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High-Speed Dreams

, 392 pages

12 halftones, 10 line drawings

November 2008



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High-Speed Dreams

NASA and the Technopolitics of Supersonic Transportation, 1945–1999

In High-Speed Dreams, Erik M. Conway constructs an insightful history that focuses primarily on the political and commercial factors responsible for the rise and fall of American supersonic transport research programs. Conway charts commercial supersonic research efforts through the changing relationships between international and domestic politicians, military/NASA contractors, private investors, and environmentalists. He documents post-World War II efforts at the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics and the Defense Department to generate supersonic flight technologies, the attempts to commercialize these technologies by Britain and the United States during the 1950s and 1960s, environmental campaigns against SST technology in the 1970s, and subsequent attempts to revitalize supersonic technology at the end of the century.

High-Speed Dreams is a sophisticated study of politics, economics, nationalism, and the global pursuit of progress. Historians, along with participants in current aerospace research programs, will gain valuable perspective on the interaction of politics and technology.

Erik M. Conway serves as historian, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

"Of interest to historians and social scientists concerned with the politics and economics of public policy... An important book on a fascinating topic."

"A concise and thoroughly fascinating history of the train wreck that was the U.S. supersonic civil transport programs."

"A readable narrative on the interplay between politics, technology, and economics."

"Conway seems to have struck the right balance between the nuts-and-bolts of aircraft design and discussion of larger issues, particularly state support for advanced technology... An original and valuable contribution to the saga of a dream deferred."

"Conway does an excellent job of explaining the nationalism inherent in supersonic transport during the Cold War and the domestic American politics surrounding the project."

"A serious academic work... likely to interest historians and those interested in aerospace research."

"Comprehensive and enjoyable... A cautionary tale of half-baked federal technology and economic policies high-jacking public funds for a concept aircraft that was an engineering boondoggle, a financial black hole and an environmental fiend."

"[Conway's] examination of the development of supersonic aviation and the various SST programs provides a fascinating internal look at how the technology developed, while also connecting that development with the issue of the larger meaning of technology in society."

"Impressive and thorough. An important contribution to our understanding of state-supported large-scale technological development in America. It will be of interest to aerospace enthusiasts, historians of technology, and students of public policy."

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