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Epic Rivalry: The Inside Story of the Soviet and American Space Race Hardcover – September 18, 2007
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"Epic Rivalry is history at its best, a fascinating story deeply researched and well told."
—David Maraniss, author of They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967
"Epic Rivalry is a stunning new book on the space race. Erudite yet entertaining, it clearly analyzes the events leading to the first lunar landing, as seen through American and Soviet eyes. It makes fascinating reading today and merits a spot on the bookshelf as a valuable reference."
—Michael Collins, Apollo 11 command-module pilotand author of Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys
"Beautifully written and highly informative, Epic Rivalry is an exceptionally engaging look back at one of the most compelling episodes of the Cold War—the space race. Hardesty and Eisman make use of the trove of new information available in recent years to recreate the sense of wonder, excitement, and urgency that drove men and women on both sides of the Iron Curtain to make a reach for the new frontier of space. By successfully weaving the technical with the human, they have given readers a fresh view of one of humanity's greatest adventures."
—Asif Siddiqi, author of Challenge to Apollo: The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945-1974
About the Author
Von Hardesty is the author of Air Force One; Lindbergh: Flight's Enigmatic Hero; and Red Phoenix: The Rise of Soviet Air Power, 1941–1945, among many other publications. He is a curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Gene Eisman is a veteran journalist and was the researcher for Air Force One.
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It is a great book for any person interested in space, history, and the Cold War. The amazing forward by Sergei Khurshchev really makes it worth having. Both authors have a huge amount of knowledge about space and together make a wonderful book. Can't really say enough about this book.
Von Hardesty and Gene Eisman take you back to the origins, before Sputnik, through its launch in October of 1957 and into the arms of current space. With eloquence and discernment they bring to life the voices of the electrifying story from both sides of the Iron Curtain. There is magic in these pages because what you are hearing isn't competing specifications but rather the rise and fall of mutual dreams.
Noah could have floated on the flood of space books currently available. Epic Rivalry is the place to dip your oar. It's the core of the whole story. If you are old enough to remember or young enough to wonder, Epic Rivalry is your book and Hardesty and Eisman your always illuminating guides.
I found the discussion of German rocket development during WWII the most interesting part, and learned a few things about the Russian space efforts that I hadn't heard before. The discussion of the US space program was fairly mundane. If you followed the news during that period of time you'll already know most of what's presented here.
It starts well, with an first-person account by Sergei Kruschchev of the first Sputniks. Kruschchev had a unique vantage point on the whole affair, as a technically knowledgeable person with an insider's pass on the political affairs of the Soviet Union. The first chapter or so, on the WW II German effort is worthwhile as well.
From that point it deteriorates rapidly into superficial re-hashes of old news, poorly presented. I started working on an errata, but gave up after averaging one a page for twenty pages. Some are slipups on minor facts: page 159 map referring to "Kennedy Space Flight Center", or using the acronym "LEM", which was discarded in the early 60's, or saying that the Cape was scorpion infested. Some are bad editing, leading to incorrect statements: p. 249 "Mir, which remained in orbit between 1971 and 2001". Some are failures to globally edit, e.g. telling the tale of the renaming of Cape Canaveral twice. There's also a problem of scope: at times it can't decide if it wants to be about the 50s and 60s or today. This on top of being full of technical groaners too numerous to count, like constantly calling RP-1 "volatile" or completely missing the point on why Gemini used ejection seats rather than an escape tower.
A single volume account of the most turbulent days of the space effort would be welcome; sadly, this isn't it. I wish I could even recommend it as an introduction, to be followed immediately by something more in-depth, but it's so full of inaccuracies I would be doing the reader a disservice. For the interested reader, "Apollo" by Murray and Cox, and "Red Star in Orbit" by James Oberg will readably take you through the two sides, are much more thorough and technically correct, and both rated 5 stars by hordes of readers. They will take you three times as long to read, but you will ultimately profit by not having to unlearn any thing later.