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A Ball, a Dog, and a Monkey: 1957 - The Space Race Begins Hardcover – September 18, 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Soviet Union captured the world's attention in November 1957 when it shot a shaggy little mutt named Laika (Barker) into space on Sputnik II, which followed closely after Sputnik I, the first satellite ever launched. Pulitzer prize–winning journalist D'Antonio (The State Boys Rebellion) recounts how Americans, even though frightened by the Soviets' apparent superiority in space, warmed to Russian reports on the pooch. The daily paper in Huntsville, Ala.—where Nazi rocket meister Wernher von Braun was scheming to get his Redstone rockets into space—advertised the local pound with a picture of a refugee from the Soviet space program suspended from a parachute. D'Antonio chronicles the frenzied year of 1958, when the U.S. Army and Air Force hawked their competing rocket designs to a president apparently more interested in his golf game, and an ambitious senator named Lyndon Johnson made political hay out of rockets exploding on the launch pad. American rocketeers wrapped up the year by sending a laid-back monkey named Gordo into orbit. Space buffs will be familiar with most of the details of D'Antonio's story, but his fast-paced narrative incorporates firsthand accounts of everyday citizens caught up in the excitement of America's push into space. 8 pages of photos. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Competing with Matthew Brzezinski's Red Moon Rising (2007), D'Antonio's story of the space age's opening shots has less about politics, more about rocketry, and is archly exuberant about the improvisations of the first orbital objects. To call them satellites might overdignify Sputnik and America's first astronaut, Gordo the squirrel monkey. D'Antonio sardonically stresses that they and the unreliable rockets that blasted them into the heavens were ad hoc gadgets, rushed to launch pads in the frantic propaganda competition between the U.S. and the USSR. Any weird rocket idea in 1957–58 seemed like a sane idea, such as launching atom bombs into space or the recorded voice of President Eisenhower, assuring earthlings of America's desire for peace. Besides narrating countdowns, missile failures, and nuclear explosions, D'Antonio also evokes the boomtown atmosphere of Cape Canaveral through two young reporters, Jay Barbree and Wickham Stivers, who cut their teeth on the space-age story. An entertaining writer, D'Antonio delivers the technological heroics on which spaceflight fans are keen. Taylor, Gilbert

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1St Edition edition (September 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743294319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743294317
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,731,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I was in 9th grade for Vanguard and Explorer, but I would later come to work on Gemini and Apollo as an engineer at Kennedy. I remember studying the IGY in school.

This book does a great job of bring the fascinating history of the beginning of the space race alive, and I hated to put it down. There are a few factual/historical errors and typos, but nothing that seriously detracts from the content.

I really enjoyed the book, and learned quite a bit of new information. All in all, a very good read with fewer errors than I notice in most space histories.
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Format: Hardcover
The early history of the space race will probably seem a bit alien and strange for younger persons who know or remember only NASA's failures (amid some continuing triumphs). For anyone old enough to remember staring with wonder at Sputnik as it crossed the sky over their front yard shortly after October 4, 1957 (I was eleven years old and as it turns out, what we saw was its booster rocket behind the actual satellite), this book brings out the political and bureaucratic infighting in the U.S. military that occurred at the time, as well as the story of the Soviet engineers who pulled off the feat and who were carefully hidden from public view. This book is clearly written and is close to being a page turner. It combines narratives based on interviews with those who were involved in everything from getting U.S. rockets off the ground to those who scrambled to provide housing for those first coming to Cape Canaveral, with straight historical analysis and description of the era and just enough detail. Highly recommended whether you are old enough to remember Sputnik and want an account of what was going on you DIDN'T know about, or are younger and want a readable account of the early era of the "space race".
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Format: Hardcover
It has been a half century now since the United States government made its initial commitment to the space program. As a result of our involvement in space the lives of average Americans have been changed considerably over the past five decades. Fantastic new technologies that were simply unimaginable 50 years ago are now a part of our everyday lives. And people are living longer, healthier lives as a result of the medical advances spawned by the space race. To try to help put all of this in some kind of perspective Michael D'Antonio has come up with a terrific new book. Like an episode of the popular old TV series "Time Tunnel", "A Ball, A Dog, And A Monkey" carries us back to the year 1957 when it all began. It proves to be an fascinating and eye opening journey.

In "A Ball, A Dog, And A Monkey: 1957 - The Space Race Begins" Michael D'Antonio introduces us to many of the major players who were there at the very beginning of this fantastic voyage. Perhaps no one is more interesting or more controversial than one Wehrner von Braun. As a young boy growing up in Prussia, von Braun was obsessed with the notion of space travel. And as a young man, von Braun would become one of Nazi Germany's premier rocket experts. At the conclusion of World War II the United States recruited von Braun and a number of other German scientists to aid in the development of the U.S. space program. In addition, we also meet key people like James Van Allen, General J. Bruce Medaris and presidential advisor Herbert York who all made significant contributions to the cause in the earliest days of the space race. There is also quite a bit of information of the politics of outer space. You will learn who stepped up to support space exploration and who was skeptical.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So now it had begun. The conquest of space, for which the prophets, Tsiolkovskij, Oberth, von Braun, Clarke, Gatland, Ley, Gartmann, Burgess and others had argued so long and so eloquently. Of course it was slightly disturbing that the Soviets were the first, after all, we had been waiting for Vanguard for a couple of years now. Floods of words have inundated the sea of printed pages since then. One might wonder what new there would be to be found in yet another book on the beginning of the Space Race.
Well, for anyone who lived through those years,it's nice to remember, and to partake of the reflections of others on those times. For those, the majority of readers, to whom all this is ancient history, it will be an illumination of the sentiments of a bygone age. It was really an quaint and different age, with different values, most of which we, tankfully, have left behind, an age that should stay bygone, and good riddance. Mr D'Antonio presents the actual events, as they happened, well, most of that is to be found elsewhere. Much of the reminiscenses also have been published before. So what then? There is, of course the possibility of aquiring all those books and articles, if you have the inclination, the means to do so - and the shelf room to accomodate it all. Here you have a representative digest of all that stuff, spiced with interwiews by the author, not to be found elsewhere, in all comprising a synthesis you won't find anywhere else. Interspaced with the luminaries and main actors of the drama we meet those so-called "ordinary" - more often than not not-so-ordinary - people, whose lifes were touched by all the strange things going on.
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