Amazing Stories of the Space Age: True Tales of Nazis in Orbit, Soldiers on the Moon, Orphaned Martian Robots, and Other Fascinating Accounts from the Annals of Spaceflight

The dawn of the Space Age launched many out-of-this-world ideas. Some of these moonshots actually flew, but many never left Earth's drawing boards. In Amazing Stories of the Space Age, science writer Rod Pyle (Curiosity, Destination Mars) explores ships, space stations and interplanetary missions that never got off the ground, and a few that did. He also navigates noteworthy though little-known highlights of successful missions, and recounts stories of close calls and near misses.

Pyle begins with Nazi plans for a ramjet bomber called Silbervogel (Silverbird), part of project Amerika Bomber, in which a rocket plane would "skip" along the upper atmosphere and deliver destruction at incredible distances. The Silverbird never flew, but as Pyle chronicles in subsequent chapters, the U.S. successfully tested similar designs in later decades.

The fall of the Third Reich sent Nazi aerospace engineers into the service of the Soviets and Americans. The most famous of these men, Werner von Braun, whose V-2 rockets rained destruction on European cities during the war, envisioned manned space expeditions far more elaborate than the Apollo program that eventually sent men to the Moon. In Das Marsprojekt, first published in English in 1953, von Braun laid out an audacious plan to send a flotilla of ships and 70 men to explore Mars. This fascinating idea, and another for an inflatable space station housing hundreds of astronauts, obviously never came to fruition.

Pyle excels at mixing technical details and historical perspectives into compelling narratives. His subjects, from pistols designed to fight communists on the Moon to the botched deployment of the Skylab space station, are all worthy of the book's title--amazing. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

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