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Space: The Final Frontier

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist, recently spoke about the "Dawn of the Space Age" at the Library of Congress. He told the story of the first five years of the Space Age, from 1957 to 1961, using once-secret materials declassified in the 1990s by the United States and the former Soviet Union.

[The space-age toy shop], 1961 Portrait of Buzz Aldrin

McDowell discussed questions such as: Where does space begin? Whose rockets were really more reliable? Was the contemporary perception of a Soviet lead correct? Who invented the "apogee kick motor" (a rocket motor that sends the craft into orbit)?

McDowell is an astrophysicist in the Science Data Systems Planning Group in the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, which is based at Harvard University. He received a degree in mathematics from Churchill College, University of Cambridge, and a doctorate from the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge.

McDowell writes a monthly column for Sky and Telescope Magazine and a weekly e-mail-distributed newsletter, "Jonathan's Space Report."

His fascinating program can be enjoyed in the Webcasts area of the Library's Web site. When you get to this page, click on the "Science, Technology" link. McDowell's presentation will be there, along with other science-based programs, such as one featuring former astronaut Buzz Aldrin at this year's National Book Festival.

A. Anatol Kovarsky, artist. [The space-age toy shop], 1961. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZC4-3865 (color film copy transparency); Call No.: SWANN - no. 1818 (C size) <P&P>[P&P]

B. [Portrait of Buzz Aldrin]. Reproduction information: Not available for reproduction.