Daring the Unknown Critical Essays

Howard E. Smith


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Many historical accounts of space exploration and rocketry has been published, a number of which concentrate on the American involvement in space. In Daring the Unknown, Smith includes the classical points of rocketry history, but he also provides a number of facts not commonly discussed, such as the contributions of Tsiolkovsky. One of the more important aspects of Smith’s presentation of the history of NASA is the way in which it explores some considerations not commonly found in histories of space exploration—those related to the political context within which space exploration ideas and projects form. For example, the pressures and alternatives that shaped President John F. Kennedy’s decision to commit the resources of the United States “to send a man to the moon and return him safely to Earth” are explained. The Soviet Union’s decision not to send cosmonauts to the moon is also described within a contemporary political framework. Most other authors disregard this perspective, choosing to focus only on the accomplishments, the “whats” of space exploration, while ignoring the “whys and hows.”

Another way in which this work brings history to life is the inclusion of a number of interesting and little-known facts about important events in space exploration that many major works omit. These details include Robert Goddard’s launch of his first rocket at his Aunt Effie’s farm, John Glenn’s descriptions of his views of...

(The entire section is 418 words.)