Synopses & Reviews
Who were the men who led America's first voyages into space? Soldiers? Daredevils? The public sometimes imagined them that way: military men or hot-shot pilots without the capacity for doubt, fear, or worry. Instead, the early astronauts were something else: a new kind of 'organization man,' calm, calculating, and attuned to the politics and celebrity of the Space Race. Through archival documents, popular culture, and interviews with the astronauts themselves, the book examines the origins of a new American profession and follows it through the last Moon landing and the creation of the Space Shuttle.
"A provocative effort to cast new light on the NASA program." - Kirkus
"Both scholars of the U.S. space program and space enthusiasts have been reliant on The Right Stuff, the dozens of astronaut memoirs and biographies, and a smaller collection of essays on the image of the astronaut (see Roger Launius, 'Heroes in a Vacuum: The Apollo Astronaut as Cultural Icon,' Florida Historical Quarterly [Fall 2008]) to gain insight into that world. We have been waiting for someone to break the vow of professional silence that NASA management and the astronauts themselves have maintained over the years. Useful for college-level history, political science, and space policy courses and accessible to a broader audience with an interest in the human spaceflight program, Hersch's work is commendable for its demystification of this profession." - American Historical Review
"The original Mercury Seven astronauts were instant celebrities, worshipped by the public as brave American heroes. Hersch considers these original astronauts from the late 1950s and brings the story up to the beginning of the space shuttle era in the 1980s . . . the text is very accessible to laypersons and enjoyable to read. The book is factually accurate, well organized in a chronological manner, and includes some nice halftone photographs. Recommended." - CHOICE
"This slim though rich, cogently argued, and highly readable book is an excellent example of how applying a new analytical framework leads to fresh insights on a familiar subject . . . Matthew Hersch has created an integrated picture of the meteoric
rise and slow descent of the American astronaut." - Technology and Culture
"Hersch's book skillfully combines two rather disparate topics - how the profession of 'astronaut' became defined in the early years of U.S. spaceflight, and the widely varying personalities of the first generation of American space flyers. The study is a significant contribution to understanding both the special role that astronauts have played in the public appreciation of U.S. space efforts and the internal dynamics of NASA's human spaceflight program." - John M. Logsdon, Space Policy Institute, The George Washington University and author, John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon
"This is a groundbreaking work about the creation of an entirely new profession: the astronaut. Wresting the history of the American astronaut from tired hagiographies, Matthew H. Hersch has produced a superb scholarly book that illustrates vividly how American astronauts negotiated between public perceptions, private lives, and workplace demands. The outcome, as Hersch shows, was a profession that continuously evolved in surprising ways." - Asif Siddiqi, author of The Red Rockets' Glare: Spaceflight and the Soviet Imagination, 1857-1957
"This book is a very welcome addition to our understanding of the American astronaut corps, especially as viewed as a case study in 'the creation of an entirely new American profession' and even as a case study in American labor history. Hersch has conducted nicely thorough and wide-ranging research into his subject, he writes very well, and he offers his readers both a synthetic overview as well as a deeply penetrating critical analysis into what it has meant to be an astronaut and into what the astronaut has meant to American society from the time of the Original Mercury Seven to the start of the Space Shuttle program." - James R. Hansen, professor of History, Auburn University
About the Author
Matthew H. Hersch is a Lecturer in Science, Technology and Society in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his PhD. During his doctoral studies, he held a HSS-NASA Fellowship in the History of Space Science and a Guggenheim Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, and most recently served as the Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow for the Aerospace History Project of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West.
Table of Contents
Scientists in Space
Rocket Men and Space Oddities