Science: Back from Space

It was the autumn of 1954, and the U.S. was hard-crashing a life-or-death program: the development of a rocket that could bellow into space, span oceans and continents, plunge down through the atmosphere and deliver an H-bomb payload anywhere on the earth.

The difficulties were staggering. Every aspect of the project called for prodigies of technology. But the most formidable problem of all was one that should have been familiar to anyone who ever saw a meteor turn into a trail of fire in the night sky. It was the problem of "re-entry": how to...

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