Mike Gruntman's
Blazing the Trail. The Early History of Spacecraft and Rocketry

The winner of the Luigi Napolitano Book Award (2006) from the International Academy of Astronautics


Mike Gruntman
Blazing the Trail:
The Early History of Spacecraft and Rocketry

AIAA, 2004
ISBN 1-56347-705-X
ISBN 978-1-56347-705-8
(List price $39.95)

475 pages with 340 figures
Index: 2750+ entries, including 650 individuals


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Table of Contents (detailed)

List of figures

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Preface - this page

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To Books on Astronautics History

Lecture (1 hr 10 min)    The Road to Space. The First Thousand Years.

Fifty years ago in October of 1957, the first artificial satellite of the Earth was launched into space. The lecture focuses on the history of the events that led us to the space age. You can freely download the video ( 390 MB) and slides (pdf) of the presentation on your computer.

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Some book pages:

pages 51-53
page 117
page 231
page 233
page 236
pages 273-275
page 312
page 321
page 333
page 334
page 338
page 345
pages 348-349
page 375
page 376
pages 407-408
pages 440-441
page 444


This book introduces the reader into the history of early rocketry and the subsequent developments that led to the space age. The exciting achievements of space exploration that began in the late 1950s are very well known to many. Not that many, however, are familiar with the beginning: How we prepared for this breakthrough into space; What happened in the early days of rocketry and spacecraft; and Who were those often unappreciated and half-forgotten visionaries, scientists, engineers, and political and military leaders who opened the way to space. Publications on these topics usually target the specialists and address in detail specific aspects of rocket history. On the other end of the spectrum are popular books that just scratch the surface and have minimal and sometimes inaccurate technical details. This book bridges the gap.

In a compressed lecture-notes style, the book presents the fascinating story of the events that paved the way to space. People of various nations and from various lands contributed to the breakthrough into space, and the book takes the reader to faraway places on five continents. It also includes many quotes to give readers a flavor of how the participants viewed the developments.

The book contains numerous technical details usually unavailable in popular publications. The details are not overbearing, and anyone interested in rocketry and space exploration will navigate through the book without difficulty. In addition, there are 340 figures, including many photographs, some appearing for the first time.

The selection of topics was guided by the desire to present the whole story in a short book, with the emphasis on the first steps in new technology and the pioneers who took them. The follow-on programs, regardless of their impact, that built upon these breakthroughs are beyond the scope of the book. Consequently, many important events and persons that would otherwise be prominently presented in a comprehensive history are omitted.

The book focuses on the early history of rocketry and the very beginning of spacecraft history. The presented story ends at the first American and Soviet launches of late 1950s. Thus, satellite description is largely confined to Sputnik, Explorer, and Vanguard, leaving out the numerous advances in spacecraft that usually incrementally built upon these firsts. However, a few selected and highly important for satellite technology developments that originated during 1950s and “spilled over” to 1960s and beyond are also briefly discussed. In particular, “opening the skies” by early reconnaissance missions that remained largely unknown until recently is presented in some detail. In addition, one chapter focuses on the very first steps of the space-faring nations other than the United States and Soviet Union.

Knowledge and appreciation of the early history of rocketry and spacecraft are important for those who are the keepers of the flame. This book is for present and future “rocket scientists” and for all those who are a part of the great space enterprise. It is for those who dream to join this endeavor in the future; for university and college instructors and students; for high-school teachers and students; and for all interested in and fascinated by space. This book could also be used as a basis for introductory and history-oriented lectures in various astronautics and space technology courses; support university classes on the history of technology and military history; and serve students as an information source for university and high-school projects.


Acknowledgments .......

From Astronautics to Cosmonautics, 2007

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