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A selection of the History, Scientific American, and Quality Paperback Book Clubs For a very brief moment during the 1960s, America was moonstruck. Boys dreamt of being an astronaut; girls dreamed of marrying one. Americans drank Tang, bought "space pens" that wrote upside down, wore clothes made of space age Mylar, and took imaginary rockets to the moon from theme parks scattered around the country. But despite the best efforts of a generation of scientists, the almost foolhardy heroics of the astronauts, and 35 billion dollars, the moon turned out to be a place of "magnificent desolation," to use Buzz Aldrin's words: a sterile rock of no purpose to anyone. In Dark Side of the Moon, Gerard J. DeGroot reveals how NASA cashed in on the Americans' thirst for heroes in an age of discontent and became obsessed with putting men in space. The moon mission was sold as a race which America could not afford to lose. Landing on the moon, it was argued, would be good for the economy, for politics, and for the soul. It could even win the Cold War. The great tragedy is that so much effort and expense was devoted to a small step that did virtually nothing for mankind. Drawing on meticulous archival research, DeGroot cuts through the myths constructed by the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations and sustained by NASA ever since. He finds a gang of cynics, demagogues, scheming politicians, and corporations who amassed enormous power and profits by exploiting the fear of what the Russians might do in space. Exposing the truth behind one of the most revered fictions of American history, Dark Side of the Moon explains why the American space program has been caught in a state of purposeless wandering ever since Neil Armstrong descended from Apollo 11 and stepped onto the moon. The effort devoted to the space program was indeed magnificent and its cultural impact was profound, but the purpose of the program was as desolate and dry as lunar dust.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780814719954
ISBN-10: 0814719953
Format: Paperback
(5817mm x 3887mm x 26mm)
Pages: 321
Imprint: New York University Press
Publisher: New York University Press
Publish Date: 15-Nov-2006
Country of Publication: United States

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » An expose arguing that the Apollo Program conned taxpayers and provided a lavish, risky ego trip for technocrats and politicians.DeGroot (The Bomb, 2004; History/Univ. of St. Andrews, Scotland) crafts a winning formula: While peeling away layer after layer of the deceptions and spin that sold NASA's lunar program to the funding public, he indulges readers with a nostalgia binge of epic proportions. Although cautioning against finding any heroes in his reading of the case, he does isolate President Eisenhower as a voice in the wilderness, protesting, however faintly, against the massive expenditures he correctly foresaw would ultimately be required to administer a "$35 billion happy pill" to a depressed America. We were never behind, the author stresses, in the so-called "space race" when it came to developing technology with direct national-security implications; Ike knew it but couldn't say it because intelligence-gathering was top-secret. What the public saw instead was a Soviet circus with brutish booster-rockets throwing into space seemingly at will the first orbiter, then the first dog, man, woman, etc. All their failures were cloaked; all of ours screamed in headlines. The villains? DeGroot first fixes on Wernher von Braun, the former Nazi wunderkind whose rocketry, built by slave labor, had rained death on London. Ike and anyone else counseling restraint had no chance against the salesmanship of a visionary scientist with the requisite foreign accent. But it was John F. Kennedy, the author says, who insisted on a manned, space-based world-opinion coup-forget science-the gargantuan budget of which he would later come to rue. The author provides lots of philandering-astronaut stories and similar fun stuff to go along with the overview, all metaphorically topped by Enos, second chimp in space, who yanked off his diaper at his post-flight press conference and tried to fondle himself.Top-flight debunking takes all the air out of the moon race. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Gerard DeGroot

Gerard J. DeGroot is professor of modern history at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland. He is the author of ten books, most recently The Bomb: A Life, which won the prestigious [2004] Westminster Medal for the best book on a war or military topic.

Books By Author Gerard DeGroot

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Dark Side of the Moon by Gerard DeGroot

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