'The Nasa Archives: 60 Years In Space' Brings The Space Agency's History To Life
Consider this: for Nasa to get a rocket off the ground and into orbit, it needs to build an engine capable of accelerating to 18,000mph – 10 times faster than a speeding bullet. And that’s the easy part.
As Piers Bizony puts it in the introduction to Taschen’s new XL-format book, The NASA Archives: 60 Years In Space, “Exceptionally volatile and dangerous chemical potencies of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen have to be unleashed with exacting care in order to achieve this. Mistakes can cause explosions equivalent to small nuclear warhead detonations.”
To enter that perilous game way back in 1958 required a spirit of adventure that has pervaded the agency’s existence, as Taschen’s book sets out in 400 historic photographs and rare concept renderings. More than the technology, this is a story about something more profound – mankind making its first attempts to answer the ultimate questions. How did we get onto this rock and what else is out there?
Lightning strikes the launchpad of Challenger on August 30, 1983 prior to STS-8, the first pre-dawn launch of the space shuttle programme. Launchpads are surrounded by tall lightning towers that create a giant ‘Faraday cage’, diverting the electric charge of the strike away from the spacecraft.
A window to the great void: Apollo 9 command module pilot David Scott emerges from the hatch, testing some of the spacesuit systems that would be used for lunar operations. The photo was taken from the docked lunar module in March 1969.
Confined to sci-fi no longer: The Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) is a hybrid of parachute and balloon technology. A new generation of flexible heat shield materials could enable a huge shield to be deployed from a small storage canister just before a spacecraft hits the atmosphere of its target planet. In July 2012 a HIAD survived a trip through earth’s atmosphere at 7,600mph.
Experiments with high-fliers: Mothership ‘Balls Three’ overflies an X-15 in 1961. Three operational X-15s were constructed and flown for a total of 199 test flights, as they pushed at the ‘envelopes’ of speed and altitude, and reached the very edges of space.
The NASA Archives: 60 Years In Space, £100, taschen.com