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The Man Who Ran the Moon: James E. Webb, NASA, and the Secret History of Project Apollo Hardcover – May 24, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; F First Edition edition (May 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560257512
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560257516
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,120,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Journalist Bizony's excellent corrective to NASA's mythologized history takes an unflinching look at how James Webb, a North Carolina farm boy turned Washington insider, ran his end of the space race as NASA's administrator under presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Presiding over the agency during its build-up to the Apollo moon mission, Webb grew the agency into a research and development behemoth by leaning heavily on the old boy network: he called in favors, brokered backroom deals, bullied those who weren't in lockstep with his vision and commandeered vast sums of federal budget money-all the while driven, Bizony contends, by "pure-hearted ideals." Bizony shows both the spectacular successes and failures leading up to the Apollo lunar landing and discusses success's cost in terms of dollars, human life and political ambition. The book closes with a chapter detailing the crippling blows dealt to NASA by the Nixon administration, a time period that saw the beginning of the space shuttle project. Hampered by budget restrictions, NASA engineers had to design a "dangerously imperfect piece of technology" that later resulted in two famous disasters. Bizony laments the militarizing of NASA under Reagan and the "wavering" public support for expanding the space program, but this firebrand of a book should rekindle interest.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The prosaic side of space exploration--the politics of the aerospace industry--is insightfully illustrated in Bizony's biography of James Webb, who headed NASA from 1961 to 1968. Webb's imprint remains on the organization for good and ill, and Bizony's consciousness of Webb's legacy--a post-Apollo NASA unsure of its goals--enhances his retrospective on Webb's tenure. A lawyer who cut his political teeth as a New Dealer, Webb believed in large-scale government-industry coordination, and thought he was creating a model of "space age management" in his leadership of the crash program to land on the moon. His model collapsed with the 1967 space capsule fire that killed three Apollo astronauts; an investigation exposed deals cut by the manufacturer that snagged the contract. This pork-barrel underside to the history of Apollo is a crucial corrective to the traditional emphasis on astronauts and missions, and Bizony carries it off with investigative determination while retaining balance. Emerging from the bureaucratic thickets with an ultimately praiseworthy portrait of Webb, this should circulate with the space program set. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Most of the time it's just a touch annoying but at times it's overpowering.
B. Morris
Although Bizney's writing style is a little informal and sometimes grammatically wrong, the book is great in itself is great!
Jordan Strickler
From reading this history, it is obvious that two men stood in the way of this: John F. Kennedy and James E. Webb.
l ohara

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Robert I. Hedges HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This long overdue biography of Jim Webb fills a needed void in the literature of the Apollo program. Webb, a disarming but astute partisan Democrat from North Carolina ran NASA during the crucial years leading up to the Apollo program. This book not only details his personal life, but the wheeling and dealing that went on behind the scenes in Washington to get to the moon.

Nobody doubts that Webb was brilliant, but Webb was not without flaws. He was totally infatuated with Roosevelt-era New Deal big government, and ran NASA accordingly, sometimes to the detriment of the program. He adopted the mantra of "Space Age Management" and took it to mean a giant, monolithic government run program straight from FDR's playbook. I think the book does a great job explaining Webb's less than savory relationships to politicians and others of questionable ethics in both the Kennedy and (especially) Johnson administrations such as Bobby Baker. It also recalls a less than savory battle with fellow Democrat and political climber, Walter Mondale, that exposes Washington political opportunism at its worst. I rate the book four stars as the book tends to downplay the significance of ethically borderline issues that occurred in Webb's tenure. To the credit of the book, Bizony does correctly point out that Kennedy was not the true champion of space he is revered to be today, but saw space exploration as a politically expedient course to follow, as did Johnson.

On the plus side, the author absolutely nails the deplorable history of NASA since Apollo and presents an accurate and devastating portrait of the Shuttle and International Space Station programs. Mr.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By G. P. Roberts on July 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
With "The Man Who Ran the Moon: James E. Webb, NASA, and the Secret History of Project Apollo" Piers Bizony has written a wide ranging history about the business side of getting man on the moon. While many books focus on the astronauts and some focus on engineering, this book covers the political side of space flight. There are times when the author sounds as though he is losing his perspective as a historian/biographer and begins to expound on the virtues of the democratic party (Jim Webb was a lifelong Democrat) but after a few quick barbs about how things could be better today if we only learned from our past he rapidly gets back to the subject at hand.

The book does an excellent job of explaining John F. Kennedy and how he got behind the space program. The reader will see how without the soviets the American leadership would have never made space a priority. The "race" with the Russians has been well documented but this book goes deep into the American political system and how our government reacted to the race. The reader will see the give and take in Washington and how Webb spread the money around the country both in ways to gain political favor for the space program and in ways that made the most sense from a management position. Also covered is a fascinating meeting at the White House where Webb and JFK get into an argument over what the main goal of NASA should be and we see Webb not back down to the President of the United States.

The author goes to great lengths to explain the fall of Jim Webb and many pages are devoted to explaining the big political picture of lobbyist Fred B. Black, Jr. and LBJ protégé Robert "Bobby" Baker.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By T. Smith on April 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
The story of the political battles and management difficulties of the Apollo program has gotten short shrift in the overwhelming coverage of the technical aspects. This is quite understandable, but books like this are essential to covering the history of Apollo.
Regrettably, the wanderings into the personal politics and biases of the author caused me to suspect how much he might have covered up or eliminated as a historian, for personal reasons. For example, to blame the defunding of the Apollo program on the Nixon administration is extremely disingenuous, considering it was a Democratic Congress that refused to allocate the funds, preferring instead to shift the money to "problems here on Earth."
Similar issues throughout make this a history that needs to be approached with caution. For a reader knowledgeable of the real politics of the time, I'd give it 4 stars.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. C. Pfuhl on January 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
When you hear of the manned space programme or the first lunar landing of Apollo 11 you think of the astronauts who went there and the engineers who built the vehicles in which they went. But even as a space enthusiast I rarely spend a thought about the people in the background who administered the biggest engineering programme ever. Yet as the book reveals there was a lot of important work to do behind the scenes. Fascinating insights into the world of high profile public administration are given in the book that stand up to the excitement of space walks and lunar landings. The book is also excellent in unravelling the complexity of running NASA and the deeper insights into the Apollo fire. All in all a brillant and - surprisingly - entertaining book, not just for the space freak.
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