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Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries that Ignited the Space Age

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,104 Ratings  ·  102 Reviews
For the fiftieth anniversary of Sputnik, the behind-the-scenes story of the fierce battles on earth that launched the superpowers into space

The spy planes were driving Nikita Khrushchev mad. Whenever America wanted to peer inside the Soviet Union, it launched a U-2, which flew too high to be shot down. But Sergei Korolev, Russia's chief rocket designer, had a riposte: an
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 18th 2007 by Times Books (first published January 1st 2007)
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A Man on the Moon by Andrew ChaikinThe Right Stuff by Tom WolfeLost Moon by Jim LovellFailure is Not an Option by Gene KranzCarrying the Fire by Michael  Collins
Space Race! Books
241 books — 108 voters
An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris HadfieldA Man on the Moon by Andrew ChaikinFailure is Not an Option by Gene KranzThe Last Man on the Moon by Eugene CernanThe Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
The Space Age
101 books — 27 voters

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Community Reviews

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Paul Chester
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked it a lot. If you are interesting in geeking out over the intricacies of the early years of the Soviet and US ICBM and space programmes, then this is the book for you. If you are not, it definitely isn't!
Brendan Monroe
All that you didn't know about the history of the Soviet/American space race. Really, I am surprised that there aren't more books about this rather major event in world history but, it seems to me anyway, that Matthew Brzezinski is one of the very first to put the extraordinary events leading up to America's entering the space age on paper.

The journey is a rather straightforward, but enjoyable, one. If it drags in parts - particular in the beginning - it's because a certain level of detail is p
Feb 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
As one who grew up during the raging years of the "Cold War" between the US and USSR, I was fascinated to read these insights into the foundation set during the early years of that standoff. The book covers a relatively brief period, about 1956-58, when the first artificial earth satellite (Sputnik) was launched by the Russians, up until the US launch of Explorer 1.

One fascinating aspect of this story was the relationship between development of military weapons (ICBM missiles that could deliver
Denis Onichshenko
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great introduction to space race between United States and USSR during pre-NASA period. It starts from the end of WW2 and ends with the launch of first American satellite (Exploler 1-Juno). It's very light read, but because of that it's doesn't dive too deep into technological aspects of rocket building. As a history piece it does a little better describing hysteria of cold war and inter-agency rivalry in US, but again it's particularly detailed on those subjects. Overall I would recommend this ...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
Jul 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. Perhaps it owes in part to the fact that I knew literally nothing about this time period in history or what exactly the space race meant in terms of politics and becoming a nuclear superpower. This was a fun way to open my eyes to the motivations behind some really amazing technology and a great jog into history with an informative and enjoyable author.
Mbogo J
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Halfway through this I had to pause and admonish myself for letting this book sit on my To read shelf for over two years each time losing to seemingly "worthy" books. Reading this reminded me that sometimes it becomes as clear as daybreak that the best use of your time is reading. We all have had those bad reading experiences where reading the book is migraine inducing, the content might not be your forte, the choice of words drab.... This book is the opposite of that.

It combines prose found in
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting look at how Soviet high politics and misinterpretations, combined with American bureaucracy and corruption lead to a brief period at which America lost its preeminent place in the sphere of soft power because most people believed the country had given up the mantle of hard power.
Dec 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Super solid audiobook with a good reader.
Jeff Kim
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A well written Book, very informative, will definitely recommend it.
Jul 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
In a well-paced and entertaining non-fiction read, Matthew Brzezinski, a journalist whose works have appeared in The New York Times, The Economist, The Washington Post Magazine and LA Times, and as a staff reporter in Moscow and Kiev during the 90s for The Wall Street journal, has crafted a delightful and character driven narrative on the origins of the space race between the Soviet Union and United States during the mid and late 1950s in his third work of non-fiction from 2007, Red Moon Rising: ...more
Michael Elkon
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
A solid, quick read. Brzezinski goes back and forth between the Americans and the Soviets in their attempts to put a man-made object into orbit. At times, the alternating chapters seemed forced, especially when the Soviets put Sputnik into orbit and there was no reason to come back to them thereafter. However, the structure generally works and it allows the reader to compare and contrast the two approaches.

My biggest takeaways as to how the US "lost" the space race are twofold. First, the Americ
May 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries that Ignited the Space Age explores the political side for the beginning of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Author Matthew Brzezinksi looks at the politicians and scientists that made space exploration possible for both countries. The book itself begins with a prologue in 1944 with the Nazis and ends on the cusp of the 1960 election. The epilogue covers the aftermath of the beginning for the Space Age and everything ...more
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The "space race" was actually a byproduct of the "arms race" between the USA and USSR and had it's beginnings in Nazi Germany. In September 1944, Hitler's army began launching V-2 rockets, the world's first ballistic missiles, against Britain. And when the war ended the Americans and Soviets quickly spirited away any bit of this new technology they could find, including the scientists and engineers who had developed it.

But while America subsequently pursued a strategy of long-range bombers to d
Patrick Sprunger
File under: Never Judge A Book By Its Cover

As is often the case with histories of the space race, Red Moon Rising functions more as a compact history of the early Cold War - the period between 1956 and 1958 in particular. Matthew Brzezinski covers the US Capitol at mid-decade as well as some other books expressly dedicated to the goal. Less attention has been given to Khrushchev beyond the secret speech, the Camp David powwow, and the shoe slapping incident. Brzezinski fleshes out the gaps admir
May 10, 2015 added it
Brzezinski's purpose in writing this book is to inform all of the hidden projects that the Russians had during the cold war time. He explains all of the things that the Russian's created. I feel that this book is written for anyone with an interest in history, Russia, and space history.

There is no theme stated in the book. The theme that I get out of this story is that even if we were facing the Soviets they had a huge part in the space race. The Soviets started and worked throughout the entir
Jul 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I am admittedly a bit biased, being a fan of space exploration since childhood, but this is a terrific book. It thoughtfully lays out the political underpinnings on both sides of the Cold War that detoured the race for the 1st effective ICBM into a race to put the first artificial satellite in orbit. Likewise, it exposes the technical hurdles and how each group sought to overcome them. It is amazing to consider that mere years after the invention of the transistor and a little over a decade afte ...more
Rupin Chaudhry
Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-military
Conquest of space was not driven my mankind's insatiable hunger for exploration but by the arms race; The race between two superpowers with radically different ideologies towards governance-freedom-lifestyle.
This is the story of ambitions, rivalries and cold-hard fear and paranoia that brought the world to the brink of self destruction under the garb of seemingly innocent but technically very challenging dream (and eventual realization) of putting man made object into space. The characters in t
Apr 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Given the industry I work in, it's probably not a surprise that I enjoy reading histories of space exploration. This book was one I'd never heard of until randomly going through an Audible list of books on sale, so I picked it up to augment my normal fantasy and sci-fi reading. Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Rivalries that Ignited the Space Age tells the story of the beginnings of the space race, when Russia was still a part of a Communist union and America was struggling through integration a ...more
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book covered a broader slice of the history than I expected. The focus of the book, as the title suggests, is Sputnik I, but there is a lot of sociopolitical history included from the years leading up to the launching of Sputnik I, Sputnik II, and the US satellite Explorer I. The book begins with a narration of the launch of the first V-2 rocket by Germany at Great Britain in September 1944. It then goes on to tell how the V-2 technology developed by Wernher Von Braun was obtained in varyin ...more
Apr 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, history
This book was interesting. Before I read this, what I knew of Sputnik could be summed up as "The Soviets launched a satellite before the US - that sent the US into panic and led to an increase in science education."

After reading this, which is well sourced with Soviet accounts as well as American, is a good history of the two sides' space programs, their debt to the German V2 program, and a whole lot of politics and political considerations that led to the eventual outcomes.

However dysfunctional
Perhaps the best book I've ever read summarizing the challenges, events, triumphs, failures, and figures of the early days of the Space Race. Although I might be biased in my review since this subject is one of my personal favorites to read about (not to mention the fact that I'm starting to get into Russian history in general), Brzezinski's prose is top-notch as he does a superb job of mixing profiles of such key figures as Sergei Korolov, Werner von Braun, Khruschev, and lesser-known people (t ...more
Nov 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are looking for a concise and approachable examination of humankind's entry into the Space Age, "Red Moon Rising" is a must-read. Mr. Brzezinski's book is both engaging and informative. The book reads not like a dull historical analysis, but rather an action-packed thriller. Mr. Brzezinski appears to be that rare author who can take seemingly dry historical facts and weave them into an entertaining narrative. I found Mr. Brzezinski's analysis of 1950's media coverage to be particularly in ...more
Brian Young
Oct 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Cold War Buffs
I started reading this book because the space race interested me, but now I look at in a totally different way. I never really tried seeing the space race from the soviet side, but it is so easy thanks to this brillient authors style. He makes the book play out like a fiction novel with a diverse cast of people, with a unique style of dialogue. I can honostly say that never have I seen a non-fiction book that has held my attention so well. Now some parts were sort of above my head(granted im onl ...more
Just A. Bean
Solid, if slightly melodramatic account of the Russian and US missile programs between the end of WWII and the US launch of Discovery. Lots of interesting technical details that weren't too technical for me to understand, and insight into the clash of personalities that drove and inhibited the programs. The prose was perhaps a little overdone, calling people "Malevolent" and such like, but it was a pretty entertaining read for all that, and I appreciated all the political context. I suppose that ...more
Nick Gotch
Feb 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
A nice story about the origin and history of the US/Soviet space race. Recounts the story from both the American and Russian sides, how Germany was looted for much of the initial equiptment, and what brought on the competition.

I learned a ton of fascinating things from reading this book. It tells how neither power really saw space as important until Sputnik made world headlines and brought the USSR into the light as a true technological superpower. From that point on the power of space explorati
This book focuses on the early competition between the Soviet Union and the United States to earn favorable publicity through launching satellites into space. It does not cover manned spaceflight, but is focused on the initial satellite launches in the 1950s. In general there was a close connection between the rockets used to launch satellites and those developed for launching long-range ballistic missiles. The Soviet designer Korolev and his team where the first to develop a rocket capable of l ...more
A well written account of the years from the end of the Second World War leading up to the Space Race of the 1960s. Mainly a political commentary rather than a military and scientific account, Brzezinski demonstrates his journalistic credentials by offering well researched stories from both America and the Soviet Union to build a narrative that explains the paranoia, misinformation, propoganda, and political fighting that existed both within and between these Cold War adversaries. The insight ga ...more
Feb 19, 2012 added it
Shelves: history
An intriguing overview of the beginnings of the space age, both in USSR and the US. The US might have been the first into space (with Von Braun's help) wouldn't it be for the Eisenhower's administration mismanagement of the rivaling rocket efforts in the USAF, army and navy. The USSR's success, however, was also a fruit of a number of circumstances (among them - Korolev's inability to solve the problem of reentry of the warhead of an ICBM) rather than that of careful planning.

The book has some s
This is a well-researched* history of the Soviet race to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, and how that inadvertently led to the launching, well in advance of the Americans, of a satellite. It covers the politics of the day in both countries in great detail, revealing as much about political infighting in the US armed forces and government as in the Soviet Politburo under Krushchev. If you liked 'The Right Stuff,' you'll like this. A lot.

*I say 'well researched' in that it intersec
Uber Hund
The critical messages Brzenzinski packages in this competent historical account were enough to overcome my disappointment at his omission of any meaningful content relating to their N1 rocket program, and the historical implications of its failures on the subsequent world order. One can hope that Matthew is saving his notes on the N1 for a second book.

As for the critical messages:
1) the Cold War could possibly have been avoided had the US not responded with paranoia to the Soviets equal to that
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Matthew Brzezinski is a Polish-American writer. Matthew first worked as a journalist in Warsaw, writing for The New York Times and The Economist. He was a Wall Street Journal staff reporter in Moscow and Kiev in the late 1990s. Relocating to the US, he became a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, covering counter-terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11. His work has appeared in many ot ...more
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