The story of the race into space is marked by the greatest superpower rivalries, political paranoia, and technological feats of the twentieth century. But until now, we have known only half the story. With the end of the cold war, decades of secrets have been exposed, bringing with them a remarkable opportunity: the unmasking of the true heroes and villains behind one of the most exciting races in history.
At the center of this exhilarating, fast-paced account are Wernher von Braun, the camera-friendly former Nazi scientist who led the American rocket design team, and Sergei Korolev, the chief Soviet designer and former political prisoner whose identity was a closely guarded state secret. These rivals were opposite in every way, save for one: each was obsessed by the idea of launching a man to the Moon. Korolev told his wife, "In every century men were looking into the sky and dreaming. And now I'm close to the greatest dream of mankind."
In attempting to fulfill this dream, Korolev was initially hampered by a budget so small that his engineers were forced to repurpose cardboard boxes as drafting tables. Von Braun, meanwhile, was eventually granted almost limitless access to funds by an American government panicked at the thought that their cold war enemy might take the lead in the exploration of space. Korolev, whose family life was destroyed by his long sentence in the Gulag, was constantly aware that any false move would finish his career or even his life. His rival, on the other hand, enjoyed remarkable celebrity in America and was even the subject of a 1960 biopic.
In this extraordinary book, Deborah Cadbury combines sheeradventure and nail-biting suspense with a moving portrayal of the space race's human dimension. Using source materials never before seen, she reveals that the essential story of the cold war is a mind-bending voyage beyond the bounds of the Earth, one marked by espionage, ambition, ingenuity, and passion.