- Hardcover: 548 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins (2 April 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 006265506X
- ISBN-13: 978-0062655066
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 4.4 x 22.9 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 930 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 56,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ FREE Delivery
+ FREE Delivery
+ $3.00 delivery
American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race Hardcover – 2 Apr 2019
Amazon Global Store
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
"American Moonshot is a thoroughly terrific work which should reach the widest possible audience. As a study in leadership, it is absolutely first rate. As history, it is inspiring and enthralling. And to cap it all, it is a completely riveting story about the Space Age. I love this book."--Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front During World War II
"Compelling and comprehensive....With a mixture of granular detail from a gigantic body of works on the subject and analyses of Kennedy's decision-making and political savvy, American Moonshot transcends mere narrative to help the rest of us understand how America geared up for the astonishing feat of landing a man on the moon. With the approach of the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's 'small step for man, ' Brinkley's focus on the all-important early days provides a valuable perspective."--Washington Post
"Brinkley's story is a gripping one.... Rice University scholar and an agile and prolific historian and biographer, Brinkley is well-situated to tell this story... Brinkley sees an important poignancy, and he renders it with real power."--Boston Globe
From the Back Cover
On the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing, acclaimed historian Douglas Brinkley takes a fresh look at the American space program, President John F. Kennedy's inspiring challenge, and the race to the moon.
"Prepare to recall what it was like to be inspired and thrilled by American greatness. Doug Brinkley recounts, with deep research and exciting narrative, the bold spirit and faith in innovation embodied in John F. Kennedy's decision to launch a mission to the moon. His vision restored a vitality to America, something we could use today."--Walter Isaacson
Just months after being elected president of the United States, John F. Kennedy made an astonishing announcement to the nation: we would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. In this engrossing epic of contemporary history, Douglas Brinkley returns to the 1960s to re-create one of humankind's most exciting and ambitious achievements. American Moonshot brings together the extraordinary political, cultural, and scientific factors that fueled the birth and development of NASA and the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo projects, which catapulted the United States to victory in the space race against the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.
Drawing on new primary source material and recent scholarship, Brinkley brings to life this fascinating history as no one has before. American Moonshot is a portrait of the brilliant men and women who made this giant leap possible, the technology that enabled them to propel men beyond Earth's orbit to the moon and return them safely, and the geopolitical tensions that ignited Kennedy's audacious dream. At the center of this story is Kennedy himself. As Brinkley shows, the president's call to action was more than just soaring oratory--Kennedy was intimately involved in the creation of the space program, and he made it a top priority of his New Frontier agenda, fighting the tough political battles to make his vision a reality.
Featuring a cast of iconic and sometimes controversial figures, such as rocketeer Wernher von Braun, astronaut John Glenn, and space booster Lyndon Johnson, American Moonshot is a vivid, enthralling chronicle of one of the nation's most thrilling, hopeful, and turbulent eras. This is living history at its finest--but also an homage to scientific ingenuity, engineering genius, human curiosity, and the boundless American spirit.
No customer reviews
|5 star (0%)|
|4 star (0%)|
|3 star (0%)|
|2 star (0%)|
|1 star (0%)|
Review this product
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Page 147: “Television cameras carried images [of the Vanguard TV-3 launch] nationwide on CBS and NBC, beginning a tradition of live coverage for rocket launches that would last into the 1970s…” and “…with millions watching as the Vanguard TV-3 took off…” There was no TV coverage of this launch; the first live TV coverage of a launch was October 11, 1958.
Page 157: “Measuring just 6.4 inches in diameter, Explorer wasn’t very sophisticated or large—Nikita Khrushchev famously derided it as the ‘grapefruit satellite’...” Khrushchev, however, was referring to Vanguard 1, launched March 17, 1958. Explorer was 6.4 inches in diameter, but also more than six feet long.
Page 182: “…as Administrator Keith Glennan addressed a packed press briefing, a curtain was pulled open, revealing the seven astronauts…” There was no curtain.
Page 202: “…Echo 1 functioned as a kind of orbital mirror, bouncing radio-television beams off the Earth’s surface…” First, radio waves were bounced off of Echo, not the Earth’s surface. Second, it only was tested using radio signals and voice, but no television or video.
Page 204: Caption: First, this photo is not from the October 21st Kennedy-Nixon debate, but rather from the September 25th debate; second, three of the four debates were in October, not all four as the caption states.
Page 211: “Five generations of rockets—starting with the early Vanguard, and then onward with ICBMs like Atlas, were born in the Eisenhower years...” Redstone (1950), Atlas (1953), Jupiter (1954) and Thor (Jan. 1957) all preceded Vanguard (Oct. 1957).
Page 211: “There were all sorts of weather satellites...” The only type of weather satellite at the time was the TIROS series; three (which only had different cameras) had been launched.
Page 240: “Seeing that capsule [Freedom 7] land in the Atlantic was one of the greatest thrills of Kennedy’s life.” This would not have been possible, as there was no live TV coverage of Shepard's recovery.
Page 241: “Kennedy played host to Shepard for the rest of that day…” They were only together until 11 am.
Page 242: A Shepard quote about Kennedy is said to refer their conversation at the White House, but actually refers to his post-flight phone call from the president.
Page 246: A photo from Kennedy’s first State of the Union speech in January is wrongly identified as from his May 25 speech to Congress.
Page 264: A photo from Kennedy’s October 1962 visit to Cape Canaveral is wrongly identified as being in Huntsville.
Photo page 11: Full-page color photo identified as Gordon Cooper aboard Faith 7. The photo is actually of a mannequin in a Gemini spacecraft.
Page 283: “Back in 1957, when JFK was deriding failed Vanguard launches…” On page 145, however, it states that “Kennedy didn’t comment on” the only Vanguard launch attempt that year (December).
Page 285: “[FDR’s fireside chats] between 1933 and 1945…” They ended in June 1944.
Page 296: “...a specially enlarged airplane, known as the ‘Super Guppy,’ to carry the third stage...”. This first aircraft was the Pregnant Guppy; the Super Guppy did not enter service until 1965.
Page 300: “Other scientific evidence collected by NASA during the Kennedy years proved that Mars [was a dead planet].” The first US Mars probe was launched in 1964 and returned data in 1965.
Page 326: “Later that day, at a White House Rose Garden ceremony...” (followed by a Kennedy quote) and “the president said with Glenn by his side.” First, there was no Rose Garden ceremony that day (it was rainy); and second, the quote is from Kennedy’s comments to the media on February 20th.
Page 336: “…the three-stage Saturn V rocket would stand 363 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.” It was 58 feet taller; the Saturn itself was 363 feet tall.
Page 380: “Schirra reported back to Mercury Control everything he did or encountered, his voice relayed via the Telstar satellite to TV and radio audiences around the world.” Telstar only relayed a videotape playback of the launch to Britain and France, not coverage of the mission; nor around the world.
Page 402: “In early May, the president made a return visit to Huntsville for an earthshaking static firing of a Saturn booster stage.” The firing took place during his September 11, 1962 visit.
Page 405: “Pointing to his Oval Office rocking chair...” and “…their informal Oval Office chat...” This meeting was in the Yellow Oval Room on the second floor of the White House.
Page 412: Caption states November 18; this is actually November 16. Caption also refers to "USS Observational Island"; correct name is Observation Island.
Page 437: “As for the law firm orchestrating the construction of the Manned Spacecraft Center, it was, no surprise —Brown and Root...” Brown and Root was an industrial services contractor, not a law firm.
Page 441: “While Glenn lost in 1964, he eventually ended up serving in the Senate...” Glenn withdrew from his Senate race in 1964; he lost his primary in 1970.
Page 443: “...Gemini VIII in 1965...” Gemini VIII was in 1966.
Page 447: Caption refers to Apollo 11’s “mobile launch platform” instead of correct name, “mobile launcher.” The date (“May 17”) is incorrect; rollout was May 20.
Page 452: “Grissom was buried…not far from [Kennedy’s] eternal flame…” Grissom’s gravesite is more than half-a-mile to the south.
Page 452: “Only in late 1967, when the Soviets’ N1 rocket blew up on the pad, killing Russian engineers and designers, did the Kremlin stop competing.” First, the N1 pad explosion was in 1969; second, no fatalities were reported; and third, the N1 program continued into early 1974.
Page 458: References LM’s “descent engines” (plural). The LM had a single descent engine.
The author himself wrote that his book is Presidential history, not space program history. And he was certainly right about that, for the book contains too many technical errors for anyone to be comfortable with the final product. Another reviewer has chronicled many more of these errors than I will here.
But I will identify a few of them that were most disturbing to me:
-In the opening paragraph of the book, Alan Shepard's rank at the time he joined the astronaut corps was misidentified as a Navy Lieutenant (whereas he was actually a Lieutenant Commander);
-On at least two occasions Brinkley confuses von Braun's Jupiter-C rocket (a variant of the Redstone) with von Braun's Jupiter IRBM missile. Only the names were similar---not the rockets. Someone who claims he researched the subject for years should have known better.
-The author mistakenly states that Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev equated America's first satellite, Explorer One, with a grapefruit, calling it a "grapefruitnik." This was particularly jarring, since Explorer One was a long, thin, pencil-shaped satellite, whereas it was Vanguard's tiny TV-3 satellite (round, not long and thin) that was dubbed a "grapefruitnik" after that launch failed in December 1957. Khruschev's nickname related directly to the shape and size of the TV-3 satellite. Why didn't any of the reviewers of the draft point this out?
-Brinkley at one point states that the first stage of the Saturn V moon rocket "burned liquid oxygen." Huh? In this kind of description, one ALWAYS mentions both the fuel (kerosene, called RP-1 in this case) and the oxidizer (liquid oxygen in this case). So the author should have written: "The Saturn V first stage burned kerosene and liquid oxygen." No one should ever describe a rocket as "burning" only its oxidizer; it was a jarring indication that not only was the author not familiar enough with the very basics of the technical material, but that there was no one competent enough editing the book to catch errors and misdescriptions like this one, or the mistakes conflating the skinny Jupiter-C satellite launcher and the fat, more powerful, Jupiter IRBM.
-Brinkley carelessly wrote that the Saturn V moon rocket was "363 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty;" to allow folly such as this to be published means that neither the book's copy editor, subject matter editor, nor any of those who reviewed the manuscript draft was doing their job. [The Saturn V was 363 feet tall---not 363 feet TALLER THAN the Statue of Liberty.]
-Near the book's end, Brinkley's error in discussing the failed Soviet N-1 moon rocket was the most jarring of all. He stated that it blew up at launch in 1967, killing many people on the pad. This was an egregious error that seriously impacted the book's credibility to anyone familiar with the race to the moon. The first two N-1 launch failures were in 1969, NOT 1967---and there was no known loss of life. There WAS major loss of life in a 1960 launchpad disaster of a military booster; it is beyond me how a professional historian (who claimed he widely circulated drafts of his manuscript) could conflate the two events, but he surely did.
I will now leave behind the disconcerting technical errors, and address Brinkley's cop-out in labeling Wernher von Braun as a "war criminal" at the end of his book. After writing about von Braun with praise and wonder throughout the volume, and describing in detail the close affinity and personal linking between President Kennedy and von Braun, I feel Brinkley's moral judgment that von Braun was guilty of war crimes at the book's end was truly jarring, and inconsistent with all of the other descriptions of the German-born rocket engineer in the book. Brinkley accurately quotes Smithsonian scholar and curator Michael Neufeld (the author of the best von Braun biography) in stating that von Braun was an opportunist who made a "Faustian deal" with the German Army in the early 1930s, for rocket research funding, that he was later unable to escape from, and lived to regret. Neufeld treats the delicate subject as the gray area it truly is, but never went so far as to label von Braun a "war criminal." Neufeld, for example, makes clear that it was the S.S. that was in charge of the production of the V-2 using slave labor, not von Braun at the Peenemunde research facility that did the R&D work on the world's first guided ballistic missile. Yet, Douglas Brinkley states more than once that the construction of the V-2 production models by slave labor occurred "under von Braun," which is nonsense. In a totalitarian state, once you spend several years working on a strategic weapons program, you can't just quit and walk away (unless you are willing to give up your life). While von Braun became aware of the horrible working conditions at the Mittelwerk in Nordhausen where slave labor built the tunnels and the rockets (at terrible cost---20,000 lives), he was not responsible for it. Yes, the V-2 killed many people in England, Holland, and Belgium. But Wernher von Braun was no more a war criminal than USAAF general Curtis LeMay, who fire-bombed Japan back into the stone age in 1945, and was also responsible operationally for dropping the first two atomic bombs. Both men were linked to the use of sophisticated weapons systems to kill civilians, in the context of total war, in service to their homelands. Curtis LeMay himself said that if America had lost the war, he would have been branded a "war criminal." If Brinkley had employed this argument---"victor's history"---and taken this critical tone throughout the book, his judgment of von Braun near the end might have made more sense; but up until the end of the book, virtually all of his descriptions of von Braun made the man seem very likeable and worthy of respect (which he was). When Brinkley said at the book's end that von Braun should NOT be considered an American hero, I most profoundly disagree. Von Braun was responsible for America's first satellite launch, and almost single-handedly "sold" the concept of space travel, and a manned space program, to the American people in the 1950s (through the many Collier's magazine articles and the three Walt Disney "Tomorrowland" shows), paving the way for public support of project Apollo throughout the 1960s. His April 1961 memo to LBJ proposing---actually guaranteeing---an excellent chance of beating the Russians to the moon, was instrumental in selling the idea of a manned lunar landing to JFK at a time of national crisis. And von Braun delivered.
So was Brinkley's moral approbation toward von Braun at the end of his book a sell-out to the liberal establishment? Probably. Either that, or he is just profoundly ignorant of his own subject matter, and actually believed (when he finished his manuscript) that von Braun was in charge of the slave labor that produced the V-2 rocket. I'm sure that by now he knows better. [S.S. Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler took over responsibility for V-2 production after R&D was completed at Peenemunde, and assigned that task to S.S. General Hans Kammler, who was also directly responsible for firing the V-2 production models at British, Dutch, and Belgian targets.]
In summary, one can read and value this book as Presidential history, but it is hard to thoroughly enjoy it because of all the technical errors. The von Braun judgment is a matter of personal opinion which can be endlessly debated, but Brinkley's moral assessment (in the Acknowledgment section) that von Braun was guilty of war crimes was never supported by a factual argument---only by an argument that was NOT factual.
Look for similar items by category
- Books > Biographies & Memoirs > Historical > United States
- Books > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Presidents & Heads of State > U.S. Presidents
- Books > Engineering & Transportation > Engineering > Aerospace > Astronautics & Space Flight
- Books > Engineering & Transportation > Engineering > Reference > History
- Books > History > Americas > United States > 20th Century
- Books > History > Modern (16th-21st Centuries) > 20th Century
- Books > History > World > Expeditions & Discoveries
- Books > Humour & Entertainment
- Books > Science, Nature & Maths > Astronomy & Space Science > Aeronautics & Astronautics
- Books > Textbooks & Study Guides