Apollo, the most ambitious engineering project ever undertaken by man: to build a rocket 36 stories high, load it with the explosive power of a nuclear device, put men on top of it, and shoot it at the moon - this is a task more complicated by far than the Manhattan Project and the Panama Canal combined. Angle of Attack is the story of one of America's most triumphant achievements: two decades later the Apollo Mission stands as a stirring reminder of what this country is capable of when the chips are down. In the panic that follows the Soviet launch of Sputnik, it is Harrison Storms, the legendary chief engineer of North American Aviation, who captures the job of building the Apollo spacecraft. Storms is one of the country's foremost airplane designers, and at North American he is known, only half-jokingly, as The Creator. But building the ship that will carry the astronauts to the moon and back is a challenge of a new and frightening order. As Storms and his engineers feel their way through uncharted technologies on a killing schedule, the blizzard of changing orders from NASA keeps the design of the ship a constantly moving target. To wage the battle, Storms assembles a vast technical empire that includes some of the greatest minds in industrial America. Working with Werner von Braun and the German rocket scientists from Peenemunde, they chase the triple nines (tolerances of .999), driving themselves beyond endurance to heart attacks, breakdowns, and suicides, giving their careers, sometimes their lives, to this colossal machine. In brilliant, high-octane storytelling reminiscent of Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff, Mike Gray dramatizes the quest for the moon and celebrates the triumph of American technical genius.
This swaggering portrait of NASA's Apollo project might well be called Indiana Jones and the Engineering Mission of Destiny. Harrison Storms, the tough but adored head of North American Aviation's Space Division, has the title role, but Gray (The Warning) introduces hundreds of other characters, both human and mechanical (often blurring the distinctions)--a load that weighs heavily on his occasionally breathless prose. More than 30,000 people worked on the mission to put a man on the moon, beginning with the Cold War politics of the 1950s race for space and ending with that triumphal one small step in 1969. Under Storms's right stuff leadership, the project ran a corporate and governmental gauntlet toward a goal that defined the technological era: Man, Moon, Decade. Even NASA fans disillusioned by recent revelations of the agency's flaws will feel reinvigorated by the pure sense of mission manifest in this account. (Oct.)