the fall of the USSR). He also jumps around in time, introducing more repetition.

Despite the size of the book, Burrows left out parts of the story I was looking forward to. I had hoped for some insight into the effects of the Apollo 13 story on public attitudes toward space flight; the flight was hardly mentioned. Burrows wrote a previous book on reconnaissance from space, and I had hoped for some description of the relationship between the technology of earth-pointing telescopes and the Hubble Space Telescope. Aside from a paragraph that indicated there was little or no official contact between the military and civilian agencies on the matter, he had nothing to say.

Altogether I found the book disappointing, and a waste of time.

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