The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age Hardcover – January 1, 1985
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"Exhaustively researched, brilliantly conceived, and beautifully written." -- New York Times Book Review
"[A] boldly conceived, elegantly written, and unfailingly provocative history of the new age of space." -- Science
"A lucid and comprehensive political history of the American, European, and Russian space programs." -- New Scientist
"This highly acclaimed study approaches the space race as a problem in comparative public policy." -- The Astronomical Society of the Pacific
"Once every decade or so, a book comes along that stands by itself as a remarkable contribution to the literature of a field. Such a work is Walter A. McDougall's... the Heavens and the Earth." -- Technology and Culture
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McDougall has done a fantastic job in digging into the story behind the space race, starting back in 1800s. He shows how Russia, pre-Soviet era, had a significant number of people dreaming of missions into space, which the USSR inherited.
He also shows how the US realized one of the key, if not the key, benefit of satellites would be spying on others - and this required a regime that allowed satellite overflight of foreign countries. Which explains why the US chose only it's 3rd best group of rocketeers to compete to launch a satellite.
Unfortunately, again as McDougall explains, the US kept this decision very, very secret and did nothing to explain this to the US public, so it badly lost the PR game when the USSR launched Sputnik.
I could go on - so many interesting facts, useful to any student of great power politics and invaluable to students of space.
What motivated it?
How did it connect to other ₪political projects of the time?
And what did it all mean?
McDougall answers those questions better than anyone before or since.
The US military - army and navy - by default tried to put a satellite up in late 1957, but failed on the launchpad, eliciting a hail of derision from Life Magazine, which called the failures Kaputnik, Stayputnik, and Flopnik.
Meanwhile the Soviets launched Sputnik II and III - II contained a dog, Laika, who died in orbit, since the Soviets lacked a re entry program. Von Braun put Explorer I in orbit in January, 1958, as a fierce debate broke out in Congress, and the country, over federal role in education, and the nature thereof.
John Dewey reforms, and the NEA, had predominated education, promoting "life adjustment" over "the three R's": reading, writing, and arithmetic. Conservatives opposed this. This debate went back to the wave of immigration from 1890 - 1920, and the centered on the concept of the "melting pot".
Today "identity politics" dominate the Democrat Party, and they hate the "melting pot". At the time, Von Braun, who came out of strict German classical education, opposed Dewey and "life adjustment" education. Conservatives won the battle here, but lost the war, a recurring theme for them.
The battle won, NASA took effect in October, 1958, and rest is history. The American satellites were superior to Russian designs, but the Russians put the first man in space, but NASA and the American industry surged ahead under JFK in the 1960's, until the 68ers destroyed American culture, and sent America on a decline that continues to this day.
I was right in the middle of this fight, and know it first hand: the person who led the battle against the liberal destruction of Nasa and American development was Lyndon LaRouche, and you can read his website to understand it.
Just do an internet search on Tavistock and Nasa to get the details.
The author also wants to get deep towards the end and turn philosophical. I was so tired that my eyes glazed over reading about the origins of the universe.
There is also a lot of exclamation points in this book. Lots of typos on the kindle edition as well. Plus they included the page numbers in the text which was annoying.
Mediocre at best for such a highly acclaimed book. Not for the average reader who wants a review of the space race.
Top international reviews
I found the actual work very interesting and would happily endorse this book in hard-copy format (I'd have given it a 4-star review if the digital copy wasn't such a mess).