Now that flying has become routine -- an affair of tray tables, carry-ons, and Homeland Security checkpoints -- it is easy to forget that little more than a hundred years ago, every attempt to build a working airplane had failed and space travel was inconceivable except as fantasy. Realizing the dream of flight required astonishing ingenuity, daring, and heroic sacrifice. Each advance opened new and scarcely imag-inable vistas, transforming not only distance but war, commerce, and our sense of our place in the universe.
Into the Blue revisits the remarkable trajectory of Americans in the air, gathering sixty of the most vivid and compelling pieces on aviation and spaceflight, from Benjamin Franklin's letters on the first balloons to Chris Jones's account of astronauts stranded on the International Space Station.
Here are those who made flight happen: Orville and Wilbur Wright, self-taught pioneers whose home-spun inventions stunned the world; World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker, whose memoirs (excerpted here for the first time from the original manuscript) describe the frightening novelties of aerial combat; and daredevils like Texas barnstormers Hart Stilwell and Slats Rodgers and test pilot Jimmy Collins. Ernest Hemingway offers a vivid dispatch on a 1922 flight over France, and Gertrude Stein muses on the look of America from the air; Charles A. Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart narrate their groundbreaking transatlantic flights; Ralph Ellison tells the story of an African American airman at Tuskegee; William F. Buckley Jr. recounts his mishaps as an amateur pilot; Wernher von Braun envisions a space station of the future, and astronauts John Glenn, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin provide firsthand recollections of the conquest of space.
Here, too, are scenes and episodes in the development of commercial aviation, from the hiring of the first stewardesses and the high-stress lives of air traffic controllers to the new ubiquity of what Walter Kirn calls "Airworld."
Included are thirty-two pages of photographs, some previously unpublished.
Joseph J. Corn, editor, is a social and cultural historian who taught at Stanford University. He is the author of The Winged Gospel: America's Romance with Aviation and User Unfriendly: Consumer Struggles with Personal Technologies, from Clocks and Sewing Machines to Cars and Computers.