"The intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) carrying thermonuclear weapons was the central weapons system of the Cold War. Today ICBMs remain on alert in various parts of the world. The first ICBMs deployed by the Cold War superpowers in the 1950s also went on to carry the first astronauts and cosmonauts into orbit. They therefore played a crucial part in humanity's first reach into space. Guiding Missiles looks at the background of the decision to build America's first ICBM, the Atlas. This decision,made in March 1954 by officials in the United States Air Force, was criticized for being tardy and for being a major cause of America's embarrassment when the Soviets successfully put Sputnik into orbit in 1957. Guiding Missiles will be the first book toset this decision in its true context, not only in the America of the postwar years but also in comparison to the real story of Soviet missiles that emerged after the end of the Cold War. This book stresses the importance of developments in nuclear weapons, especially the thermonuclear bomb, in driving missile and space technology in the 1950s."--Provided by publisher.