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Space Race: The Epic Battle Between America and the Soviet Union for Dominion of Space Hardcover – May 9, 2006

4.0 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cadbury (Dreams of Iron and Steel) focuses on two men "obsessed by the same vision... locked in an unparalleled contest" to reach outer space: one is the cold, charismatic Wernher von Braun, but the soul of this finely honed, consistently compelling tale (the basis for a National Geographic channel series to air in June) belongs to Sergei Korolev. Korolev survived Stalin's gulag to become the mythical chief designer of the Soviet space program for 20 years. Driven to beat the Americans, Korolev and his team of long-suffering scientists and technicians, working with inadequate funding, threw together spacecraft of dubious quality and launched them into space. While von Braun's reputation has suffered immeasurably from the release of secret files revealing his use of slave labor under the Nazis, Korolev, though unacknowledged in his lifetime, today remains a hero in Russia. In the end this is a cautionary tale, a story of what happens when the dreams of humankind are hijacked by the darker aspirations of politics: the space shuttle still flies and the ICBMs still wait in their silos, and we are left to wonder at what price we soar to the heavens. 8 pages of color and 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Cadbury traces the development of rockets and spaceflight from German experiments before World War II to the manned moon landings, telling the story in layperson's language (though with a fine glossary appended) and in the process providing powerful biographies of the two outstanding designers, Wernher von Braun and Sergei Korolev. Korolev began as a supervisor of the efforts of German technicians captured during and after the war but later achieved outstanding results with his own designs by launching Sputnik and the first manned orbital flights. Von Braun's history included winking at the use of slave labor but also a succession of breakthroughs that led to the historic day in July 1969 when Neil Armstrong stepped out on the moon. Both Soviet and U.S. programs were plagued with failures and outright disasters that Cadbury graphically though evenhandedly describes, and Korolev literally worked himself to death. The true monument to both designers is the last two generations of manned spaceflight. Appealing to everyone from the generation who listened in high school to the early launches to high-school students today who want a keen-sighted view of the spacefaring past, this outstanding volume is likely to be one of the standards on its subject for years to come. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (May 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060845538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060845537
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #767,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Note: this book has already been released in the UK and Australia, so I'm doing a review of it before it has been released in the USA.

I should have realized when I picked up the book that I was wasting my money. The front cover of the UK/Australian version of this book is slightly different from the USA edition and the title is "Space Race: The untold story of two rivals & their struggle for the moon". Of course this story has already been told at least a dozen times - just do a search for `Space Race' or similar on Amazon. I should have realized that with a title that was so blatantly wrong to put the book down and get something else.

The book is basically a historical look at the USA and USSR space programs up to the Apollo 11 landing and there is nothing wrong with this - I enjoy reading books covering the historical background on various scientific, engineering and technical topics. Great examples include `Latitude' by David Sobel, `The Measure of all things' by Ken Alder, and of course, `The Right Stuff' by Tom Wolfe. However in `Space Race' there are numerous scientific and technical errors - and not just a few small ones either. Almost every time the author delves into some technical area there are fundamental and gross errors. For example, the author states that solar panels use the sun's heat to generate electricity. Well, no, solar panels (photovoltaic panels) actually use light, not heat. She refers to oxidizers as `fuel' rather than propellant and states that napalm will ignite in the vacuum of space. To some it may be unreasonable to criticize these errors, but if such basic technical errors are made it not only shows that the book was not properly researched and proof-read, but it also leads one to doubt the historical accuracy of the book.
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Format: Hardcover
If there's one thing more difficult than making history interesting to a general audience, it's writing a history of scientific achievement. While Deborah Cadbury's Space Race is not a perfect work, it does a worthy job of telling the history of the race between the United States and the Soviet Union to achieve supremacy in space. Cadbury makes this more than dry scientific history by looking at the two programs from the standpoint of the two men leading the projects.

Space Race is a companion to a television series of the same name that aired on the BBC last year and is scheduled to air on the National Geographic Channel next month. Cadbury tells the story by alternating in each chapter between Wernher von Braun and the American program and the Soviet program during roughly the same time period with a focus on von Braun's Soviet counterpart, Sergei Korolev. While von Braun was appearing before television cameras and gracing magazine covers, Korolev was unknown even in his own country. The Soviet obsession with secrecy meant that he was known only as the "Chief Designer." In fact, when Yuri Gagarian was honored in Red Square for being the first man in space, Korolev was not on the balcony or at the head table for the celebratory events. In fact, he never even made it to Red Square because his car broke down.

Cadbury uses this approach to take us from Korolev's imprisonment in the Soviet gulag during the Stalinist purges and the race to find Nazi rocket scientists as World War II came to a close to Korolev's death in 1966 and the ultimate success of America's lunar program. Where Cadbury excels is in taking us inside Korolev's life, work and struggles.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I came to maturity during the great space race to the Moon, and later worked on the Space Transportation System (AKA "Space Shuttle") program. I've also read quite a few books on the subject, and this is clearly one of the best.
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Format: Paperback
This is a very well done description of the race to be the first to the moon that was such a major event of the Cold War 60s, The American side of this race has been told before, probably better, in Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff, for example. But I learned a lot about the Russian program from this book, including just how close they were to success.

The book is really two parallel biographies of the two men who led the rival programs, Wernher von Braun, the charismatic German who led the American space program after managing the V2 rocket program for Hitler; and Sergei Korolev, the former political prisoner who rose to become the chief designer of the Soviet rockets.

Not to sound unpatriotic, and I am glad we won this race, but it is hard not to prefer Korolev, who endured so much for his country, over von Braun, who is outed in this book as a Nazi war criminal. The book is strongest when it really is a race between the two superpowers. It drops off some near the end, when Korolev dies, and it is hard not to think the Soviet prospect of putting a man on the moon died with him.
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Format: Paperback
I just finished this work by Deborah Cadbury. As pointed out by other reviewers, this work tracks the evolution and early development of the U.S. & Soviet space programs primarily through the stories of its' two prime movers; Von Braun and Korolov. I can't answer to the overall factual soundness here, but there are a ton of them worked into the narrative without slowing down the pace of the story. Yes, there were a few errors spotted. But this is an exciting tale. And yes, you could call the prose "florid," but the author chooses to make the presenation interesting and novel like--instead of dryly factual and academic. She tries to put the reader in the subject's shoes at various points to highten the drama. The lives of these two men where full of drama, no doubt about that. There is probably some speculation involved as well, but the author did consult diaries and eyewitnesses' reports to provide some foundation for portrayed emotions. At 354 pages, not a quick read, but certainly quite interesting. Some photos are included along with political cartoons from the era. I found the beginning tales regarding the end of WWII in Europe and the odysses of the rocket technitions very gripping. The cold war background is present here, but only for context and not for political statements or preaching. Also, the possible implications of Von Braun's actions as related to war crimes is explored without sensationalism. I don't think this is a kids book, either. Adult subjects are covered in detail. Late High School or College ok as a foundation for serious study elsewhere.
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