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"Live from Cape Canaveral": Covering the Space Race, from Sputnik to Today Hardcover – August 28, 2007

3.7 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

NBC TV reporter Barbree will be a familiar figure to many readers for his frequent appearances on the Today show and his decadeslong coverage of the space program. As a cub radio announcer in Georgia in the late 1950s, Barbree (coauthor of Moon Shot) realized the next big story was taking place on the rocket launch pad in Florida. He began a string of scoops early on when, hiding in a men's room stall, he heard that a satellite launch would carry the first broadcast from space, a recorded message from President Eisenhower. Barbree's inside access allows him to give pungent details: in 1961, [t]he astronauts' crew quarters... were smelly, military, uncomfortable and too damn close to the chimpanzees' colony (a chimp having preceded man into space). While recounting the exploits of the early cowboy astronauts, he gives equal time to the tragedies of Apollo 1 and Challenger (he broke the story on the cause of the shuttle's disaster) and the near-tragedy of Apollo 13. Barbree writes with infectious enthusiasm about the glory days of space exploration, and his book will be an enjoyable introduction for a new generation and a fond remembrance for boomers. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Barbree got his first taste of covering the space race in 1957 when he did a cursory radio report on the launch of Russia's Sputnik 1 launch, the satellite that finally lit a match under the lagging efforts of U.S. space exploration. In this engrossing memoir, he retraces the politics—domestic and international—as well as the science and technology behind the U.S. space program. Barbree has covered every mission flown by astronauts from Sputnik to the failed U.S. Vanguard, later triumphs and the tragedies of Challenger and Columbia, and the drama of Apollo 13. He includes firsthand details on the personalities behind the missions: Werner von Braun, the German-born scientist who pushed to start the U.S. program, and astronauts Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and others. With obvious love of his work, Barbree offers dramatic descriptions of the launches and revealing looks at the camaraderie among the astronauts and the reporters who covered the beat. A fascinating look at the people behind the U.S. space program. Bush, Vanessa

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian; 1st edition (August 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061233927
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061233920
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,758,891 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Terry Sunday TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I first heard about Jay Barbree's "Live from Cape Canaveral," I had high hopes for it. I expected it to be a memoir of one of radio and television's longest-serving and most-respected space reporters, a man who covered America's space program "live from Cape Canaveral" virtually since its inception. I looked forward to reading the "untold" story of the developing relationship between the space program and the media, back in the pre-cable, pre-satellite days of black-and-white television and rabbit-ear antennas. I eagerly anticipated gaining new insights into the astronauts and into other space reporters of the early days--men such as Walter Cronkite and Jules Bergman--based on Mr. Barbree's personal knowledge. I expected to read previously unpublished, behind-the-scenes revelations about the nation's space missions from someone who had "been there and done that" since day one.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed on all counts.

"Live from Cape Canaveral" is basically nothing more than an extremely superficial summary of American manned space missions. And I do mean superficial. The entire Skylab flight program, for example, gets literally one short paragraph, with absolutely no mention of the near-loss of the orbital workshop on launch, or the heroic and successful efforts of three astronaut crews to restore it to habitability. In "Live from Cape Canaveral," Mr. Barbree does not take advantage of his position, his longevity as a spaceflight journalist or his alleged "insider" knowledge to add anything to the literature of American spaceflight. He passed up a golden opportunity to contribute worthwhile new information to the historical record in favor of simply re-hashing the same stories that have been told countless times before.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an extremely disappointing book, that should have delivered so much more, especially from such a well-credentialled author. I have read practically every biography and book published on this period of the US space program, and I rate this book (very) near the bottom of this very long list.

You would expect the author to have offered a new slant on a (by now) very well reported space program. Not so; the book offers litle that is new and captivating. It was disappointing to see the book full of material that is better covered elsewhere; for instance, in-flight transcripts between the Mercury astronauts and Mission Control.

I was expected (not unreasonably) a behind-the-scenes account of the early days of the space program, the author's interaction with the astronauts, the friendships formed, the trials and tribulations of reporting in those "early days".

Yet it either doesn't cover threse topics (which creates doubt - possibly unfairly - as to how close the author actually was to the action and to the main players - despite claiming many as life long friends), or it rushes through them. For instance, the author's role in covering three moon landings is covered in 1 page!

The book ends up being a very hurried dash through the history of the space program, without enough reference to Barbree's role in it.

The book also has a number of unecessarily sycophantic references to other members of the NBC team of reporters, without giving any meaningful, or new, information about Barbree's role in covering any of these missions.

There are interesting parts of the book. It begins being captivating when Barbree discusses the abandoned Journalist-in-Space program in the mid-1980s, but that story soon drifts off course as well.
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Format: Hardcover
I assumed that Barbree's experience in witnessing so much of our space program first-hand would give him some special insights, but this is not the case. There's not much here that can't be found in other, better books about the Space Program, and this book has about as much depth as a bunch of 3 minute TV news stories strung together. Although I enjoyed many of Barbree's anecdotes about the astronauts, I found that the author frequently got the message and the messenger confused, inserting himself in the narrative far too often. It's clear that Barbree was at best a journeyman reporter, so reading his accounts of events from his own life are utterly dull compared to the historic events of the space program. I found little interest in reading about Barbree's heart attack or his quest to become a journalist astronaut in a program that was ultimately cancelled. He likes to name-drop too, telling us what great guys Chet Huntley and Walter Cronkite were, and trying to impress us with the fact that he met Jimmy Carter a few times. Barbree spends an entire chapter making a big deal about the fact that HE was the first reporter to go public with the information that a faulty O-Ring was the cause of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster, as if being first on the air with a report has some sort of historic importance. (No doubt it was important to HIM on the day, but in the perspective of history, the information is far more important than who reported it.) Regardless, he didn't uncover the O-Ring story in some sort of investigation on his part, nor did he expose it as a cover-up; he simply got two engineer/scientists to tell him this information before they told anyone else. More troubling is an account regarding the Apollo program.Read more ›
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