This introductory chapter sets out the purposes of the book, which is to address the question: How could the United States have advanced so rapidly from the relatively primitive rocket technology available on a small scale in the mid-1950s to the almost routine access to space available by the 1980s? It also traces the convoluted technological trajectory from Robert H. Goddard's imaginative but problem-prone early rockets to the huge Saturn V and the complex space shuttle, among other launch vehicles. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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