... we have to realize that much of what spurred the "Space Race" was the Cold War and the "Arms Race". Big rockets meant big payloads; and those payloads could either be heroic astronauts of H-bombs. The Air Force had it's own space program throughout this period. USAF interest in military applications of space continued throughout the Cold-War. Remember Reagan's 'Star-Wars' (SDI) program. Here we see the sort of nifty magazine cover that I am trying to resurrect in my own illustration work. (no wimpy articles on green, baby-whale saving, technology here!)
Lifting body research helped lead to the Space Shuttle; but the fly-boys were talking manned bombers and fighters in orbit ... oorah!
all images- Right click- open in New Window or Tab = super colossal size!