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Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries that Ignited the Space Age Hardcover – September 18, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The writing is fast-paced and crisp, the stakes high and the tension palpable from the first pages of this high-flying account of the early days of the space race between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., a race ignited by the Soviet launch of the first satellite, Sputnik, in 1957. Brzezinski (Fortress America), a contributor to the New York Times Magazine, says this battle for military and technological control of space, part of the larger Cold War, had lasting consequences. Brzezinski illuminates how the space race divided Americans: for instance, then Sen. Lyndon Johnson wanted to aggressively pursue the race, but President Eisenhower thought the ambitious senator was merely seeking publicity. The author also dissects the failed American spin: despite White House claims that Sputnik was no big deal, the media knew it was huge. Sputnik II, launched a month later, was even more unsettling for Americans, causing them to question their way of life. The principals—Khrushchev, Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles, rocket scientist Werner von Braun—are vividly realized. Yet even more than his absorbing narrative, Brzezinski's final analysis has staying power: although the U.S. caught up to the U.S.S.R., it was the Russians' early dominance in space that established the Soviet Union as a superpower equal to America. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Comparable to Paul Dickson's Sputnik: Shock of the Century (2001), Brzezinski's speedy narrative of the first satellite slings readers from launch pads to conference rooms. Beyond the storied facts of the Sputnik event, Brzezinski integrates a theme of Eisenhower and Khrushchev's initially dim understanding of Sputnik's significance. They soon sensed the extraordinary societal reaction of pride in the USSR and panic in the U.S., but their adjustments were quite different. Brzezinski dramatizes Khrushchev's personally shaky grip on power in 1957, when Stalinists attempted to oust him, connecting the satellite spectacular to a reinforcement of his political position. Ike, on the other hand, his eye on expenses, tried to resist the do-something stampede but was overwhelmed. From the domestic politics of the cold-war rivals, Brzezinski shifts to the technically temperamental missiles with which the Soviet Union's secret "Chief Designer" (Sergei Korolev) and his counterparts on rival U.S. Army and Navy teams strove to heave an orbiting orb. A kinetic rendition of Sputnik, this will score with spaceflight buffs. Taylor, Gilbert

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; First Edition edition (September 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080508147X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805081473
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #184,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ron N. Butler on November 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A fast-paced treatment of the Soviet Union's launch of the first artificial Earth satellite and the American response, but the narrative bogs down frequently as the author stops to fill in background information in the course of a scene. The author also drops technical minutiae into the narrative to maintain interest and add authenticity. Unfortunately, Brzezinski is not that well-grounded in aerospace technology or terminology, and inserts enough clangers that the result is less an air of authenticity than of "truthiness."

Where this weakness particularly struck me was Chapter 6, "Pictures in Black and White," the opening of which describes the launch of a CIA U-2 mission to photograph the launch complex at Tyuratam.

* Brzezinski apparently has read that the U-2 had "bicycle landing gear," i.e., only two landing gear, located along the fuselage centerline. That becomes "The landing gear... appeared to consist of a lone bicycle wheel."

* Describes the CIA pilot as wearing an orange full-pressure suit, a garment that was not developed until years later. (The pilot would have been wearing a partial-pressure suit, like the David Clark MC-3.)

* Confuses Bell Aircraft with Bell Labs -- and further confuses the Bell Aircraft X-16 project with the "Americanization" of British Canberra bombers by Martin Aircraft.

* Describes the U-2 as having a wingspan "three times" its 60-foot fuselage length. For the early-model U-2's being discussed the fuselage length was a little over 49 feet, the wingspan 80 feet. I was starting to wonder if Brzezinski had ever seen a photo of a U-2.

* Describes attempts by MiG-21 fighters to intercept the first U-2 flight over the Soviet Union in July 1956.
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Format: Hardcover
I must have received a pre-release copy of 'Red Moon Rising' because I review books for a large newspaper. Two weeks ago the doorbell rang and there it was on my doorstep. I'm glad they sent it. This political history of the sputnik launch reads as if it was co-written by Ian Flemming.

The political effects of the Soviet launch of Sputnik in October 1957 shocked the Russians as much as the Americans: Sputnik was simply the by-product of Soviet attempts to create a decent missile-weapons system. But by being the first in space, the USSR placed itself in an orbit equal with the world's then sole superpower, the USA. PS1--prostreishy sputnik, or `simplest satellite,'--spent only 92 days beeping innocuously far above the earth, but it instilled far more terror in the West than 1000s of silos spread across Siberia ever could. And Khrushchev, technologically ignorant but ever the opportunist, milked it for all it was worth.

Of course for the USA the launch of Sputnik was humiliating, shattering America's complacency and belief in its technological superiority, and exposing US security weaknesses even then ("For the Soviets, it was mind-boggling how much information the Americans naively left lying around for the KGB to scoop up. Russian generals didn't need a satellite to find out what was going on in Washington. They needed a missile to destroy it." pg. 144). Most significantly, Sputnik caused untold political upheaval. That "one small ball" was Eisenhower's undoing.

In fact, 'Red Moon Rising' is essentially just this--a political history of technology, not the history of a technological event.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a fascinating look at the start of the space race, how the Soviets won and why, and the forces that surrounded those momentous events. Author Brzezinski works both sides of the Iron Curtain, showing what influenced Khrushchev's interest in the project and Eisenhower's disdain of the American counterpart, and makes it clear how really happenstance and uncertain the whole thing was.

The Soviet effort was headed by a visionary who's pretty much unknown outside Russia, and rather obscure even within his native country. His name was Sergei Korolev, and he was the visionary behind much of the early Soviet space program. The Soviets, of course, were paranoid, and their leadership was constantly insistent on the leadership getting credit for everything, so even in Khrushchev's more liberal Soviet Union Korolev's name was classified until after his death. The author does a wonderful job recreating the life of this loud, boisterous, intelligent scientist who wasn't the best rocket designer, but was a pretty good project manager who contrived to use other people's talents to their full potential. His counterpart, Bruce Medaris (another unknown), is similarly brought to life, and the result is a fascinating look at the early space programs of the two countries involved.

The book is to a fair extent about the politics involved in the race on each side, so there's a considerable discussion of the major issues of the day, especially those which distracted President Eisenhower or Khrushchev when either of them was trying to make a decision regarding the launching of missiles or satellites. Eisenhower had to deal with the British and French invading Egypt, and himself sort of invade Little Rock, Arkansas with the 101st Airborne to integrate the schools there.
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