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Synopsis

This official NASA history document - converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction - is a comprehensive account "of the origin, course of development, and results of the first American earth satellite project, one of several programs planned for the International Geophysical Year. Primarily an analysis of the scientific and technical problems in this pioneering venture in the exploration of outer space, the text also examines the organization of an undertaking bound by an inexorably fixed time limit, discusses briefly the climate of American opinion both before and after the launchings of the first Russian Sputniks, and concludes with a somewhat cursory evaluation of what the satellite program contributed to human knowledge. Written in lay language insofar as the authors could translate scientific and technical terms into everyday English, the book nevertheless is not one for casual reading. The very multiplicity of Federal agencies, quasi-governmental bodies, and private organizations that shared in the project complicates the story. Indeed in some degree the interrelationships of these groups and key individuals within them constitute a central theme of this study. Even so, by no means all the several hundred people whose dedicated work made satellite flights possible are mentioned by name in the text. To have identified each person and explained his role would have turned this book into a large tome."

In the foreword, Charles Lindbergh noted: "This carefully researched history of Project Vanguard, resulting from years of study by Constance McLaughlin Green and Milton Lomask, escorts the reader step by step through planning, setbacks, successes, and final launchings, including effects of individual and mass psychology. Since contributions by the armed services form the web on which the following chapters pattern, it seems appropriate to apply to the authors, as well as to Vanguard, those high compliments of military terminology: Mission accomplished and well done. To this decade-later evaluation, I believe it is pertinent to add that Project Vanguard contributed in major ways to the manned lunar orbitings and landings in which principles of scientific perfection were maintained and America was first... This is a record of amazing human accomplishment. It is also a record of conflicting values, policies, and ideas, from which we have much to learn. It shows how easily an admirable framework of scientific success can be screened from public view by a fictitious coating of failure; yet how important that coating is in its effect on world psychology and national prestige. Herein is portrayed both the genius and the ineptness of our American way of life. On one hand, Vanguard history rests proudly with outstanding accomplishments; on the other, it emphasizes clearly how much more could have been accomplished through inter-service cooperation and support that was withheld. One is made aware of the penalties brought by such diverse elements as extended wartime hatred and a sensation-seeking press. Even in retrospect, we view Project Vanguard through the haze of an environment that was out of its control-an environment including atomic weapons, Sputnik, and cold war with the Soviet Union. These chapters bring out again the age-old conflict that continues between security and progress, in spite of their relationship. My own first contact with the Vanguard program was a part of this conflict. It exemplifies the obstacles. sometimes unavoidable, that delayed the launching of America's Number 1 satellite."

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