posted September 05, 2005 04:43 PM
Chuck Walker and Joel Powell have written one of the best books to date about the history and uses of the first American Intercontinental Ballistic Missile- the Atlas.
It details how the Vultee Corporation started building the MX-774 rocket nearly 60 years ago and how it led to the Convair Atlas ICBM and became todays Lockheed Martin Atlas V commercial launcher.
For the first time the reader gets to see behind the classifed world that was Atlas. The test stands, the test firings and the Silos, and what went on in designing and building them.
The book tells of the innovations of the stage-and-a-half rocket, whose skin was so thin that it had to be inflated to keep its shape! Some of the stories include what happened during the Cuban missile crisis when every Atlas that could be fueled was ready to be hurled at the Soviet Union.
The Atlas story started to be told in the in the early 1960s' and I find that this book jumps around in the retelling of these stories. The major problem with this book is that it is based on interviews and does not ask specific questions, like -what happened during a failure like Figure 12-6 illistrates, or how and why did they replace the sustainer engine for John Glenn's Atlas 109-D while it stood vertically on the launch pad? I still want to hear the answer to that one! There is also very little about Atlas and its uses in Project Gemini- the second American manned space project There might be a photo of an unusual Atlas configuration on one page, but the simplist of discriptions making you want to know more about that specific launch!
But these little stories are also the books major strength. There are stories about the watering holes that the men hung out in during those days, and what life was like at such remote sites like Vandenberg Air Force baseor Kawajalwn Island. The book also goes into the final costs of the weapon systems.
The second part of the book tells of the evolution of the Centaur and Agena upper stages that allowed Atlas to boost spacecraft to the farthest reaches of the Solar System, and launch Americas' intellegence assets into orbit.
The book concludes with stories and appendix about what happened to the various personnel, and key events in history that for Atlas included: launching the first U.S. probes to land on the Moon, and spacecraft that traveled to Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
ERRORS- Figure 18-6 and 18-13 do not show John Glenn's Atlas- Mercury 6 (Atlas 109-D), but Atlas- Mercury 4. and in Appendix B- what happened to launch number 64? and why does Canada have the only original Atlas A?
I wish that there was a DVD disc about the Atlases in this one- but sadly there is not.
ALL IN ALL, A GOOD READ!