To a Distant Day


To a Distant Day

The Rocket Pioneers

Chris Gainor
Foreword by Alfred Worden

Outward Odyssey: A People's History of Spaceflight Series

264 pages
29 photographs, 1 illustration


July 2013


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eBook (EPUB)

April 2020


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eBook (PDF)

April 2008


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About the Book

“Insightful, instructive, and definitely worth the read.”—Greg Andres, Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

“As someone who has been teaching a course on space exploration for many years and has visited most of NASA’s space centers, I have found plenty of new and valuable material in To a Distant Day. . . . I recommend the book to all who wish to know more about the conditions, people, and discoveries between 1890 and 1960 that led to the space age.”—Pangratios Papacosta, Physics Today

Although the dream of flying is as old as the human imagination, the notion of rocketing into space may have originated with Chinese gunpowder experiments during the Middle Ages. Rockets as both weapons and entertainment are examined in this engaging history of how human beings acquired the ability to catapult themselves into space.
Chris Gainor’s irresistible narrative introduces us to pioneers such as Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Robert Goddard, and Hermann Oberth, who pointed the way to the cosmos by generating the earliest wave of international enthusiasm for space exploration. It shows us German engineer Wernher von Braun creating the V-2, the first large rocket, which, though opening the door to space, failed utterly as the “wonder weapon” it was meant to be. From there Gainor follows the space race to the Soviet Union and the United States, giving us a close look at the competitive hysteria that led to Sputnik, satellites, space probes, and—finally—human flight into space in 1961.
As much a story of cultural ambition and personal destiny as of scientific progress and technological history, To a Distant Day offers a complete and thoroughly compelling account of humanity’s determined efforts—sometimes poignant, sometimes amazing, sometimes mad—to leave the earth behind.

Author Bio

Chris Gainor, a historian of technology, is the author of Arrows to the Moon: Avro’s Engineers and the Space Race, Who Killed the Avro Arrow?, and Canada in Space: The People and Stories behind Canada’s Role in the Exploration of Space. Alfred Worden was an Apollo 15 astronaut.

Table of Contents


Foreword from Col. Alfred Worden


Chapter 1 Space Dreams and War Drums

Chapter 2 Tsiolkovsky and the Birth of Soviet Astronautics

Chapter 3 Robert Goddard’s Solitary Trail

Chapter 4 Hermann Oberth and Early German Rocketry

Chapter 5 Von Braun, Dornberger and World War II

Chapter 6 Rockets, Balloons and the Right Stuff

Chapter 7 Korolev and the First ICBM

Chapter 8 The Military Industrial Complex

Chapter 9 Sputniks and Muttniks

Chapter 10 The Birth of NASA

Chapter 11 Man In Space Soonest

Epilog: July 6, 1969



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