A stunning investigation of the roots of the first moon landing forty years ago.This illuminating story of the dawn of the space age reaches back to the reactionary modernism of the Third Reich, using the life of “rocket scientist” Wernher von Braun as its narrative path through the crumbling of Weimar Germany and the rise of the Nazi regime. Von Braun, a blinkered opportunist who could apply only tunnel vision to his meteoric career, stands as an archetype of myriad twentieth century technologists who thrived under regimes of military secrecy and unlimited money. His seamless transformation from developer of the deadly V-2 ballistic missile for Hitler to an American celebrity as the supposed genius behind the golden years of the U.S. space program in the 1950s and 1960s raises haunting questions about the culture of the Cold War, the shared values of technology in totalitarian and democratic societies, and the imperatives of material progress.
A selection of the History, Scientific American, and Quality Paperback Book Clubs
For a very brief moment during the 1960s, America was moonstruck. Boys dreamt of being an astronaut; girls dreamed of marrying one. Americans drank Tang, bought “space pens” that wrote upside down, wore clothes made of space age Mylar, and took imaginary rockets to the moon from theme parks scattered around the country.
But despite the best efforts of a generation of scientists, the almost foolhardy heroics of the astronauts, and 35 billion dollars, the moon turned out to be a place of “magnificent desolation,” to use Buzz Aldrin’s words: a sterile rock of no purpose to anyone. In Dark Side of the Moon, Gerard J. DeGroot reveals how NASA cashed in on the Americans’ thirst for heroes in an age of discontent and became obsessed with putting men in space. The moon mission was sold as a race which America could not afford to lose. Landing on the moon, it was argued, would be good for the economy, for politics, and for the soul. It could even win the Cold War. The great tragedy is that so much effort and expense was devoted to a small step that did virtually nothing for mankind.
Drawing on meticulous archival research, DeGroot cuts through the myths constructed by the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations and sustained by NASA ever since. He finds a gang of cynics, demagogues, scheming politicians, and corporations who amassed enormous power and profits by exploiting the fear of what the Russians might do in space.
Exposing the truth behind one of the most revered fictions of American history, Dark Side of the Moon explains why the American space program has been caught in a state of purposeless wandering ever since Neil Armstrong descended from Apollo 11 and stepped onto the moon. The effort devoted to the space program was indeed magnificent and its cultural impact was profound, but the purpose of the program was as desolate and dry as lunar dust.
Before 1955, the concept of an artificial satellite had been demonstrated only on paper. The first nation to transform theory into practice would gain advantages in science, the Cold War propaganda contest, and the military balance of power. Visionaries such as America’s Wernher von Braun and Russia’s Sergey Korolev knew these fields of endeavor would be affected by the launch of a satellite. Moved by patriotism, inquisitiveness, and pride, people on both sides of the Iron Curtain put forth heroic efforts to make that first satellite possible.
Some aspects of this story, like the Navy’s NOTSNIK satellite project, are almost unknown. Even some details of well-known programs, such as the appearance of America’s pioneering Explorer 1 satellite and the contributions made by its rival, Project Vanguard, are generally misremembered. In this book, authors Matt Bille and Erika Lishock tell the whole story of the first space race. They trace the tale from the origins of spaceflight theory and through the military and political events that engendered the all-out efforts needed to turn dreams into reality and thus shape the modern world.
The authors recreate in vivid detail the "parallel universes" of the two space exploration programs, with visionaries Wernher von Braun and Sergei Korolev and political leaders John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev at the epicenters. The conflict between countries, and the tense drama of their independent progress, unfolds in vivid prose. Approaching its subject from a uniquely balanced perspective, this important new narrative chronicles the epic race to the moon and back as it has never been told before—and captures the interest of casual browsers and science, space, and history enthusiasts alike.
As astronaut Donald K. Slayton notes in his Foreword, this chronicle emphasizes the cooperation of "humans on space and on the ground. It realistically balances the role of the highly visible astronaut with the mammoth supporting team." An official NASA publication, Suddenly, Tomorrow Came is profusely illustrated with forty-four figures and tables, plus sixty-three photographs. Historian Paul Dickson brings the narrative up to date with an informative new Introduction.
Refreshingly free of jargon and technical language, this accessible account focuses on the coordination of efforts behind the production of the Apollo service, command, and lunar modules. It covers three phases of spacecraft evolution: defining and designing the necessary vehicles; developing and qualifying them for the task; and operating them to achieve their objectives. The authors conducted numerous interviews with the project's participants and relied heavily on NASA's extensive archives. In addition to several appendixes, the text is supplemented with more than 100 photographs and illustrations that recapture the efforts of the dedicated team of thousands who reached for the moon.