Eugen Reichl’s book Project Mercury is a thorough, very detailed look at the early stages of America’s space race.
The amount of information here is absolutely incredible. Reichl reports on each rocket and in addition to his narrative describing the purpose, concerns and success or failure for each mission, he also includes a technical summary of “Mission Data.” Such data includes: Mission Name; Callsign; Date; Launch Site; Launch Vehicle; Spacecraft (ie: Mercury Number 16); Crew; Spacecraft Weight; Flight Path; Orbits; Perigee and apogee; Flight duration; Inclination; Landing site; Recovery ship.
The book begins with a wonderful summary of the Mercury project and describes the race to space between the U.S. and Russia, along with Russia’s Sputnik success stories. Reichl then explains the challenges for NASA (the heat shield), the development of the space capsule, and the search for the men who would become America’s first astronauts.
The book is lavishly illustrated with NASA photos.
There is something about the actual look of the book (the layout, the colors, the liberal use of photos) that makes this look like something targeted toward schools and young readers. But the presentation of the material itself sometimes borders on the dry side. This could be partly the translation (this book was originally published in 2013 in Germany). It could also be that there is such a large info-dump here (much of it technical) that a bit of tedium is unavoidable.
For anyone interested in the space program, whether like me, someone who grew up with the Mercury and Apollo programs, or someone growing up with NASA’s eyes on Mars and the Elon Musk Space X programs, this is a well-documented bit of important history.
Looking for a good book? Project Mercury, by Eugen Reichl, is a tremendous, detailed summary of NASA’s Mercury program.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
* * * * * *
author: Eugen Reichl
translator: David Johnston
publisher: Schiffer Publishing
hardcover, 144 pages