Thursday, September 12, 2019

Book Review "THIS NEW OCEAN"

This New Ocean: The Story of the First Space Age (Modern Library (Paperback))  THIS NEW OCEAN : THE STORY OF THE FIRST SPACE RACE by William E. Burrows ISBN 0-679-44521-8
 Available at Amazon:

 Our re-reading of this classic led to our redoing of the prologue to our own Protocols  we were particularly influenced by Mr. Burrows first Chapter "Bird Envy". We realized upon reading "Bird Envy" once again that our exploration of the parallels between space exploration and the great oceanic explorations and charting of the planet during the age of maritime discovery ( starting in the 1480s) was in terms of space exploration focused on the post moon landing era. In our earlier introduction essays we had focused on the influence that STAR TREK and similar TV and Movie science fiction had on generations of tax payers. Today's tax payers are quite at home with the idea of space exploration and are quite willing to fund the exploration with their tax dollars. In "Bird Envy " Mr. Burrows reminds us that people had been writing about space travel and exploration for centuries before Jules Verne. It took a long time for science fantasy to evolve into science fiction. In the rest of the Book Mr. Burrows describes the development of the space capable rocket from its earliest 20th century days. Since NASA we Americans tend to forget that the only funding for rocket research much before 1929 was by clubs of amateur rocket enthusiasts often viewed as crack pots by the science community of their day and completely ignored by their governments. In the 1930s the only change in negative government and tax payer attitudes was the sponsor ship of rocket science by the German government. The Germans at that point in history were interested in rockets as weapons of war, and most talk of rockets as launching systems for space exploration stopped in Germany. By the time of the end of WWII, American attitudes towards rockets was focused on weaponry. At last, some Free World government funds were getting pointed towards rockets. Talk of space travel picked up again as rockets became more socially acceptable thanks to government participation and the new science fiction writers of the day. 

 Then came the "Cold War " and the famous Russian launch of Sputnik. The first "space race" was on. We agree with Mr. Burrow on this.  There was a first space race and it was on going when STAR TREK first aired. since then generations have been raised with a very clear vision of space travel and a social consensus has been reached that space exploration is worth government expenditures. Mr. Burrows writing makes us realize the long struggle for the public imagination. Only the threat of Russian domination in space spurred the formation of NASA and eventually propelled us to the moon. But somewhere between Alan Shepard's sub orbital flight and our landing on the moon  the public caught up with and eventually surpassed the government in interest in space exploration. We maintain that a major driving influence was the cinematic presentations of a space future based on real science tempering the science fantasy. Audiences could now see and hear  sometimes in 3D writers visions of a future where space travel was a given. What THIS NEW OCEAN  , especially in the First Chapter "Bird Envy" describes is the centuries long struggle to make space exploration something that the science community, government and tax payers could accept. 

 This book is an excellent history of the the first space race It takes the reader deep into the early "rocket clubs" and fleshes out the main characters who most of us only know as names in a history book and vaguely associate their names with "rocket science". He does the same throughout the era he examines through the time of the space shuttle. We agree with his assessment that the space shuttle and International space station mark a turning point, and that we are now, fifty years after the moon landings starting into a "Second Space Race" as we now compete with China to get to the moon again before the world forgets that we did that fifty years ago. But we think  Mr. Burrows puts too much emphasis on wings in space as some sort of key note change in technology. Our exploration of the parallels between space exploration and European exploration of the planet by sea causes us to see in terms of eras not races. The push into space has always involved "fits and starts". What we see and describe in  "ESSAY NUMBER 6 of PROTOCOLS is that we are still in the same era, the era of space capsules and space planes. In Essay number 6 of our "PROTOCOLS  we note in  that CAPSULES AND SHUTTLES ARE BOTH LONG BOATS .

 In other essays we noted the centuries long development from long boats such as galleys that required dozens of rowers and storage space for them to live and eat. And the caravel, the vessel used by Columbus capable of transoceanic voyaging. The"long boats" we described as capable for moving about the shallows, voyaging off the beach to offshore islands, coastal voyaging, but they were unsuited for transoceanic exploration. The caravel by contrast had a viable sail plan and did not need oarsmen. The capsules  and space shuttles that we have used to exploit near earth orbits and land on the moon , in our view are more akin to the galleys than the caravels. We can put people in earth orbit or go to the moon. However, it is clear that any real ships designed to explore even our solar system must be built in space from parts that are somewhat pre-assembled . We await not the appearance of another International space station. but the first space "shipyard" to signal a change in era. Yes we are in a second "Space Race" but it is about better long boats not caravels. A technological "race" is not the same as an era. It took thousands of years to evolve the Caravel, the little ship that changed history. The evolution sped up once the European nation states began to compete with each other on discovering and colonizing for better or worse , the world. We offer two lessons from our comparative study of space and oceanic exploration. First these things seem to advance by fits and starts, second real trans-formative change can take at least decades if not centuries, to come to fruition. 

 We highly suggest reading THIS NEW OCEAN its not a new book but is still available in print at Amazon and elsewhere. In its 700 pages a story of real people working across centuries emerges, a story that the post STAR TREK generations need to learn. It seems to them that we are just moving too slowly toward the Star Trek vision of a space faring society. In fact the space movement  has been moving against societal resistance for about two thousand years. This era of widespread 
public acceptance of space exploration is the key new development allowing us to fly into space. In PROTOCOLS we examine the parallels between this era of space exploration and an earlier period of planetary exploration cautioning patience. If past is prologue, we are going to be improving space travel for at least a thousand years. 

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