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the Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age Paperback – September 25, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 584 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (September 25, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801857481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801857485
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Exhaustively researched, brilliantly conceived, and beautifully written.

(New York Times Book Review)

A lucid and comprehensive political history of the American, European, and Russian space programs.

(New Scientist)

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)

[A] boldly conceived, elegantly written, and unfailingly provocative history of the new age of space.

(Science)

This highly acclaimed study approaches the space race as a problem in comparative public policy.

(The Astronomical Society of the Pacific)

[An] immensely readable and elegant book.

(Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)

The definitive, surprising and highly readable history of the U.S. space program. Forget visionary rhetoric about humans' need to explore the next frontier: McDougal demonstrates how NASA's moon missions grew directly from Hitler's V-2 rocket project at Pennemunde and were all about the classic military necessity of controlling the high ground―in this case the really high ground... [One of] the five best books I have read about the U.S. space program.

(Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down)

About the Author

Walter A. McDougall is Alloy-Ansin Professor of International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania, and editor of Orbis: A Journal of World Affairs. He is also author of France's Rhineland Diplomacy, 1914–1942: The Last Bid for a Balance of Power in Europe.

Customer Reviews

We still are living in this age and this timeless book still speaks to us.
M. E. Cushing
Although there were notable forerunners, spaceflight historiography came of age with the 1985 publication this book by Walter McDougall.
Roger D. Launius
This author does a terrific job of holding the readers attention while explaining the detailed history.
D. Zakar

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on December 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
Although there were notable forerunners, spaceflight historiography came of age with the 1985 publication this book by Walter McDougall. It received Pulitzer Prize and a host of other well-deserved awards with its analysis of the origins and conduct of the space race. This book explores the Cold War rivalry in race with the preparations for and launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, through the race to the Moon in the 1960s. The author argues that the mandate to complete Apollo on Kennedy's schedule prompted the space program to become identified almost exclusively with high-profile, expensive, human spaceflight projects. This was because Apollo became a race against the Soviet Union for recognition as the world leader in science and technology and by extension in other fields as well.
McDougall juxtaposes the American effort of Apollo with the Soviet space program and the dreams of such designers as Sergei P. Korolev to land a Soviet cosmonaut on the Moon. The author recognizes Apollo as a significant engineering achievement but concludes that it was also enormously costly both in terms of resources and the direction to be taken in state support of science and technology. In the end, NASA had to stress engineering over science, competition over cooperation, civilian over military management, and international prestige over practical applications. Not all agree with McDougall's arguments, but since the publication of "the Heavens and the Earth..." historians have been striving to equal its scintillating analysis, stellar writing, and scope of discussion.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By G W Thielman on October 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
The political history of the space age in _...The_Heavens_and_the_Earth_ provides a fascinating glimpse of the considerations taken within the Eisenhower administration and the Khrushchev regime regarding the orbital realm. Unlike other authors issuing paeans to Kennedy for his expensive though successful challenge of a manned lunar program, Professor McDougall renders a more sympathetic assessment of Eisenhower's reluctance to commit federal resources to open-ended and prestige-focused stunts. The hesitance in launching the first orbital satellite, although politically disastrous, was prudently based on concerns that foreign countries might object to orbital overflights by potential reconnaissance vehicles. With the Soviet Union launching the first satellite _Sputnik_, such criticism would be rendered moot, although this triumph enabled Khrushchev to persuasively promote Soviet hegemony and stoke American fears of missile delivery for nuclear explosives.
Most Americans have forgotten that Eisenhower advocated "open skies" to reduce the potential of overreacting to a perceived threat due to insufficient or faulty mobilization information, as well as reduce military expenditures (comparatively higher than today). Khrushchev, hoping to obscure both intentions and especially the capabilities of Soviet military power projection for preserving options in diplomatic and domestic intimidation. The United States wanted more open information so as to avoid a future "Pearl Harbor" and the Russians wanted to maintain their eastern-European gains without obligation to show their economic weakness and armed force limitations.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Terry Sunday TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
I purchased this book when it first came out 20 years ago. At the time, it was very controversial. Author McDougall suggested that President Eisenhower actually wanted the Soviet Union to be the first to launch an earth satellite because that would establish the legal principle of "freedom of space." This principle was vital for the interests of the United States, which at the time was moving full speed ahead to develop reconnaissance satellites. Allowing the Soviets to go first would solidify the idea that one nation's satellites could freely pass through the skies of another nation. If the Soviets established such a principle, they would be unlikely to protest when OUR satellites began to overfly their territory. As later books based on newly declassified sources have confirmed, McDougall's analysis of Eisenhower's motives turned out to be right on target. The only thing the President underestimated was the intensity of the American public's reaction to the Soviet's "Sputnik I." Detailed and comprehensive, this book remains one of the best single-volume histories of the early years of the Space Age.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is the best political history written about the space program to date. McDougall's book is masterfully researched and written. This is what scholarship is all about! As a doctoral student in space policy, I have found this book to be an incredible reference guide in my studies.
McDougall's genius lies in his ability to decifer the true reasons (political, social, and economic) behind the space race. The amazing thing is that he did so before most of the classified documents regarding the opening years of the American space program were released. Almost all of his assumptions have been proven true as those documents have become available to the public.
I would highly recommend this book to any true student of the history of the space program.
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