Paul's Reviews > A Ball, a Dog, and a Monkey: 1957---The Space Race Begins

A Ball, a Dog, and a Monkey by Michael D'Antonio
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Feb 06, 11

bookshelves: history, nonfiction, four-star-plus

A fascinating history of the first two years of the space race, 1957 and 1958. As the time period covered implies, Michael D'Antonio's purpose is strictly limited to the early Soviet and U.S. efforts to hurl objects into space, from the first Sputnik to the U.S. launch of an entire Atlas missile carrying a recording of President Eisenhower reading a message of peace, a launch carried out not really to broadcast a message of peace, but to put the Soviets in their place by placing the heaviest object yet into orbit. I remember a lot of this stuff . . . I was 11 and 12 when all this happened, and was out in the backyard every night looking for Sputnik and the follow-on American and Soviet satellites, glued to the TV and radio whenever anything space-related came on, following every word of Werner von Braun whenever he appeared on the Disney show (which was often). Exciting times. Reading this history as an adult, I'm now a bit more educated about the then-mysterious Russian program and the interservice rivalries that accompanied the American effort. Most of all, I'm terribly terribly impressed with the wisdom and leadership of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who kept his perspective about the early Soviet victories and managed to organize an effective space program in spite of squabbles between the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force, and the machinations of the military-industrial complex. And Laika . . . what a sad end for such a brave dog . . . I'm happy someone finally wrote a book giving Laika the attention she deserves.
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