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David West Reynolds is the author of 10 books, and combined they have sold over two million copies in nine languages. He has a PhD from the University of Michigan and is an expert in space exploration and its history. He has made numerous television appearances and his writings, diagrams, illustrations and photographs have appeared in scientific journals, books, magazines and other publications, including National Geographic's best-selling Epic Rivalry: The Inside Story of the Soviet and American Space Race.
In this profusely illustrated history of America's spaceport, Reynolds supplies basic information about the place, but his best value is imparting a sense of the procedures for launching a rocket. This a refreshing difference from the usual space book's emphasis on missions and astronauts, although Reynolds' text does adopt a chronological structure from the cape's first launch in 1950 to the shuttle missions of the present. The first section describes the requisite infrastructure, such as hangars to assemble rockets and special vehicles to transport them to the launchpad. These standard elements, Reynolds explains, were devised by--who else?--V-2 mastermind Wernher von Braun, whose career in Nazi Germany and postwar America is prominently featured in this work. Telling of five decades of construction at the Cape, Reynolds also delves into the specialized prelaunch routines and the work crews who carry them out. Accenting the prosaic over the glamorous, Reynolds paints an appealing portrait of the physical installations behind the drama of ignition and liftoff.-- (10/15/2006) (starred review) This pictorial history of the Kennedy Space Center boasts a highly illuminating text to go with over 150 detailed, richly reproduced photos. The remarkable achievements of NASA's glory days are fully elucidated here... A short history of rocketry includes fascinating historical photos of German engineers working on the V2, and it's to Reynold's credit that he chooses not to gloss over the program's troubling dependence on former Nazi engineers, presenting the story of America's space race with the Soviets in its full post-war context. Nor does Reynolds shrink from the disasters--the fire aboard Apollo 1 and the loss of two space shuttles--and the carelessness and pennywise cost-cutting that caused them. Reynolds concludes with chapters on non-manned space vehicles and on the future of space exploration, followed by an excellent index. Although completed prior to the recent announcements about the shuttle's successors, this book is still extremely practical and enjoyable; Chapter 12, which follows along as the space shuttle is prepared for launch, is worth the cover price alone. It's a solid historical overview, especially appealing to budding engineers between the ages of six and sixteen.--Publishers Weekly (09/11/2006) Recommended.--Choice (07/01/2007)