More than 600 million people watched on live television as Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon in 1969. In fact, America's space program was very public from its beginning, with both tragedies and triumphs broadcast to the world. But another great power was racing to the moon in the 1960s: the Soviet Union. Only successes like Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin's first orbit were reported from the secretive, repressive Soviet side; failures remained unknown for years, even decades. Now, with newly released sources from modern-day Russia, the complete story of the technological and ideological struggle to reach the stars has been recorded by Deborah Cadbury in Space Race: The Epic Battle Between America and the Soviet Union for Dominion of Space. Cadbury, an Emmy Award-winning documentary producer, depicts the Cold War fight through the remarkably personal war of nerves between two earthbound men who never met or even spoke to one another: Wernher von Braun and Sergei Korolev. Both men were, in addition to brilliant engineers, visionaries who dreamed of traveling to the moon, the stars and beyond. Both were also haunted by their pasts. Space Race traces their life stories and describes the mixture of intrigue, daring and luck that brought them to the pinnacle of their field.

Von Braun barely escaped capture by the Soviets at the end of World War II and left his native Germany to start building rockets for the United States, where his Nazi past often raised suspicions. Korolev, denounced to Stalin by a colleague, nearly died in a labor camp, was pardoned and began designing and building spaceships for the Soviet Union. By 1969, both sides had produced the astounding machines and confident attitude that would put human beings on the moon.

A companion book to a four-part National Geographic television series, Space Race is an admirable record of humanity's daring first forays away from the home planet. Chris Scott was among the 600 million watching Armstrong step onto the moon.

comments powered by Disqus