Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Celebrating the Early Days of the Human Spaceflight Program...
Last night, I drove down to Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena to attend a presentation and signing by Amy Shira Teitel...who was promoting her new publication, Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight before NASA. For those of you who don't know who Ms. Teitel is, she has written articles for such sites as Popular Science and Al Jazeera, provided science news updates on the Discovery Channel, and did public relations videos for NASA's New Horizons mission that flew past Pluto last summer.
In terms of Teitel's new book, I found it very interesting based on the snippets I read at the bookstore before she arrived for the signing. One interesting tidbit was about rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun. It was fascinating to find out what he and his fellow colleagues did to escape Nazi Germany just as it was about to be defeated by the Allies in early 1945, and how determined von Braun was to meet up with American soldiers and convince them that his knowledge of rocket science would benefit the United States just as World War II was concluding, and the Cold War would soon begin with the Soviet Union.
Another neat tidbit was about Chuck Yeager...and how he broke the sound barrier while nursing broken ribs. Yeager had no idea that he wasn't going to feel anything inside his Bell X-1 as he flew past the speed of sound—and that he was expecting to lose his hearing and experience other physical trauma at the moment his craft exceeded Mach 1. Just as interesting was Teitel remarking that Yeager tweeted to her on Twitter a while ago—and that she was both scared and thrilled that the aerospace icon contacted her on social media!
All-in-all, it was a fascinating presentation by Ms. Teitel last night. Despite her misgivings about the direction that present-day NASA is going (she's not a fan of the agency's Asteroid Redirect Mission or plans that call for the Orion spacecraft to merely circumnavigate the Moon in 2018 and 2021, respectively), Teitel showed just how passionate she is about the early days of American's human spaceflight program, as well as robotic missions such as Mars Pathfinder and Cassini. Teitel is planning to write a second book that will cover the days of Gemini through Apollo... Can't wait for that book to be published!