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Smithsonian, Oct 17, 1997 - Technology & Engineering - 294 pages
Examining popular images that have helped motivate the most ambitious civil space program in the world, Howard E. McCurdy argues that the spacefaring dream tapped into several of America's most deeply rooted cultural ideals: the limitless frontier, the heroic explorer, the romance of aviation, and progress through technology. He also shows how space advocates, playing on the public's Cold War fears, convinced politicians that control of space meant control of the earth. Their campaign helps to explain why President Kennedy approved the expensive Project Apollo, leading to the space program's most visible success, the 1969 moon landing. Forty years after the launch of the first orbiting satellites, U.S. achievements in space have fallen far short of the hopeful visions encouraged by Chesley Bonestell's paintings in Collier's magazine and television shows such as Star Trek. In Space and the American Imagination, McCurdy contends that the gap between expectations and reality led to waning public support for the space program and argues that such gaps typically arise when public policy debates are obliged to entertain as well as inform.

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Space and the American imagination

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The popular image of spaceflight has historically drawn on American cultural ideals such as the endless frontier, the heroic explorer, and faith in progress through technological advancement. This ... Read full review


The Vision
The Exploration Ideal
Making Space Flight Seem Real

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About the author (1997)

Roger D. Launius is a member of the Division of Space History at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum and the former Chief Historian of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He has authored and coauthored several books on space exploration, most recently Space: A Journey to Our Future. Howard E. McCurdy is a professor in the School of Public Affairs at American University and the author of Faster, Better, Cheaper: Low-Cost Innovation in the U.S. Space Program and Inside NASA: High Technology and Organizational Change in the U.S. Space Program, both published by Johns Hopkins.

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