Hot Best Seller

American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race

Availability: Ready to download

Instant New York Times Bestseller As the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing approaches, the award winning historian and perennial New York Times bestselling author takes a fresh look at the space program, President John F. Kennedy’s inspiring challenge, and America’s race to the moon. “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not becau Instant New York Times Bestseller As the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing approaches, the award winning historian and perennial New York Times bestselling author takes a fresh look at the space program, President John F. Kennedy’s inspiring challenge, and America’s race to the moon. “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”—President John F. Kennedy On May 25, 1961, JFK made an astonishing announcement: his goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. In this engrossing, fast-paced epic, Douglas Brinkley returns to the 1960s to recreate one of the most exciting and ambitious achievements in the history of humankind. 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 shot 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 major interviews with many of the surviving figures who were key to America’s success, Brinkley brings this fascinating history to life as never before. American Moonshot is a portrait of the brilliant men and women who made this giant leap possible, the technology that enabled us to propel men beyond earth’s orbit to the moon and return them safely, and the geopolitical tensions that spurred Kennedy to commit himself fully to this audacious dream. Brinkley’s ensemble cast of New Frontier characters include rocketeer Wernher von Braun, astronaut John Glenn and space booster Lyndon Johnson. A vivid and enthralling chronicle of one of the most thrilling, hopeful, and turbulent eras in the nation’s history, American Moonshot is an homage to scientific ingenuity, human curiosity, and the boundless American spirit.


Compare

Instant New York Times Bestseller As the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing approaches, the award winning historian and perennial New York Times bestselling author takes a fresh look at the space program, President John F. Kennedy’s inspiring challenge, and America’s race to the moon. “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not becau Instant New York Times Bestseller As the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing approaches, the award winning historian and perennial New York Times bestselling author takes a fresh look at the space program, President John F. Kennedy’s inspiring challenge, and America’s race to the moon. “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”—President John F. Kennedy On May 25, 1961, JFK made an astonishing announcement: his goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. In this engrossing, fast-paced epic, Douglas Brinkley returns to the 1960s to recreate one of the most exciting and ambitious achievements in the history of humankind. 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 shot 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 major interviews with many of the surviving figures who were key to America’s success, Brinkley brings this fascinating history to life as never before. American Moonshot is a portrait of the brilliant men and women who made this giant leap possible, the technology that enabled us to propel men beyond earth’s orbit to the moon and return them safely, and the geopolitical tensions that spurred Kennedy to commit himself fully to this audacious dream. Brinkley’s ensemble cast of New Frontier characters include rocketeer Wernher von Braun, astronaut John Glenn and space booster Lyndon Johnson. A vivid and enthralling chronicle of one of the most thrilling, hopeful, and turbulent eras in the nation’s history, American Moonshot is an homage to scientific ingenuity, human curiosity, and the boundless American spirit.

30 review for American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race

  1. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    “We choose to go to the moon--we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because the challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” – JFK at Rice University- September 12, 1962. “The Eagle has landed.” – Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969 JFK delivering his “we choose “We choose to go to the moon--we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because the challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” – JFK at Rice University- September 12, 1962. “The Eagle has landed.” – Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969 JFK delivering his “we choose to go to the moon” speech at Rice University – image from History Hub. Public Affairs Officer – Three minutes, 45 seconds and counting. In the final abort checks between several key members of the crew here in the control center and the astronauts, Launch Operations Manager Paul Donnelly wished the crew, on the launch teams' behalf, "Good luck and Godspeed." There have been many events in American history that can bring one to tears, decades later. There is no shortage of dark moments in our violent past, domestic and international. I was alive in 1963 when JFK was murdered, and when RFK and MLK were killed by sinister forces. Recalling those moments can bring tears of grief, a sense of a blow to us all, as well as a feeling of personal loss. 9/11 was a Pearl Harbor trauma for the 21st century. I choke up even thinking about it. But there have also been moments when threatened waterworks were of a very different sort. Moments of joy and pride, being at Woodstock, the 1969 and 1986 Mets, (OK, so maybe those two were not national events in the same way, fine) the election of Barack Obama and that day in July 1969 when a promise was kept, an ages-long dream was no longer deferred, and in the name of our global humanity, a human being first set foot on the moon. For me, in my lifetime, there has never been a prouder moment to be an American. Saturn C-1 - a predecessor to the Saturn V that would boost the Apollo missions - Image from This Day in Aviation Public Affairs Officer – Two minutes, 30 seconds and counting; we're still Go on Apollo 11 at this time. Douglas Brinkley has been charting the history of the United States since the 1990s. The guy has some range. He was a mentee of Stephen Ambrose, which should be recommendation enough. In addition, he was literary executor for Hunter S. Thompson, and was the authorized biographer for Jack Kerouac. He has been active in and has written about the environmental movement, and has been attacked by occasional Republicans, which usually means he is doing something right. Brinkley is CNN’s goto expert on things presidential, having written books about many of them. His focus here is on the brief, but impactful presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and how he led the nation to the signal achievement of transporting a man to the moon and bringing him safely home. Douglas Brinkley - image from politicaldig.com Public Affairs Officer – We just passed the 2-minute mark in the countdown. Brinkley follows JFKs early life, from so-so student, enduring considerable medical miseries and enjoying a very active social life, both in two prep schools and then in two different colleges to someone with a keen interest in and talent for public policy. Of particular interest is the impact of seeing the face of fascism in 1932 when he toured Germany in a bit of a reconnoiter for his politically connected father, who would be appointed the US ambassador to the United Kingdom a few years later. Wernher von Braun - image from Space.com Public Affairs Officer – T minus 1 minute, 54 seconds and counting. Our status board indicates that the oxidizer tanks in the second and third stages now have pressurized. We continue to build up pressure in all three stages here at the last minute to prepare it for lift-off For much of the book, Brinkley parallels JFK’s rise with the career of Wernher von Braun, the German rocket expert who had overseen the development of the V-1 and V-2 rockets that Hitler used in attacking England. Von Braun is a fascinating character, however much his Hitlerian expedience marked him as a war criminal. Thousands of slave laborers perished in the Peenemünde rocket development site that he ran. He had dreamed of making space flight a reality ever since he was a child, and was willing to do whatever it took to move this goal forward. Post World War II, with the USA and the Soviet Union gearing up for the possible next great war, von Braun’s expertise was in high demand. He found his way to American forces in Germany, bringing with him a considerable supply of materials and research. Under a program called Operation Paperclip von Braun, and many other technically expert Germans, were brought to the United States to aid in the impending showdown with the Soviet Union. You will appreciate Tom Lehrer’s parodic ditty about him. Apollo 11 en route to Launch Pad 39A - image from NASA Public Affairs Officer – One minute, 25 seconds and counting. Our status board indicates the third stage completely pressurized. Von Braun was, and remained a key player in the USA’s space program, being the force behind the development of the huge Saturn-V launch vehicle that sent most of the Apollo missions on their way. He remained a subject of considerable controversy, which he parried by becoming as American an immigrant as he possibly could. He had a gift for public relations, which led to a TV show promoting space travel, and a consultancy with Walt Disney to help design Tomorrowland at Disney’s new theme park. His articles appeared in many national magazines, which helped keep the space program in the national consciousness, a beautiful thing for those who supported American space efforts. It also made him a powerful friend in the new president. The two men were more than just convenient allies. Apollo 11 at Launch Pad 39A - image from NASA Public Affairs Officer – We're approaching the 60-second mark on the Apollo 11 mission. We get a good overview of JFKs career, his heroism in the Pacific, and the subsequent fame he received for his PT-109 adventure, after a book written about the episode became a national best-seller, with help from his father. On domestic policy he was certainly of a liberal bent, but his foreign policy placed him much more in a conservative posture. He had seen what authoritarianism looked like and was eager to challenge it wherever possible, seeing the Soviet Union as the major authoritarian threat in the world. The crew heads to Launch Pad 39A - image from NASA Public Affairs Officer – 55 seconds and counting. Neil Armstrong just reported back: "It's been a real smooth countdown". Brinkley catches us up on the progress, or lack of same, in the USA’s space program in the 1950s, as it was fraught with military branch in-fighting and was short on successes. But the launch of Sputnik was the wakeup call it took to refocus American interest in space. There remained naysayers, and many who believed that resources targeted to space exploration and development would have been better spent on more earthbound pursuits. But there was a growing sense that the country needed to make some serious headway in the exploration of space, lest the country be left in the dust by the Soviet advances, with repercussions that were not only military, but political and economic as well. Spacecraft communicators in mission control - image from NASA Public Affairs Officer – We've passed the 50-second mark. Power transfer is complete - we're on internal power with the launch vehicle at this time. What Brinkley captures here is Kennedy’s view of the whole enterprise as a main act in the Cold War, the peaceable competition of the Western states, led by the USA, with the Eastern bloc, led by the Soviet Union. The East and West were not only doing kinetic battle in proxy wars like Vietnam, but struggling to win hearts and minds across the planet. Kennedy saw that US success in the space race would elevate the status of the West, leading many to tilt West instead of East when looking for alliances. He also emphasizes that Kennedy saw the space effort as a form of Keynesian economy-boosting similar to the infrastructure development of the FDR era. Kennedy was also quite aware of the likelihood that the research undertaken in this project would leapfrog the USA ahead in technological development, with impact in fields across the economy. Brinkley offers an impressive list of some of the developments that were created or boosted by the space program. Apollo 11 at ignition - image from NASA Public Affairs Officer – 40 seconds away from the Apollo 11 lift-off. All the second stage tanks now pressurized. 35 seconds and counting. Just as Trump is a clear master of the new tech of Twitter, JFK was an early master of the PR potential of television, holding press conferences every sixteen days to make sure the messages his administration wanted in the public eye remained there. The focus on locating much of the NASA program in southern states was his version of a Southern Strategy, looking to build support for himself and Democrats by channeling federal investment where it was likely to do the most political good. But also, the nation was emerging from a recession, and a big public works project, like Eisenhauer’s national highway program, would pump enough money into the sluggish economy to get it moving again. It succeeded wildly in that. Launches - image from NASA Public Affairs Officer – We are still Go with Apollo 11. 30 seconds and counting. Astronauts report, "It feels good". T minus 25 seconds. One thing that the book makes eminently clear was that Vice President Johnson was not only all in on supporting the Apollo program, he in fact was much more knowledgeable about the realities of space exploration challenges than JFK ever was. In addition, while Kennedy, privately, was more concerned with the potential military advantages of the space program, Johnson was more firmly in the peaceful-uses camp. Liftoff - image from NASA Public Affairs Officer – LIFT-OFF! We have a lift-off, 32 minutes past the hour. Lift-off on Apollo 11. One of the great joys of reading a well-researched work of history is the opportunity to pick up some nuggets of odd intel here and there. For example, where the term “moonshot” originated, JFKs fondness for Joe McCarthy, the existence of a program that you probably never heard of that preceded and spurred US manned space flight, who was really the first man to orbit the earth, and a new update on the first words from the Moon. Apollo 11 clears the tower - image from NASA Public Affairs Officer – Tower cleared The 1960s was certainly a very exciting time in the USA. There was a lot going on, not all of it wonderful, but there was a drive to move beyond, to move forward, to fulfill not only the dream of our fallen leader but a dream that had been shared by humanity for as long as people had looked up and wondered about that thing in the sky. Douglas Brinkley has given us an insightful and informative look into the nuts and bolts of how Apollo 11 came to be, into some of the geopolitical forces of the Cold War, into the domestic political battles that were being engaged, into the economic considerations that fed JFKs need to push forward, and into the personalities that proclaimed the mission as achievable and then used all their powers to drive the mission forward to a glorious fulfillment. He shows the impact of the program on our relationship with the Soviet Union, and the impact the program had on our economy. In doing this, he has captured the feel of the time, the excitement about, as well as fear for, the manned space missions, and ultimately the joy in seeing the dream realized. He has given us a sense of who the people involved really were, and what drove them. It is a very readable history, and for someone who has been a lifelong fan of space exploration, it is no exaggeration to say that American Moonshot is out of this world. Apollo 11 at about 4,000 feet - image from NASA Review posted – April 26, 2019 Publication date – April 2, 2019 Lunar Module at Tranquility Bay – image from NASA =============================EXTRA STUFF Brinkley’s personal site He has a twitter page, but it has not been updated since 2013. I found no personal Facebook page for him. Brinkley non-book writings and/or appearances (partial) -----CNN -----Vanity Fair -----NY Times -----RollingStone -----Foreign Policy Interviews -----The Reading Life with Douglas Brinkley with Susan Larson – audio – 28:56 Really, this one should do Items of Interest -----Operation Paperclip -----Peenemünde -----V-1 flying bomb -----V-2 Rocket -----A 1955 video in which von Braun describes his plan for not only a manned moon mission, but a permanent space station -----The NASA log of the Apollo 11 flight from which I extracted the “Public Affairs Officer” announcements included in the review -----JFK’s We choose to go to the moon speech at Rice University – Video – 18:15 -----A transcript of that speech -----C-SPAN – a nice documentary on the 25th anniversary of Apollo 11 mission -----Smithsonian Magazine - June 2019 - What You Didn’t Know About the Apollo 11 Mission - by Charles Fishman - excellent, informative article. Worth a look. -----New York Times - June 14, 2019 - Fifty Years Ago We Landed on the Moon. Why Should We Care Now? By Jill Lepore - interesting look at the extant rash of Apollo 11 anniversary books and sociopolitical implications Music -----Space Oddity -----Telestar - by The Tornadoes

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeff J.

    Not exactly what I expected. It’s marketed as a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and while it does cover the space program up to the moon landing, the real focus is on President Kennedy’s career and his contributions to the space program. It may not be false advertising but be wary.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Peter Mcloughlin

    covers the history of the space program from earliest imaginings of Jules Verne in 1863 through the rocketry of Robert Goddard in the 1920s, Werner Von Braun and the Nazi V-2 during the second world war, and a big focus on the cold war especially the JFK and his role in the moonshot and covers the story up to the 1969 moon landing. Good political history which is its focus rather than the science of the moonshot. Good to know how cold warriors got Apollo off the ground.

  4. 4 out of 5

    KC

    On July 20 1969, the country and the world watched as Astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon's surface. Nearing the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, David Brinkley's latest novel reminds us of President John F. Kennedy's tireless and dedicated work towards space exploration and travel. This novel encourages us to forever look upward; to gaze deeper and further and especially into the great beyond.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    The fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing inspires the acclaimed historian to take a fresh look at the American space program, at President John Kennedy’s inspiring challenge, and at the race to the moon. Drawing on new primary source material, Douglas Brinkley brings this fascinating history to life as he turns the spotlight on the men and women who made this giant leap possible while exploring the technology and the political tensions of the time. Readers will find much to appreciate The fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing inspires the acclaimed historian to take a fresh look at the American space program, at President John Kennedy’s inspiring challenge, and at the race to the moon. Drawing on new primary source material, Douglas Brinkley brings this fascinating history to life as he turns the spotlight on the men and women who made this giant leap possible while exploring the technology and the political tensions of the time. Readers will find much to appreciate in this living history that chronicles one of our nation’s most thrilling events as it pays homage to the scientists and engineers whose magnificent efforts embody the curiosity and spirit of America. Highly recommended.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steve Majerus-Collins

    Douglas Brinkley's new book on the space race is a decent read but nowhere near as wonderful as I both hoped and expected. I'm no expert on any of this, but I learned precious little and came away strangely unfulfilled, as if Brinkley had promised to show me something about my country and its history that would enlighten or astound me. That just didn't happen. I've read some pretty good books on the race to the moon, from Tom Wolfe's sterling The Right Stuff to Norman Mailer's Of a Fire on the Mo Douglas Brinkley's new book on the space race is a decent read but nowhere near as wonderful as I both hoped and expected. I'm no expert on any of this, but I learned precious little and came away strangely unfulfilled, as if Brinkley had promised to show me something about my country and its history that would enlighten or astound me. That just didn't happen. I've read some pretty good books on the race to the moon, from Tom Wolfe's sterling The Right Stuff to Norman Mailer's Of a Fire on the Moon, both providing glimpses of what it all meant. Brinkley settles for a fairly thin account of how it happened but the why isn't really there, just some obvious Cold War competition. It's deeper than that, though, because there is no way to tell story of man walking on the moon without delving further. We did this astonishing thing. Seventeen Americans walked on the lunar surface, all of them now dead or aged. It's been almost half a century since the last mission. Where are our rocket cars, our spaceships to Mars, our chance to vacation in orbit? I'm a space age kid. I want more now. Anyway, this isn't a bad book for someone looking to get their bearings and to understand something of what happened. Eventually, though, someone's going to write something immortal about that time, that place and those people because, let's face it, none of it will ever be erased from human memory.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robert Foley

    Since I was a kid I've had an odd passion for JFK and Space. When a book came out which combined the two and went over the history it was fantastic. I've read a lot about the two different subjects and found this book gave a lot more context on mix between the two. Overall, very very good book if this is a subject which you enjoy. Favorite part was JFK starting to fall in love with the idea of the space race and moon shot. He had a clear vision of what it would mean for not only USA and it's own Since I was a kid I've had an odd passion for JFK and Space. When a book came out which combined the two and went over the history it was fantastic. I've read a lot about the two different subjects and found this book gave a lot more context on mix between the two. Overall, very very good book if this is a subject which you enjoy. Favorite part was JFK starting to fall in love with the idea of the space race and moon shot. He had a clear vision of what it would mean for not only USA and it's own economics but human kind in general.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    For what it is, this is a wonderful book. However, adjustment of expectation may be warranted. This book covers the early days of the space program in the context of U.S. and the world geo-political / Cold War landscape. It tracks technology advancements and political circumstances that led to the space race culminating on the moon landings. There are many books that focus solely on the astronauts, controllers and engineers and never venture out from the labs, sims, and space craft of the U.S. / For what it is, this is a wonderful book. However, adjustment of expectation may be warranted. This book covers the early days of the space program in the context of U.S. and the world geo-political / Cold War landscape. It tracks technology advancements and political circumstances that led to the space race culminating on the moon landings. There are many books that focus solely on the astronauts, controllers and engineers and never venture out from the labs, sims, and space craft of the U.S. / NASA space program. I initially thought I would not enjoy this book because of it scope, and suspect that may be causing some of the lower reviews, but I learned so much and was impressed by the author's research, clarity and narrative delivery depicting the Geo-political world of the 50s and 60s and providing such insight into the Eisenhower and Kennedy presidencies framed against the back drop off space exploration. Highly recommended.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    I listened to this on hoopla thanks to my local library. Excellent research and thoughtful writing. For a science book it sure had a wonderful human touch. The narration was also well done. I loved how the author wrapped things up in the epilogue.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Excellent overview of NASA's early years and Kennedy's involvement.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christian Neff

    A highly enjoyable read, telling the story and Kennedy and NASA within the broader context of the time period. Digressions from the main topic are interestingly explored without going too far away from the story. Also, Brinkley is able to reflect with modern sensitivities on topics like discrimination, Operation Paperclip, etc.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sandi

    Great read I was,so always excited by this American space program wish it was still going

  13. 4 out of 5

    Maria Rose

    As the author of this book, I vividly remember all those space programs, that we were able to watch on our TV's and heard live Neil Armstrong's proclamation--"That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind". This book gives us a review of what steps it took to achieve the lunar landing, from the development of the rocket that engineered the launch, the technology that was developed that we use today. We can thank President Kennedy for pushing Congress to fund the Space program. Th As the author of this book, I vividly remember all those space programs, that we were able to watch on our TV's and heard live Neil Armstrong's proclamation--"That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind". This book gives us a review of what steps it took to achieve the lunar landing, from the development of the rocket that engineered the launch, the technology that was developed that we use today. We can thank President Kennedy for pushing Congress to fund the Space program. This year on July 20, 2019, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. I got a signed first edition of this book as a reminder of this event. I also want to know where's our space program going now.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Scott Kardel

    American Moonshot is unlike all of the other books I have read about the space race in that it is largely centered on JFK and the politics behind our race to the Moon. Douglas Brinkley does an excellent job of telling the story and digging into the roots of the space race with events that transpired before, during and after World War II and how the Cold War gave birth to the American space program.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing only a few days away, Douglas Brinkley’s latest book surrounding the early years of space exploration, seemed the perfect fit. Told as a loose biography of the race to get into space, Brinkley explores the two main camps vying for control of the territory outside of Earth’s atmosphere—USA and USSR—as well as bringing in the promise President John F. Kennedy made about sending a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s. Brinkley begins his na With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing only a few days away, Douglas Brinkley’s latest book surrounding the early years of space exploration, seemed the perfect fit. Told as a loose biography of the race to get into space, Brinkley explores the two main camps vying for control of the territory outside of Earth’s atmosphere—USA and USSR—as well as bringing in the promise President John F. Kennedy made about sending a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s. Brinkley begins his narrative by examining the mystery of space, at least as seen through the eyes of those positing about missions into the atmosphere. Writers have long created stories about inter-planetary adventures and trips to the Moon, even before they was a means to get off the ground. As Brinkley discusses, this science fiction soon turned into a spark that began a race to use the skies as a means of transportation at high rates of speed. The Nazis capitalised on this, though both superpowers poached their rocket scientists at the end of the War to begin creating their own rocket weapons and early prototypes of space vehicles. The Soviets pushed full speed ahead, while America lagged behind with President Dwight Eisenhower less than keen on the space race. Enter John Kennedy, a young congressman from Massachusetts, who sought to harness this race as being of utmost importance to the American psyche and as a key element of the Cold War. Brinkley uses the middle portion of his book to really explore the Space Race and how the Soviets sent so much time focussing their attention on outmanoeuvring the Americans. It was truly a Cold War battle, but one in which the Americans were not—surprisingly—invested. One can speculate that America had domestic issues that needed solving, while the Soviet state suspended everything to ensure a cosmonaut made world headlines. There is an interesting undertone throughout this portion of the book, one that argues that Eisenhower was less than interest in seeing man enter space or land on the Moon. It was the Kennedy push, with Lyndon Johnson working his magic on the Senate floor, who pushed for the American Space Program. Brinkley thoroughly explores the early talk of rockets and the Space Program, strongly supported by Kennedy and Johnson, while Eisenhower continued to fumble and remained in constant catch-up mode. Seeing the price tag as being unrealistic or unfeasible, Eisenhower acted only to ensure the egg left on America’s collective face did not solidify. Kennedy’s eventual win in the 1960 Presidential election paved the way for a new era in space, one in which Kennedy vowed to push America ahead and land a man on the Moon by the end of the decade. Brinkley proves repeatedly how the contrasting US Administrations tackled space in different ways. Under Kennedy, space was finally of the utmost concern, even if it was still a lukewarm idea to many who saw the expense as being too high. Kennedy pushed forward with missions orbiting above the Earth and locked in a location for many of the future launches into space. Kennedy was convinced that the Americans could land a man on the Moon and do so before the Soviets, though it would take innovation and excellence, something the president felt the country had in large quantities. During his brief time in office, Kennedy watched as the US Space Program came to life and the world could see its progress on television. More familiar names, such as Glenn, Shephard, and Armstrong, pepper the narrative and show how incremental successes helped Kennedy disprove his detractors. Armed with ongoing Cold War issues, Kennedy worked to keep the Space Race going, even as Khrushchev sought to tighten his grip in Europe with the Berlin Wall and pushed the Soviet Space Program to take risks to keep pace. During his short time in office, JFK showed the world just how dedicated he was to his pledge, which miraculously continued on after an assassin’s bullet ended the life of the 35th President of the United States. Kennedy’s footprint remains permanently etched on the American Space Program, with his insights leading to the eventual Apollo 11 Moon Landing, whose anniversary reminds the world of the important innovation made when humans eventually made their way onto the Moon’s surface. While I am no expert on things related to space, my interest in history fuelled my desire to give this piece a try. Brinkley does a masterful job of creating an intriguing narrative about the Space Race and how it became one plank of the ongoing battle throughout the Cold War. More than that, Brinkley effectively argues that an obsession with getting into space far surpassed when he became feasible, citing numerous books and articles on the subject. His pinning the development of space exploration on the keenness of JFK’s life-long curiosity proved a secondary biography of sorts that will appeal to those who have an interest in all things Kennedy. Brinkley has been able to create a seamless narrative discussing the enormous world of space progress and its science into something that can be easily comprehended by the layperson. Using a number of key characters in both American and Soviet space camps, the story takes on a new light as the race to land on the Moon heated up throughout the 1960s. With political vilification of the US-USSR politicians, as well as in-fighting within America, Brinkley shows just how controversial and divisive this venture would be, as well as the astronomical amounts spent to see Neil Armstrong make that prolific walk outside of Apollo 11 in July 1969. With detailed chapters full of information and told in a well-paced narrative, Brinkley brings space development to life throughout and paves the way for the event 50 years ago that many who were alive can remember with great detail. It was surely one of the great feats humans have undertaken in their constant march towards technological mastery, though Brinkley asserts that the exploration should never stop, even if they race to do so is no longer as fervent. Kudos, Mr. Brinkley, for telling this wonderful tale and bringing history to life yet again. I have enjoyed both books of yours that I have read and will have to try more, when time permits. Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/ A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Richard de Villiers

    This is an incredibly well researched, elegantly written inspiring tale. Brinkley is a first rate writer and historian and he does not disappoint. In some respects this book begins as a dual biography of sorts. JFK, naturally, as one of the figures and Werner Von Braun is the other. As the work progresses JFK takes his place center stage and Von Braun recedes more into the background while still remaining a critical figure. Speaking of Von Braun it is important to note that while Brinkley gives This is an incredibly well researched, elegantly written inspiring tale. Brinkley is a first rate writer and historian and he does not disappoint. In some respects this book begins as a dual biography of sorts. JFK, naturally, as one of the figures and Werner Von Braun is the other. As the work progresses JFK takes his place center stage and Von Braun recedes more into the background while still remaining a critical figure. Speaking of Von Braun it is important to note that while Brinkley gives him his place in the quest to land a man on the moon that he makes it very clear that Von Braun was no hero. He was, in fact, probably a war criminal. While his contributions cannot be forgotten we also must weigh them against his role during WW2, his membership in the Nazi Party and his complicity in the use of slave labor from the concentration camps. Brinkley does attempt to provide a warts and all look at Kennedy but it's difficult to resist the Kennedy charm much less when we are speaking of the martyred President whose death probably guaranteed his promise to land on the moon by decade's end. Brinkley points out that the "missile gap" theme that he bludgeoned Nixon with all the way to the White House was not just a lie but a lie that Nixon could not expose publicly without compromising the source of the information. Even leading up to his campaign for President, JFK, comes off as more lucky than good. The PT 109 story that he rode to great glory was really an episode of incompetence redeemed by his courage and incredibly bravery. JFK was also not the most productive office holder during his time in the Senate. It was charm and lies that got him in the Oval Office. Brinkley glosses over Kennedy's mistakes such as the Bay of Pigs and the disastrous summit with Khrushchev. As is custom JFK comes for high praise for the Cuban Missile Crisis and Berlin in '61 but those "accomplishments" like much of Kennedy were much more style than substance. The Missile Crisis was a PR coup with the Soviets pulling out of Cuba with their tail between their legs but on the balance sheet it was a crushing victory. Khrushchev not only got a promise of a US missile pullout from Turkey but a promise that the US would not intervene in Cuba. Essentially this provided the communists a permanent outpost in the Western Hemisphere from which to torment the US and foment revolution in the hemisphere. What this book is really about is the Space Race and here Brinkley is solid. Kennedy gets his due although his motivation would change and vacillate he remained essentially steadfast once he had decided that the US had to go to the moon. The extraordinary cost however seems to leave Brinkley squeamish and he repeatedly cites all the ancillary breakthroughs that were made possible due to the Moonshot. It is noted that there were critics, from the left, right and middle to the costs associated with the Apollo program. Civil Rights leaders bemoaned the money that could have been spent to improve the quality of life of the underprivileged. The Right would gripe about either the cost or that we were allocating resources to NASA that could be better served in the military. Former President Eisenhower also bemoaned the cost.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    (4.5 Stars) (Audiobook) This work, timed to come out on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the greatest moment in American Space history, this work attempts to get to the origin of the US Space Program, particularly the genesis of the drive to get Americans to the moon, mostly due to the leadership and drive of President Kennedy. After an introduction about his ties into the space program and his meeting with Neil Armstrong, Brinkley then jumps into a history of rocketry and the space program (4.5 Stars) (Audiobook) This work, timed to come out on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the greatest moment in American Space history, this work attempts to get to the origin of the US Space Program, particularly the genesis of the drive to get Americans to the moon, mostly due to the leadership and drive of President Kennedy. After an introduction about his ties into the space program and his meeting with Neil Armstrong, Brinkley then jumps into a history of rocketry and the space program in American history, covering the actions of scientists such as Robert Goddard and Walter von Braun. For Braun, this work is a little ambivalent. Given that the US missile and rocket program might never had achieved the success it did without his efforts, his contribution can’t be ignored. Yet, there is a sense of a deal with the devil, given what von Braun did for his native Germany, and in particular, the Nazis. His space dreams and passion for rocketry also led him to develop the V1/V2 weapons, which directly led to the deaths of thousands of civilians, to say nothing of those slave laborers who suffered and perished in the factories and labs that produced these weapons. For the political aspect, Brinkley holds Kennedy as the main driver for this vision. While interest in the space program was as much about countering Soviet advancements for defensive purposes and national pride, the thought of going to the moon so stuck with Kennedy that he made it a national goal. His gift for oratory and his appeal to the American people helped make such a fanciful notion a possibility. Yet, Brinkley is quick to credit Lyndon Johnson, whose political skills in Congress and Washington did much to make it possible to go to moon. Also, the enthusiasm and power of Walter Cronkite did much to promote the space program and drive the cause to get to the moon. Yet, there is the question which Brinkley does address a little, but the idea that would we still have gotten to the moon in 1969 if Kennedy hadn’t been assassinated in 1963...that would be worth exploring a bit more. Overall, a great read, and a timely one. It will not cover all the preparations to the actual landing, and this work all but stops its focus after Kennedy’s death, but this is a key chapter to understanding how the effort to get to the moon evolved in the key foundational years of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Either the hardback or audiobook would be a great read. Worth the time, especially if you can fit it in before July 20, 2019. Even if you can’t, still great to read at any time.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tim Larison

    I am writing this review on the day of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. As a 13 year old in 1969 I watched every minute of the television coverage of this stupendous event. 50 years later the story of man’s first landing on the moon is still intriguing to me, and that’s why I wanted to read Douglas Brinkley’s American Moonshot: John F Kennedy and the Great Space Race. For anyone who wants a better understanding of the roots of America’s space program, this is the book for you. Brinkley’s I am writing this review on the day of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. As a 13 year old in 1969 I watched every minute of the television coverage of this stupendous event. 50 years later the story of man’s first landing on the moon is still intriguing to me, and that’s why I wanted to read Douglas Brinkley’s American Moonshot: John F Kennedy and the Great Space Race. For anyone who wants a better understanding of the roots of America’s space program, this is the book for you. Brinkley’s main focus is on John F Kennedy and German rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun. “German ballistic missile technology—built to kill people—laid a foundation for spaceflight,” Brinkley writes. It isn’t until the 8th chapter until Brinkley discusses America’s first manned ventures into space – project Mercury. That’s how extensive Brinkley’s research is into the early lives of Kennedy and Von Braun and the events that would later lead to America’s space program. In reading American Moonshot I came to realize what a tremendous risk JFK took in issuing his 1961 challenge to complete a successful moon landing by the end of the decade. “Even Kennedy’s own national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy, thought the whole moonshot gambit scientifically reckless, politically risky, and a ‘grandstanding play’ of the most outlandish kind; and he had the temerity to voice his opinion in no uncertain terms to the president,” Brinkley relates. This book is not a detailed account of the American space program in the 1960’s, rather the focus is on JFK’s and Von Braun’s roles in what eventually was a monumental success. “World leaders such as Khrushchev, Eisenhower, de Gaulle, Churchill, Macmillan, and Adenauer had been born in the nineteenth century; Kennedy and von Braun were, by contrast, beguiling twentieth-century futurists who understood that the key dividing line in geopolitical terms was no longer BC and AD. It was now pre-V-2 and post-V-2, as well as pre-Hiroshima and post-Hiroshima,” Brinkley writes. “We choose to go to the moon—we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win,” Kennedy said in that 1961 speech. American Moonshot gave me a greater appreciation of what an incredible undertaking and accomplishment the effort to land the first man on the moon was.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jim Gallen

    “America’s Moonshot” is a contemporary look back at the Race to the Moon of the 1960s with the focus on the role of President John F. Kennedy in its initiation and promotion. More presidential history than scientific, it illustrates the central role that the space Program played in the Cold War. The characters run the gamut of space lore from Jules Verne through Robert Goddard, Alan Shepherd, Yuri Gagarin, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Jim Web, Chris Kraft, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and others t “America’s Moonshot” is a contemporary look back at the Race to the Moon of the 1960s with the focus on the role of President John F. Kennedy in its initiation and promotion. More presidential history than scientific, it illustrates the central role that the space Program played in the Cold War. The characters run the gamut of space lore from Jules Verne through Robert Goddard, Alan Shepherd, Yuri Gagarin, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Jim Web, Chris Kraft, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and others too numerous to mention. The scene is set with Kennedy having been elected to get America moving again, a Soviet satellite in space, the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the President looking for something we can beat the Russians at. Told that that could be a race to the moon, Kennedy made the bold challenge that would invigorate the 60s. The action begins with the Mercury program that moved NASA into space and laid the ground work for the Gemini and Apollo programs to follow. The tragedy of the Apollo I fire is analyzed not only on its own account but for the threat it presented to the timely completion of the challenge. The bold decision to send Apollo VIII to the moon, rather than have into earth orbit as originally planned, showed that the end of the decade deadline could be met. Even a story as big as the Moonshot has personal elements. John Glenn and John Kennedy would become friends and the President was partially responsible in encouraging Glenn to get into politics. Kennedy’s distrust of Wernher von Braun because of his Nazi involvement and questions about his culpability in war crimes continually surface throughout this tome. Some astronauts, such as Scott Carpenter and Wally Schirra irritated Flight Director Chris Kraft and former President Eisenhower repeatedly criticized the program. Author Douglas Brinkley has crafted an enlightening look back on the stories that were front page news and television bulletins a half-century ago. He provides some explanation why the relatively short Kennedy Administration remains a benchmark against which others are measured. The references to von Braun’s record encourage reflection on our own time’s treatment of those with pasts. This is a well written history that shines light on our past and encourages us to reassess our present and future.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Entertaining overview of the early days of the American Space Race with particular focus on the latter portion of the Eisenhower years and of course the Kennedy years. There's no doubt after reading this that the space race was steeped in a cold-war "beat the Russians" narrative. Much of the funding of NASA depended on this framing as Kennedy privately admitted to his advisors that his administration has to be mindful of invoking military uses (whether direct or indirect) resulting from the mass Entertaining overview of the early days of the American Space Race with particular focus on the latter portion of the Eisenhower years and of course the Kennedy years. There's no doubt after reading this that the space race was steeped in a cold-war "beat the Russians" narrative. Much of the funding of NASA depended on this framing as Kennedy privately admitted to his advisors that his administration has to be mindful of invoking military uses (whether direct or indirect) resulting from the massive NASA spending, in order to secure congressional funding especially from moderate to conservative Republicans. Americans were paying in their taxes at the space-race height as much as 50 cents per week to cover costs to NASA. Kennedy was also mindful to spread the Keynesian spending wealth: "...instead of dispensing the entire plum of Project Apollo development to a single contractor, the administration spread the financial allocations among hundreds of happy companies. It was the New Frontier’s infrastructure stimulus approach applied to a lunar voyage..." I also didn't realize how the Houston space center was the result of indirect legal bribery by Texas oil interests, a local congressman, and of course LBJ. "Houston pulled off the Apollo program. For Brown (of Brown and Root), though, the victory was just another proud episode in a long career of federally funded infrastructure deals. That Brown and his crowd crossed ethical and, perhaps, legal lines was a matter of debate for decades." The books talks a lot of the former Nazi Rocket scientist Wehner Von Bruan as absolutely key to the U.S. ultimate victory in landing on the moon. And the book certainly does not sugarcoat his Nazi background, rightly claiming his "Faustian" bargain he made. "Words can never aptly describe how difficult life at Dora-Mittelbau (a slave-labor camp used for the Nazi's V2 rocket program) was for its workers. Von Braun, a colonel in the SS, was deeply complicit in these war crimes. He was a regular visitor to Mittelwerk (and other slave camps)."

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ted Hunt

    As part of the 50th anniversary commemoration of the July, 1969, touchdown on the moon, Douglas Brinkley has written a book about the origins and early stages of the American space program. The book begins with the earliest research and inventions in rocket technology, both inside the United States and in Europe, it extensively delves into the Nazi rocket program, and then describes the origins of the Cold War "space race" between the United States and the Soviet Union. As someone who was obsess As part of the 50th anniversary commemoration of the July, 1969, touchdown on the moon, Douglas Brinkley has written a book about the origins and early stages of the American space program. The book begins with the earliest research and inventions in rocket technology, both inside the United States and in Europe, it extensively delves into the Nazi rocket program, and then describes the origins of the Cold War "space race" between the United States and the Soviet Union. As someone who was obsessed as a child with all of the intricacies of the American lunar program, it was a bit of a letdown when the book pretty much wraps up with Kennedy's death, but its purpose was to tell the story of Kennedy, not Johnson and Nixon (who refused to mention Kennedy's name during the week of the first moon landing- what a small, petty man he was!). I was very pleased that the author went as far as to label Werner von Braun as the Nazi war criminal that he was, and it was interesting to hear about the work by American intelligence to attempt to determine whether or not the USSR was intending to make a moon landing or were just goading us into spending a lot of money of trying to win a race that they had withdrawn from. (In the end, the Soviets maintained the goal of a moon landing until the epic disaster on a launch pad in 1967.) I also appreciated reading about the civilian uses of NASA research, something JFK always maintained would help to justify the huge cost of the program. (MRI technology began as a method to photograph the moon? Who knew?) My only complaint was that I thought that the book spent too much time at the beginning presenting Kennedy's biography, which I did not find either new or particularly enlightening when it came to explaining his interest in the space program. In any event, perhaps Douglas Brinkley, teaching at Rice, will use his proximity to the center of the American space program in Houston to write a sequel. Fingers crossed!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ned Frederick

    I have to confess, I strapped myself into American Moonshot, hoping for a high-flying sequel to Tom Wolfe’s, The Right Stuff...In other words a colorfully embellished but factual account that fleshes out Project Apollo the way Wolfe’s book colorized and narrated Project Mercury. Author Brinkley eventually gets to Project Apollo, briefly and in closing, and it takes him nearly half the book just to reach Kennedy’s historic 1961 pledge launching America’s Moonshot, “I believe that this nation shou I have to confess, I strapped myself into American Moonshot, hoping for a high-flying sequel to Tom Wolfe’s, The Right Stuff...In other words a colorfully embellished but factual account that fleshes out Project Apollo the way Wolfe’s book colorized and narrated Project Mercury. Author Brinkley eventually gets to Project Apollo, briefly and in closing, and it takes him nearly half the book just to reach Kennedy’s historic 1961 pledge launching America’s Moonshot, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” By the time I read those words, I was getting pretty hangry waiting for the main course to be served after long hours nibbling on only occasional technical tidbits or astronaut derring-do. Sad to say, the Apollo 11 mission is a throwaway chapter at the end of the book. Much respect to author Brinkley, nevertheless. This is a serious thoroughly-researched narrative about our transformation into a spacefaring nation. However, it is heavily weighted with political machinations and in my opinion not nearly enough about the people and technical challenges at the business end of the long chain of events that culminated in Apollo 11.. More aerodynamics and less political dynamics would have brought the book more into orbit with the account I had hoped to read. If you are of a similar bent, I.e, bored by lengthy tales about political shenanigans, you can just skim those parts. There is plenty of the cool stuff for the more nerdy among us.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Jesse

    A couple of thoughts about this book... 1: How come we haven't been back to the moon? Reading this book made me wonder about how we invented all this amazing technology to get us there. And yet here it is 45+ years since we last step foot on the moon. Imagine how much better the trip could be now with all the improved technology we have. I cant believe we haven't been back. 2. I learned a lot about the space race and the race to put somoene on the moon. I didn't know the only thing we beat the Rus A couple of thoughts about this book... 1: How come we haven't been back to the moon? Reading this book made me wonder about how we invented all this amazing technology to get us there. And yet here it is 45+ years since we last step foot on the moon. Imagine how much better the trip could be now with all the improved technology we have. I cant believe we haven't been back. 2. I learned a lot about the space race and the race to put somoene on the moon. I didn't know the only thing we beat the Russians to was landing on the moon. First person in space (Russian), First Satellite in Space (Russian), 1st Female in Space (Russian), longest orbit around the Earth (Russian). And yet we got to the moon 1st. Everything else was "won" by the Russians. 3. The ending of the book was short, way, way too short. Here's all this in-depth stuff about the lead up to the moon and then the actual Apollo 11 portion was the "epilogue." The author focused on the Gemini and Mercury Missions, but the Apollo missions were basically a footnote. And the actual Apollo 11 trip description was way short. I spent 13425135151261615 pages about the moon landing only to be short-changed by the actual moon landing mission. This really upset me and drove the ranking of the book down. I think the author either gave up after Kennedy was shot, or only researched the Kennedy presidency and then gave up with the rest. Read the book knowing you don't get much coverage of the actual moon landing

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    So my rating is 5 stars. Full disclosure if I was smart enough, I'd have been an astronaut. I was caught up in the excitement of launching rockets to propel mankind off the earth to explore space. Ì have followed the space program throughout its history. I've been to Kennedy Space Center several times. I had the opportunity to see a shuttle launch from the center. So needless to say I'm a fan. Brinkley has a wonderful style in his writing. He makes reading history a joy. As I was saying to a fri So my rating is 5 stars. Full disclosure if I was smart enough, I'd have been an astronaut. I was caught up in the excitement of launching rockets to propel mankind off the earth to explore space. Ì have followed the space program throughout its history. I've been to Kennedy Space Center several times. I had the opportunity to see a shuttle launch from the center. So needless to say I'm a fan. Brinkley has a wonderful style in his writing. He makes reading history a joy. As I was saying to a friend just the other day reading this book at a time when this country is as divided as it can be it reminds one of a time when the country, not completely, got behind a president who was an inspiration to everyone. Yes, Kennedy had his foibles and his enemies. He did inspire the nation to come together. It cost lots of money to land man on the moon. The benefits have been amazing. Brinkley does a really good job of capturing the mood of the country and the world that we lived in at this time. It'seems amazing to see both houses of government actually get together to accomplish the landing. Sure there was opposition, but it got done. Anyway, don't want to get into the time we now live in. We need to celebrate as this year is the 50th anniversary of the landing. There is hope for the future and it starts with working together. 5 stars is a great rating. It's a good read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    andrew

    Brinkley's history of the American endeavor to achieve a manned expedition to the moon is one of a slew of moonshot related books published in this the 50th anniversary year of Apollo 11. For better or worse, what distinguishes this telling is its political (both national and international) perspective. More specifically, after a review of the rocketry accomplishments of such pioneers as Goddard and the ss officer von Braun, it almost exclusively concentrates on John Kennedy's role in the space Brinkley's history of the American endeavor to achieve a manned expedition to the moon is one of a slew of moonshot related books published in this the 50th anniversary year of Apollo 11. For better or worse, what distinguishes this telling is its political (both national and international) perspective. More specifically, after a review of the rocketry accomplishments of such pioneers as Goddard and the ss officer von Braun, it almost exclusively concentrates on John Kennedy's role in the space program. While there are interesting sections (the virtual panic that arose in the U.S. after the Soviets' Sputnik launch and their first man in space accomplishment, the contentious interplay between Kennedy and Khrushchev, the shock and amazement among the scientific and engineering community even at NASA when Kennedy announced only 20 days after Alan Shepard became the first American in space the objective of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade) there is also a lot of less than fascinating discussion of congressional battles over NASA expenditures. While a fair amount is included about the first seven astronauts and the Mercury program, the entire Gemini and Apollo programs which occurred after Kennedy's death are covered very sparingly in the epilogue. This book would be best appreciated as an accompaniment to a work that contains more information about the scientific challenges and more from the viewpoint of the later astronauts.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alex Guiden

    During these turbulent times, when American optimism for the future seems to be waning, there is no better book to read than this one. I finished this masterpiece on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and felt rejuvenated about America’s future. This is a must read for anyone interested in learning more about the Apollo 11 moon landing, presidential leadership, and Cold War politics. “There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile During these turbulent times, when American optimism for the future seems to be waning, there is no better book to read than this one. I finished this masterpiece on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and felt rejuvenated about America’s future. This is a must read for anyone interested in learning more about the Apollo 11 moon landing, presidential leadership, and Cold War politics. “There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?” “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” — President John F. Kennedy (1962) And win we did. Seven years later, America launched Apollo 11. That’s American exceptionalism.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mark A Powell

    As tensions between the USA and USSR mounted in the post-WWII era, a bold promise by newly-elected President John F. Kennedy shaped the world for a decade to come: America would put a man on the moon. Brinkley’s book is more of a presidential study on JFK than a recounting of the moon race. But any honest examination of the 1960s will reveal just how closely the advancements of science and technology were connected to the tenuous political climate of that age. I suppose historians find it difficul As tensions between the USA and USSR mounted in the post-WWII era, a bold promise by newly-elected President John F. Kennedy shaped the world for a decade to come: America would put a man on the moon. Brinkley’s book is more of a presidential study on JFK than a recounting of the moon race. But any honest examination of the 1960s will reveal just how closely the advancements of science and technology were connected to the tenuous political climate of that age. I suppose historians find it difficult (if not impossible) to recount the past without reading present-day bias into it. Brinkley does this fairly well, though a few places read heavy-handed enough to jar me out of the moment. Our society certainly views things differently than we did 50 years ago, but we can’t expect the people who lived then to know how or why times would change. Mostly, however, Brinkley connects dots and draws conclusions in chronological fairness. The space race remains one of the most unique and galvanizing moments in America’s still young history. Brinkley’s efforts here, in anticipation of this summer’s Apollo 11 anniversary, do an admirable job of revisiting and restating the value and vision of those days.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    I have mixed feelings about this book and would probably give it 3.5 rather than 4 stars. There is nothing wrong with Brinkley's writing or research. He brings the era and the people alive and makes you want to keep reading. But it almost seems that, after so much has been written about the American space program, he is a little desperate to come up with a hook that hasn't been used. JFK is his hook. Yes, Kennedy made the famous speech that committed the USA to a moonshot by the end of the sixti I have mixed feelings about this book and would probably give it 3.5 rather than 4 stars. There is nothing wrong with Brinkley's writing or research. He brings the era and the people alive and makes you want to keep reading. But it almost seems that, after so much has been written about the American space program, he is a little desperate to come up with a hook that hasn't been used. JFK is his hook. Yes, Kennedy made the famous speech that committed the USA to a moonshot by the end of the sixties, but he is killed before the program is much more than off the ground, so to speak. Brinkley then ends his more detailed coverage of the program with Kennedy's assassination and we are left with 50 pages out of almost 500 to finish up the Mercury program, the entire Gemini program, and the Apollo flights leading up to Apollo 11 in July 1969. He does a nice job with this summary and this wouldn't be so terrible if he hadn't spent a very large part of the book examining the German V-2 program of the 1930s and '40s. A little background is one thing, but I think this is too lopsided. It's still a very good book. It just could have been better.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Mostly a biography of JFK with respect to the moon race, so not exactly what I was expecting. For example, the last 5 years of the "Moonshot" after JFK's assassination are covered in the Epilogue, which was a little disappointing. But the book would have been over 1,000 pages if those 5 years were covered in as much detail as the other years covered in rest of the book. Many fascinating stories are covered in a lot of detail, including WWII stories that are foundational to the space race. Surpri Mostly a biography of JFK with respect to the moon race, so not exactly what I was expecting. For example, the last 5 years of the "Moonshot" after JFK's assassination are covered in the Epilogue, which was a little disappointing. But the book would have been over 1,000 pages if those 5 years were covered in as much detail as the other years covered in rest of the book. Many fascinating stories are covered in a lot of detail, including WWII stories that are foundational to the space race. Surprising how influential Wernher von Braun was to the US space effort and how he "adopted" the US as his country after leading Germany's effort to build missiles to bomb London, Paris, and other major cities of the Allies. The author includes are many memorable anecdotes throughout. For example, the Russian astronaut's view of God after returning from space in contrast to the American astronaut's view. How we can basically blame JFK for the Berlin wall due to his weak negotiating skills. Various anecdotes of several early astronauts. Etc. etc. Well written, not overly political, and an interesting read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    It's a good read, but it's really more of a presidential history than a discussion of NASA and our efforts to reach the moon. The first half of the book is a biography of Jack Kennedy and Wernher von Braun, from the moment of their births, their childhoods, their roles in WWII, and life afterwards in the 1950s. The book doesn't even get to outer space or Sputnik until Chapter 6. Von Braun soon disappears from the book except in terms of his meetings with the president. The focus of the rest of th It's a good read, but it's really more of a presidential history than a discussion of NASA and our efforts to reach the moon. The first half of the book is a biography of Jack Kennedy and Wernher von Braun, from the moment of their births, their childhoods, their roles in WWII, and life afterwards in the 1950s. The book doesn't even get to outer space or Sputnik until Chapter 6. Von Braun soon disappears from the book except in terms of his meetings with the president. The focus of the rest of the book is Kennedy's championing of NASA and the Mercury and Apollo programs, and the whys, hows, and whats he did during his time in office. There is some discussion of the various Mercury flights, but really more in context of Kennedy's view of them and his interaction with the astronauts. The book really ends with Kennedy's assassination. Landing on the moon in 1969, Kennedy's main objective in this exercise, is relegated to a few pages in the Epilogue. In that respect, I found this book very disappointing. If you were expecting a history of the American space program, this isn't it. If you want to view NASA through Kennedy's eyes, then you're reading the right book.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.