The Story of Orion
How It Worked
Orion Drive > Books > Project Orion
Project Orion: The Atomic Spaceship 1957 to 1965
Imagine a 4,000 ton spacecraft powered by 2,600 nuclear weapons and carrying a crew of 50. Imagine that spacecraft reaching Mars in 1965, and reaching Saturn by 1970. It might sound like science fiction, but this was in fact a real project, known as "Project Orion" which was seriously considered by some parts of the US government, and backed by many leading scientists, engineers and military people.
The story of this amazing idea is contained within "Project Orion: The Atomic Spaceship 1957 to 1965". This is a book by George Dyson, the son of Freeman Dyson, who was one of the leaders of the project. The book is well written and quite clearly a labor of love. It contains a tremendous amount of detail about the project, how it would have worked, and the political struggles that eventually killed it.
Many details of Project Orion are still classified, how George Dyson appears to have been able to obtain more than enough information in order to tell a complete story. The book also contains numerous diagrams and drawings, many reprinted from original documents of the time - although sadly the photographs (at least in the paperback edition that I have) are all black and white.
Although the book is written in an accessible style that the layman can easily follow, it should also be emphasized that this is a high quality work that professionals and academics will appreciate too. For example, there is an 11 page list of Project Orion technical reports (apparently incomplete because of "restrictions imposed under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954"), nearly 300 footnotes, and a detailed index.
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