Exploring Near Space (book)
Exploring Near Space: Scientific ballooning and the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility is the name of a book published in 2012 by Dr. Henry Clay Dethloff, a professor emeritus of history at Texas A&M University in College Station. He authored more than two dozen books on topics ranging from the space program to agriculture and American business. This particular book was product of a NASA Historical Research Project on the History of Space and Earth Sciences with oversight of the NASA History Program Office, and was published by the author himself.
The starting chapter is devoted to the birth of the National Center for Atmopheric Research and the early history of the balloon base built in palestine, Texas. The second one, tell us the first years of the development of the station as well the origin of the different firms involved in scientific ballooning like Winzen, Raven, General Mills, and how they were founded.
Third part is focused on the problems faced to improve the quality of balloon manufacturing as their size and volume increased. Also includes the majoe acomplishments of the Balloon Facility until mid 70's. Chapter four is devoted to the world community of users of scientific balloons, with brief histories of national programs of nations abroad, while chapters five to seven are focused in the involvement of NASA, the near space sciences and the change in the management of the facility.
Chapter eight tell us about the activity of the program in early 90's including the development of long duration missions, as well the first attempts to open up the activity to students to foster his interest in science. Part nine was devoted to Earth's environment issues and the role of scientific ballooning in assessing some key issues, while chapter ten is focused in the great experiments of late 90's devoted to high energy particles research.
Finally, chapters eleven and twelve are mainly devoted to Ultra Long Duration scientific Ballooning and the projects to perform these flights beyond earth's boundaries in Mars, Venus or moons of other planets. The book closes with an assessment of the scientific ballooning in the modern era as final chapter.
One of the remarkable characteristics of Dethloff's work is the level of detail in each topic. That's why the book is not an easy reading one. Along each one of the aforementioned chapters the author offers us a full picture of the times, plenty of statistics on the activity of the balloon facility, the difficulties and the acomplishments of each decade, and a little biography of the men and women that contributed to improve the activity. A lot of information is extracted from several fist hand sources like the archives of NCAR and NASA as well from the principal contractors and balloon manufacturers.
This transform every chapter in a snapshot of each era of the scientific ballooning in the United States, and turns the entire book into a definitive and complete source for those interested in the development of this activity in the last 60 years.
The book is available from Amazon through their system of printing on demand or in electronic format.