This novel tells the story of the US space program, from its inception to the 80s, through a few leading characters - a German scientist specializing in rockets who was "grabbed" from Germany in the last days of the war (this is what the first part of the book is about), the man who brought him to the US and later became a high figure in NASA, a senator (from the imaginary state of Fremont) who supported the space program through a commission, and an astronaut, whose career is followed all the way from high school through Navy service in Korea as a pilot, through test piloting and a doctorate in engineering and astronomy.

The scope of this book is huge, which is also its major downside. There are really 2-3 full books in there, and reading this 800+ page tome becomes quite tiresome after some time, since things repeat a lot.