- Series: Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology
- Hardcover: 291 pages
- Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 2010 edition (February 10, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 023011010X
- ISBN-13: 978-0230110106
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,378,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon (Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology) 2010th Edition
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Space policy was not an issue in the 1960 presidential election won by John Kennedy, who until April 1961 exhibited little interest in it. Then Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth. Logsdon recounts what ensued in this meticulous tracking of Kennedy’s decision to launch America toward the moon. Focusing on bureaucratic and budgetary aspects, Logsdon reasonably concludes that JFK’s decision was politically rational, though the evidence Logsdon adduces also could support the view that JFK acted hastily, out of motivation to restore his and America’s prestige. He certainly was unlike Eisenhower, who cared little about image and who favored fiscally sustainable progress in space technology, not an impetuous moon program that ultimately had no follow-through. As these rival interpretations vie for the reader’s loyalty, Logsdon’s narrative details JFK’s subsequent decisions related to the Apollo program’s budget, the political derby to win its installations, and futile gestures to entice Soviet participation in the adventure. For the inside facts about JFK’s instigation of the lunar missions, Logsdon, often seen in documentaries and television news about space, is the definitive authority. --Gilbert Taylor
'Echoes of this time lift off the pages of John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon, a new book by John M. Logsdon, a political scientist and longtime space policy specialist at George Washington University. He has drawn on new research in archives, oral histories and memoirs available in recent years to shed new light on the moon race.' The New York Times 'Some say that Kennedy conceived of the race to the moon principally to recover from the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs. John Logsdon, the doyen of American space studies, takes a more generous view in his new book Kennedy was not especially interested in space, and said as much in private. But after the Soviet Union sent Yuri Gagarin into orbit he believed it to be vital for America to take on and beat the Soviets at something very hard. The moon fitted this need like a glove. Planting a man on its surface required no big technological innovations, says Mr. Logsdon, 'just very expensive mastery over nature using the scientific and technological knowledge available in 1961.' The Economist
'Logsdon charts the evolution of JFK's thinking about space including repeated offers as president to cooperate with the Soviets from his senatorial career up until the assassination. He chronicles the intergovernmental struggle for consensus and highlights the policymaking contributions of presidential aide Ted Sorensen, science advisor Jerome Wiesner, Vice President Lyndon Johnson and NASA administrator James Webb.' Kirkus
'For the inside facts about JFK's instigation of the lunar missions, Logsdon, often seen in documentaries and television news about space, is the definitive authority.' Booklist
'A new account by John Logsdon, an eminent historian of the space program.' The Washington Monthly
'The Apollo story has been told many times, but Logsdon's analysis provides a welcome reexamination of the motives, rationales, and political infighting that characterized the Kennedy administration's space policies. Recommended.' CHOICE
'In a time when America is looking for another 'Sputnik Moment' to spur the country on a number of fronts, this scholarly and well-written look at the nation's 'Apollo Moment' captures presidential decision-making stemming from the heat of the space race between the United States and the former Soviet Union. Readers will find this book a treasured resource. Logsdon's devotion to this book is visible through and through including an invaluable and insightful set of notes for each chapter. Beyond the U.S. President, you'll find a landscape of people that also helped shape that 'one small step' off planet. A must-read.' The Coalition for Space Exploration
'John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon is informed not only by Logsdon's first book but by 40 years of his own and others' scholarship and in that regard it sets the new gold standard for all academics who study space not just on Kennedy and the initiation of the space race but on how the complex decisions governing the American space program have often depended on the intersection of chance, opportunity, political motive, and cold-hearted, cost-benefit analysis rather than dreamy aspirations 'to boldly go where no man has gone before.'' Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly
'In John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon, historian John Logsdon examines the political forces that shaped space policy in the tragically brief tenure of the Kennedy Administration. Logsdon is returning to familiar ground: in 1970 he published The Decision to Go to the Moon: Project Apollo and the National Interest, one of the first books to examine the rationale for embarking on such a risky, expensive endeavor. Why revisit the topic now? As Logsdon notes in the book's preface, a lot of key documents from that era have been released in the intervening years; the 1970 book had been based primarily on interviews with key players and secondary sources, with the research mostly completed prior to Apollo 11 itself. And, just as important, the perspective that four decades of distance provides offers a new perspective on the events of that era and their aftermath.' The Space Review
'A comprehensive and insightful retrospect of the conception and early days of Project Apollo. Space aficionados will see immediate parallels between President Kennedy's thought processes and the space policy debates of today.' Neil Armstrong, Commander, Apollo 11
'In contrast to the hesitations, reconsiderations, and cancellations that have plagued recent U.S. activities in space, President John F. Kennedy's shining May 25, 1961, challenge to send humans to the Moon remains a beacon of national resolve. John M. Logsdon's review of the whole history of President Kennedy's civil space policy, especially events after the May 25 speech, reveals the special circumstances that kept the lunar goal on track. Hesitation arose, but Kennedy's pragmatism ultimately prevailed. Logsdon explains why. With this insightful analysis, Logsdon demonstrates again why he remains the dean of space policy historians.' Howard E. McCurdy, Professor of Public Policy, American University and University of Washington, and author of Space and the American Imagination
'John Logsdon's book is a high quality scholarly work, deeply researched, but also an easy read. It is an insightful history of JFK's decision to use the space program and especially the Apollo lunar landing project as a rational Cold War response to the perceived 'missile gap' and the Soviet space challenges of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin's flight.' Bill Anders, Astronaut, Apollo 8, and Executive Secretary, National Aeronautics and Space Council, 1969-1972
'One of the definitive political histories of the quest to put a man on the Moon.' Matthew Brzezinski, author of Red Moon Rising
'John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon provides a comprehensive, insider's account of one of the most important and far-reaching policy decisions of the Kennedy administration. It is a masterful case study of presidential decision making.' Professor Steven J. Wayne, Presidential Scholar, Georgetown University
'An extraordinary book on the genesis of Project Apollo . . . Indeed, the first clear and definitive account of the pivotal role played by John F. Kennedy in shaping the American space program. How President Kennedy reached his fateful decision to enter the space race to reach the Moon is now told fully in an insightful and authoritative way.' Von Hardesty, Curator, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
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The White House one page memo to VP Johnson, dated 4/21/61 (photo provided in chapter 5), that was written by presidential special council Ted Sorenson, and signed by President Kennedy, which tasked the Johnson-led Space Council to undertake a survey of the US space-related situation viz-a-viz the USSR's, and which ultimately led to the decision to go to the Moon, stands as a model for anyone in charge of laying out a set of concise points, related to an argument for, or a plan of action for, a significant Engineering effort.
It was also Sorenson that was mainly responsible for the two famous Kennedy lunar- mission-related speeches:
1) The Special address to Congress "proposal to go to the Moon in this decade" on 4/25/61
2) The "We choose to go to the Moon" speech at Rice University on 9/12/62
A major omission in the final navel-contempletion-filled final chapters is the lack of mention of any of the Soviet's failed lunar mission elements - especially the failed enormous N1 lunar mission space launch vehicle, and planned compact 1-man lunar lander.
That being stated, the book is a fascinating examination of why and how Kennedy elevated the country's semi-stagnant manned space program into a program with the highest national priority. It tracks how Kennedy picked a moon landing over several other space related programs; how he made certain that this program would not be DOA in Congress and would get the funding to fast track it. It is interesting to note that Kennedy was the only president to back his choice of space program with adequate funding, something George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush failed to do when they unveiled their now defunct Manned Mars Mission initiatives.
Logsdon also describes how Kennedy's science advisor, Jerome Wiesner, attempted (almost single-handedly) to force NASA to rescind their publically-announced choice of the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous technique to get to and land on the moon, in favor of his favored Earth Orbit Rendezvous technique. Wiesner gave in after three months of heated discussions and NASA was finally free to proceed with LOR.
The books also addresses Kennedy's offer to the Soviet Union of landing on the moon together. This is a fascinating "what if" topic that can be discussed ad infinitum ad nausem. But in the end, after the November 1963 event in Dallas, it is all speculation.
As one reads this excellent book, the irony of Kennedy's lack of real interest in space exploration vs that he is so identified with the United States' most singular accomplishment of the second half of the 20th century, cannot be ignored.
John has a wonderful way of telling a story, choosing his words carefully and delivering them with an unvarnished honesty that is both refreshing and illuminating. He chooses facts and painstaking detail, leaving personal agendas and creative writing exercises to others. This book is a stark view of the proverbial "sausage making process" in D.C. and reveals just how close we were to taking a different direction...or none at all. To me it underscores how much NASA was able to manage its image and the public's perception, and resultant support, of the program in an era devoid of the 24 hour news cycle.
If you're like me, a child and fan of the halcyon days of human space exploration, your memories and historic perspective are truly incomplete without reading John's book. It's a quick, fascinating read deserving of a place in your library.
Lifelong Space Enthusiast
Member and Chairman of the Board, The Planetary Society