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...the Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  161 ratings  ·  15 reviews
This highly acclaimed study approaches the space race as a problem in comparative public policy. Drawing on published literature, archival sources in both the United States and Europe, interviews with many of the key participants, and important declassified material, such as the National Security Council's first policy paper on space, McDougall examines U.S., European, and ...more
Paperback, 584 pages
Published September 25th 1997 by Johns Hopkins University Press
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4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  161 ratings  ·  15 reviews

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Apr 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Outdated, alas (about a third of the book is devoted to the passage of the 1962 Comsat Act, which was repealed by the Orbit Act about 15 years ago). Still, like all his book, wonderful writing and keen insight. My favorite: why did the Russians make it into space first? Simple--the U.S. had the first H-bomb, so the USSR had to build one quickly, and therefore couldn't devote time to miniaturizing it. Thus, half a decade later, when ICBMs were developed, the Russians had to build bigger ICBMs to ...more
Aaron Arnold
I read this in tandem with Charles Murray's Apollo, and it suffered mightily in the comparison. Judging from the glowing reviews of this book that are out there (and its Pulitzer Prize for History for 1986) I might the only person whose primary reaction to this very broad, extensive, and well-sourced "Political History of the Space Age" was that it could have used some perspective, but that's life. Before I start complaining, let me describe the work: McDougall's subject here are the changes tha ...more
Bobby Fiasco
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Pretty good political/industrial history of the space race, but through no fault of its own suffers from its age. Published in 1985 (or 6?) there's a lot that the west didn't yet know about the Soviet program.
Steve Hart
Nov 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. I picked this up to learn more about NASA history now that i work for them, but expected it to be on things like the moon missions, etc. In fact, it was much more a book on the cold war and cold war policy. That being said, it was a fascinating look at how our R&D structures came into being and an interesting analysis of what happens when a capitalistic society tries to fight communism by installing state-run research and technology programs. "Technocracy" was the big word th ...more
Nate Huston
Feb 26, 2013 rated it liked it
McDougall's book is very well researched. It largely tells the back-and-forth space development, exploration, and exploitation tale between the USSR & the US. The book is thematically centered on the emergence of technocracy in the US as a result of (perceived or real) need to compete with the USSR for national prestige in space. In McDougall's analysis, the success of the lunar landing set the stage for LBJ to implement a number of technocratic, centrally managed national programs, to inclu ...more
Robert Sparrenberger
A very thorough look at the space race from a political viewpoint. The problem with this book is it is horribly overwritten. 461 pages of dense text that could be whittled down by at least 100 pages. Excruciating details are discussed leaving the reader with a headache from all the material.

The author also wants to get deep towards the end and turn philosophical. I was so tired that my eyes glazed over reading about the origins of the universe.

There is also a lot of exclamation points in this
Jul 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author finished writing this tome shortly after the "Challenger" exploded on lift-off, killing all seven astronauts, i.e. over three decades ago. However, a lot of space history occurred before that incident. If one did not already know, Czarist Russia had scientists working on the theory of space flight; a preponderance of the early space scientists found their inspiration in writers such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells; and, the missile gap did not exist. The book is logically divided into p ...more
Jun 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who like modern history
This is a fascinating book--most of us know the basics of the space program--Mercury, Apollo, Gemini, etc.--but fewer know about how Eisenhower didn't take Sputnik very seriously, because it really wasn't a major feat of science. The book tells of a lesser known space race between the the Army and Navy and the NACA (later NASA) to see who would develop the USA's major launch vehicles. Lots of good discussion of military and civilian uses of space, the history of spy satellites, and the like. A b ...more
Phil Smith
Sep 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book was required reading during a graduate course covering space policy. I found it to be a beautifully written book, something rare among books covering the history of spaceflight and the deeper meaning space holds for humankind (the irony isn't lost on me). A must read for those who a seeking a solid and well-written account of space history and the role of politics throughout.
Aug 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Well written, behind the scenes deep exploration of space race from an inside perspective. Some technical issues explored. 600 pages of intrigue really just the travails of humans trying overcome Earth's high gravity. Civilizations on worlds escape velocities of, say, a mere 4 km/s would likely have a far more boring history.
Jan 06, 2017 rated it liked it
This was pretty decent. I enjoyed the policy discussions, but the painstakingly detailed descriptions of evolving ICBM technology bored me. But if you're of a more technical bent, and have any interest in space travel, NASA, and such, you'll love it.
Sep 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical
Breathtaking. Shifts effortlessly from the details of American and Soviet space programs to the overarching questions of the relationship between humanity and technology, progress and freedom, and all of it beautifully written.
Sep 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Exhaustive detail can be a plus and a minus- it serves as both here. The book is a bit out of date now, but covers its intended time period well. It's often a bit repetitive, and the writing is so so dry. Well deserving of its Pultizer, it's still a very difficult book to read.
Sep 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Interesting, long long look at the background, the politics, and the implications for American (and Russian) society during the Space Race.
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