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American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,905 ratings  ·  283 reviews
Instant New York Times Bestseller

As the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing approaches, the award winning historian and perennial New York Times bestselling author takes a fresh look at the space program, President John F. Kennedy’s inspiring challenge, and America’s race to the moon.

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not becau
ebook, 576 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Harper
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Will Byrnes
“We choose to go to the moon--we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because the challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” – JFK at Rice University- September 12, 1962.

“The Eagle has landed.” – Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969

JFK delivering his “we choose
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing only a few days away, Douglas Brinkley’s latest book surrounding the early years of space exploration, seemed the perfect fit. Told as a loose biography of the race to get into space, Brinkley explores the two main camps vying for control of the territory outside of Earth’s atmosphere—USA and USSR—as well as bringing in the promise President John F. Kennedy made about sending a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s. Brinkley begins his na ...more
Jeff J.
Apr 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Not exactly what I expected. It’s marketed as a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and while it does cover the space program up to the moon landing, the real focus is on President Kennedy’s career and his contributions to the space program. It may not be false advertising but be wary.
A history of the early years of the space program, focusing on decisions at the presidential level.

I enjoyed the writing style as well as Brinkley's treatment of the politics of the era - the space program was not universally popular, and faced criticism from the right for excessive spending and the left for ignoring domestic concerns. Naturally, I also agree that the program was and is a net positive, providing some hope for the future, investing in a wide array of new technologies, and acting
Mary & Tom
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, history
Terrific book. Brinkley is a wonderful writer. I read his book about Theodore Roosevelt and all he did to preserve significant sections of our country as National Parks and wildlife habitats.

This book follows the develop of the space program. Having been a JFK fan, for many years this books’ pairing of the race to the moon with JFK’s excitement and support of the space program allowed me too see another side of this remarkable man.

Very well documented and a wonderful read in this 50 year anniv
Porter Broyles
I don’t know if the Pulitzer Prize committee is going to feel sentimental about the 50th anniversary of the moonlanding, but if it does, then I would not be surprised if this book wins it.

This is by far the best book about the space race that I’ve encountered.

While other books focus on the astronauts and the space program, this book deals with American culture and politics that drove the space race.

The book starts off talking about the earliest days of flight and rocket science, but unlike other
On July 20 1969, the country and the world watched as Astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon's surface. Nearing the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, David Brinkley's latest novel reminds us of President John F. Kennedy's tireless and dedicated work towards space exploration and travel. This novel encourages us to forever look upward; to gaze deeper and further and especially into the great beyond. ...more
Sherry Sharpnack
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Douglas Brinkley is an historian at Rice University and a pre-eminent scholar of US Presidents. This is the first book of his that I have read, but it won’t be the last. (In fact, I have his “Cronkite” sitting in my bookcase, waiting to be read.). Of course, I read this book to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing.

“Moonshot” is less a book about the history of space exploration and more a book about John F. Kennedy’s decision to make the “race to the moon” a proxy for the Cold
Brian Willis
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A truly great overview of the technological advances and political willpower needed to put Americans on the moon. The second half of the title is the most relevant. This is a Presidential biography of JFK filtered through the motivations and personality traits that led him to call for, motivate, push, cajole, and even cheerlead the Space Race. As it turns out, JFK was more indispensable than previously thought. It wasn't just the famous speeches; the willpower and enthusiasm emanating mainly fro ...more
Steve Majerus-Collins
Apr 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Douglas Brinkley's new book on the space race is a decent read but nowhere near as wonderful as I both hoped and expected. I'm no expert on any of this, but I learned precious little and came away strangely unfulfilled, as if Brinkley had promised to show me something about my country and its history that would enlighten or astound me. That just didn't happen.
I've read some pretty good books on the race to the moon, from Tom Wolfe's sterling The Right Stuff to Norman Mailer's Of a Fire on the Mo
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing inspires the acclaimed historian to take a fresh look at the American space program, at President John Kennedy’s inspiring challenge, and at the race to the moon.

Drawing on new primary source material, Douglas Brinkley brings this fascinating history to life as he turns the spotlight on the men and women who made this giant leap possible while exploring the technology and the political tensions of the time.

Readers will find much to appreciate
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This really was a fascinating story. And very easy reading - almost like a work of fiction. Even though I lived through these events, this book made me appreciate all the work that went on to land a man on the moon. I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed that the book as more about Kennedy than I had anticipated - but on further consideration, I appreciate all that I learned about him, too. And even though the book kind of zooms over the actual moon landing, because it occurred after JFK's as ...more
David Lakeman
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating history of the Space Race and early Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo Programs. Interesting approach by weaving parallel biographies of Werner von Braun and JFK in and out of a general history of the Space Race. A good primer on all three. Interesting to see Eisenhower's long-standing resistance to a moon shot. Recommended as a good starting place if you're interested in reading about the Space Program ...more
Jul 20, 2019 rated it liked it
I timed my reading of this book to complete it on July 20, the anniversary of the moon landing. I learned a lot about the Mercury program, a bit less about the Gemini program and coverage of the Apollo missions was incredibly brief, so that was disappointing. But the book is about Kennedy and the Space Race and it does cover Kennedy (and Von Braun) in depth. I was raised in a pro-Kennedy family so I loved the positive points made about him, but I did feel the coverage was incredibly one-sided. S ...more
Adam Joyner
Nov 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you are looking for a book about the Apollo 11 mission to the moon this is not the book. There are three pages in the Epilogue for that event. However if you want to know how we got to that moment in the preceding decade this is the book for you.
Ted Hunt
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
As part of the 50th anniversary commemoration of the July, 1969, touchdown on the moon, Douglas Brinkley has written a book about the origins and early stages of the American space program. The book begins with the earliest research and inventions in rocket technology, both inside the United States and in Europe, it extensively delves into the Nazi rocket program, and then describes the origins of the Cold War "space race" between the United States and the Soviet Union. As someone who was obsess ...more
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For what it is, this is a wonderful book. However, adjustment of expectation may be warranted. This book covers the early days of the space program in the context of U.S. and the world geo-political / Cold War landscape. It tracks technology advancements and political circumstances that led to the space race culminating on the moon landings.

There are many books that focus solely on the astronauts, controllers and engineers and never venture out from the labs, sims, and space craft of the U.S. /
Richard Pierce
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
For me, This book was too boring to finish. After 221 pages I had to find something else worth reading. Having lived thru the time period covered by the book, I found little if anything new. Using secondary sources, it is just a rehash of known information organized in a printable fashion suitable for a book. If you don'yt know anything about JFK or the history of the space program, this would be a good book to read. ...more
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great read I was,so always excited by this American space program wish it was still going
Jonathan Jesse
Jul 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
A couple of thoughts about this book...

1: How come we haven't been back to the moon? Reading this book made me wonder about how we invented all this amazing technology to get us there. And yet here it is 45+ years since we last step foot on the moon. Imagine how much better the trip could be now with all the improved technology we have. I cant believe we haven't been back.

2. I learned a lot about the space race and the race to put somoene on the moon. I didn't know the only thing we beat the Rus
John Lindemuth
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
American Moon Shot is a consummate historical reference regarding the political influence exercised by John Kennedy in effectuating the moon landing by U.S. astronauts. It details the reasoning for implementing the project and the toil required to establish and continue funding for this historic achievement. In addition, the book provides an excellent background summary of Robert Godard and Wernher von Braun. In particular, von Braun’s allegiance to the German Nazi party was well described in th ...more
Timothy Crane
Dec 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be a wonderful and enlightening read on the political side of the "Race to Space and the Moon", and those that fought for that vision. The passion of von Braun, Webb, President Kennedy and many others for the success of pushing the non-military usage of space... while using that same mission in the political one-upmanship with the Soviet Union...was intriguing reading. As was the accounts of the backroom maneuvering in Congress and other places to both push the program, but also ...more
Robert Foley
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Since I was a kid I've had an odd passion for JFK and Space. When a book came out which combined the two and went over the history it was fantastic. I've read a lot about the two different subjects and found this book gave a lot more context on mix between the two. Overall, very very good book if this is a subject which you enjoy.

Favorite part was JFK starting to fall in love with the idea of the space race and moon shot. He had a clear vision of what it would mean for not only USA and it's own
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Long read, but rewarding. A great interplay of the various aspects at play in the moonshot, and how they all caused the stars to align for the US to make it to the moon. It very much stresses the political and world stage rather than the technology needed to get there, which is an interesting take. The public's imagination was grabbed and kept by astronauts and the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. So many similarities are happening now with the discussion of Mars exploration that it really m ...more
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio
Great book about the Apollo project using JFK’s biography as the centerpiece. The book is a wonderful antidote to today’s cynicism and divisiveness. The book also reminds us of JFK’s leadership, enthusiasm, accomplishments and failures (professional and personal). We live in a world rich with technologies created to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth. The book ends with a beautiful scene: not long after Apollo 11 landed someone placed a note on JFK’s grave which read “Mr. Pres ...more
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Account Of President Kennedy and The Space Race

This is my favorite account of the Space Race and President JFK 's involvement in it. As a representative and senator, Kennedy always decried Eisenhower's lack of interest in rockets and space travel. He befriended a former Nazi rocket scientist who became important in the building of our rocket science. Kennedy was right in trusting him and the American success was due to that trust. The Kennedy focus on how he treated the rocket program and
Austin Gorton
Sep 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More a Presidential biography on one specific aspect of the President's presidency than a straight history of the effort to put a man on the moon, this is nevertheless a thorough and enjoyable read. Brinkley occasionally lapses into excessive lionization of Kennedy (and the space race), but otherwise spins a compelling narrative around Kennedy's fascination with space and the political & societal implications of his drive towards the moon. His unflinching portrayal of the problematic Werner Von ...more
David Goodman
Apr 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fantastic read if you’re interested in JFK and the inception of America’s interest in space. Only thing knocking it down to 4 stars is that it could have used 1 more pass by an editor. There are times it becomes clear that Brinkley remembered an important fact about the Space Race he had forgotten to include and just adds it there - irregardless of if he has to jump back in time chronologically.

But all in all a must read if you’re interested in space and American politics.
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, audio
This was really excellent. It’s not a thorough bio of Kennedy, just a look at him in relation to the space program. The other major players (von Braun, the astronauts, LBJ, Jackie, etc) appear mostly in the context of JFK/space tech development with only brief backstories (except von Braun’s Nazi work). It’s a very engaging, well-paced audiobook. 4.5 stars.
ZSR Library
The footprints are still on the moon half a century since Neil Armstrong stepped from the lunar landing vehicle and Walter Cronkite on CBS gasped “man on the moon”. The wonder, people, politics and earthshaking awe of the improbable quest are expertly described in this new study rich in revelation.

- Reviewed by John Cooper, ZSR Board of Visitors
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Douglas Brinkley is a professor of history at Rice University and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. The Chicago Tribune has dubbed him “America’s new past master.” His most recent books are The Quiet World, The Wilderness Warrior, and The Great Deluge. Six of his books have been selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year. He lives in Texas with his wife and three children.

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56 likes · 9 comments
“Eisenhower started his presidency on this same note, with a plea to avoid what he called the “burden of arms. . . . Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” 1 likes
“Hitler’s commitment to the V-2 advanced the pursuit of a moonshot by perhaps decades. Though Hitler had no expressed interest in reaching the moon, the uncomfortable fact is that the darkest shafts and foulest backwater of human savagery helped bring this loftiest of human dreams to reality.” 0 likes
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