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

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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.


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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 t “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. Music -----Space Oddity -----Telestar - by The Tornadoes

  2. 5 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. 5 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 5 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

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

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sandi

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 4 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)."

  15. 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!

  16. 5 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Barry Davidoff

    Douglas Brinkley is one of the premier historians on twentieth century America. American Moonshot is an important contribution on the political context of the space race. Brinkley is definitely pro-Kennedy throughout the book. He traces Kennedy's rise to the Presidency and provides great details on the political climate of the time. The main highlights of the space program are well written. Starting with Kennedy's construct of the "missile gap" Kennedy strongly advocated for the space program. He Douglas Brinkley is one of the premier historians on twentieth century America. American Moonshot is an important contribution on the political context of the space race. Brinkley is definitely pro-Kennedy throughout the book. He traces Kennedy's rise to the Presidency and provides great details on the political climate of the time. The main highlights of the space program are well written. Starting with Kennedy's construct of the "missile gap" Kennedy strongly advocated for the space program. He had a strong belief that winning the space race was critical to winning the Cold War. Brinkley, however, downplays the Bay of Pigs and Kennedy's role is allowing it continue. Conversely Brinkley does not show that American superiority in nuclear missiles was a key reason the Kennedy was able to resolve the Cuban missile crisis. Oddly the only reference to the impending conflict in Southeast Asia is peripheral. Kennedy deserves a lot of credit for spearheading the political support to land a man on the moon. His speeches and rhetoric are still stirring The book would have benefited from more narrative following Kennedy's death and more details on the moon landings. The book is strongly recommended to understand the politics and cultural aspects of the space race

  21. 4 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.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alan Kaplan

    Amazing book about the race to the moon. The book begins at the end of World War II when the USA and the Soviet Union rushed to capture all of the Nazi rocket scientists. The USA won that competition by capturing Werner Von Braun who was an amazing rocket scientists but also a contributor to the Nazi war machine. He was directly responsible for using slave laborers at his rocket laboratory. But the real star is John F Kennedy who pushed the NASA program forward and made the amazing promise that Amazing book about the race to the moon. The book begins at the end of World War II when the USA and the Soviet Union rushed to capture all of the Nazi rocket scientists. The USA won that competition by capturing Werner Von Braun who was an amazing rocket scientists but also a contributor to the Nazi war machine. He was directly responsible for using slave laborers at his rocket laboratory. But the real star is John F Kennedy who pushed the NASA program forward and made the amazing promise that we would land on the moon by the end of the 1960's. As a child growing up in that era, I clearly remember watching the blastoffs at Cape Canaveral. What I did not appreciate was the unbelievable difficulty of what we as Americans were trying to accomplish. We just assumed that all would go well. Still 50 years after multiple moon landings, it is hard to believe that we did it. By foregoing moon missions, we have lost something intangible in the American spirit. The book ends with the assassination of JFK with inherent sadness that he did not live to see his goal achieved.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Robbins

    This seems more like a JFK presidential biography than a history of the American space missions to the Moon. There are some minor errors, like switching the names WW II bombers “B-17 Liberator and B-24 Fly Fortress” (p. 57), and some references missing from the bibliography but otherwise this is a well-edited history. I think a similar book could be written highlighting the political acumen of LBJ in making the American landings on the Moon a reality. We are still waiting for the definitive 50th This seems more like a JFK presidential biography than a history of the American space missions to the Moon. There are some minor errors, like switching the names WW II bombers “B-17 Liberator and B-24 Fly Fortress” (p. 57), and some references missing from the bibliography but otherwise this is a well-edited history. I think a similar book could be written highlighting the political acumen of LBJ in making the American landings on the Moon a reality. We are still waiting for the definitive 50th anniversary history of the space missions of this age but until then I highly recommend “The New Ocean: The Story of the First Space Age” by William E. Burrows.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dave Carden

    American Moonshot explores the decades of history that preceded Neil Armstrong’s historic first step. Rather than focusing on NASA’s mission, Douglas Brinkley covers the science and politics of rocketry from Robert Goddard’s early rocket experiments to the deadly V2 rockets of World War II and finally the Cold War that ignited the Space Race. All the while, we follow John Kennedy, growing up in a politically ambitious family, as he makes his own journey up the political ladder. I was a disappoin American Moonshot explores the decades of history that preceded Neil Armstrong’s historic first step. Rather than focusing on NASA’s mission, Douglas Brinkley covers the science and politics of rocketry from Robert Goddard’s early rocket experiments to the deadly V2 rockets of World War II and finally the Cold War that ignited the Space Race. All the while, we follow John Kennedy, growing up in a politically ambitious family, as he makes his own journey up the political ladder. I was a disappointed that the book ends so abruptly after Kennedy’s assassination, skipping over the pivotal six years leading up to the actual moon landing.

  25. 5 out of 5

    John Pehle

    Douglas Brinkley has written an extensively researched and highly detailed accounting of the US lunar landing program. It is densely packed with names, dates, and events. The bulk of the book is devoted to the efforts of President Kennedy to define, stimulate, and protect the “moonshot”. While I enjoyed reliving those days (from my youth) and gained new insights into some of the key players, it was a slow read that lacked much dramatic tension. Let’s face it, we know how it ends. Nevertheless, I Douglas Brinkley has written an extensively researched and highly detailed accounting of the US lunar landing program. It is densely packed with names, dates, and events. The bulk of the book is devoted to the efforts of President Kennedy to define, stimulate, and protect the “moonshot”. While I enjoyed reliving those days (from my youth) and gained new insights into some of the key players, it was a slow read that lacked much dramatic tension. Let’s face it, we know how it ends. Nevertheless, I would recommend it to those who enjoy history, are interested in JFK, or are fans of space exploration.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Janis

    As the title suggests, Douglas Brinkley mainly focuses on JFK and America’s quest to reach the moon in his latest book, American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race. I learned all sorts of things that I never knew, but I especially enjoyed three topics that are explored in this book: 1) Wernher von Braun Nazi history and his subsequent work for the USA; 2) (then-)Senator Kennedy’s jabs at President Eisenhower’s slow-moving plans for space exploration; and 3) the history of NASA.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Charlie Shaw

    A COMPLETE history of the American space program from Goddard until the moon landing. The arguments for and against the space program are presented during and after President Kennedy's term as president. Every character having the most minute effect on the space program, whether pro or con, is presented. A most thorough account of the concurrent history is explained. The major character is President John F. Kennedy and the book is centered around his desire and foresight in development of the pro A COMPLETE history of the American space program from Goddard until the moon landing. The arguments for and against the space program are presented during and after President Kennedy's term as president. Every character having the most minute effect on the space program, whether pro or con, is presented. A most thorough account of the concurrent history is explained. The major character is President John F. Kennedy and the book is centered around his desire and foresight in development of the program to make America first on the moon.

  28. 4 out of 5

    GarudaLead

    This was the first book I read about NASA and the Moonshot and it was a great first book on the subject. It gives you great insight into Kennedy and his thoughts and motivations about the space race with. It gives you a solid backdrop with background on the birth of rocketry during WWII as the role that Khrushchev and the Cold War played. If you wanted to start reading on the subject on the history of NASA or the Moonshot, this book will give you a solid foundation and understanding. I now want t This was the first book I read about NASA and the Moonshot and it was a great first book on the subject. It gives you great insight into Kennedy and his thoughts and motivations about the space race with. It gives you a solid backdrop with background on the birth of rocketry during WWII as the role that Khrushchev and the Cold War played. If you wanted to start reading on the subject on the history of NASA or the Moonshot, this book will give you a solid foundation and understanding. I now want to learn more will be looking for other great books on the subject all thanks to this book!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Hogan

    Finished American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley, a comprehensive look at the history of US manned space flight against the backdrop of all the key figures responsible back to WW2. I found this book valuable in understanding space as a key component of Kennedy’s New Frontier. Every time I leave Terminal A at Logan Airport I see evidence of Kennedy’s famous commitment to reach the moon by the end of the sixties. I was also taken by Brinkley’s description of Finished American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley, a comprehensive look at the history of US manned space flight against the backdrop of all the key figures responsible back to WW2. I found this book valuable in understanding space as a key component of Kennedy’s New Frontier. Every time I leave Terminal A at Logan Airport I see evidence of Kennedy’s famous commitment to reach the moon by the end of the sixties. I was also taken by Brinkley’s description of the economic impact upon the us even to this day; fascinating book

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rebekah Bailey

    Yeah, it's about the space program. However, I found it to be more of a thinly veiled review of Kennedy's political career. History does not come naturally to some of us, and requires the help of someone who can make it come alive. This author is not one of those people, and I found the book to be a dry recounting of a lot of facts, date, and names that are destined to never take root in my memory. I'd like to give it 2 stars, but I suspect I may not be qualified to do so, having confessed to my Yeah, it's about the space program. However, I found it to be more of a thinly veiled review of Kennedy's political career. History does not come naturally to some of us, and requires the help of someone who can make it come alive. This author is not one of those people, and I found the book to be a dry recounting of a lot of facts, date, and names that are destined to never take root in my memory. I'd like to give it 2 stars, but I suspect I may not be qualified to do so, having confessed to my history handicap.

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