A fresh, enthusiastic history of the moon mission to be read alongside Douglas Brinkley’s American Moonshot and other recent...




Marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a close look at the scientific and technological challenges that needed to be overcome to make it possible—achievements that regrettably have been “mostly invisible.”

Rather than focus on the astronauts, journalist Fishman (The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water, 2011, etc.) offers lively profiles of many tireless, imaginative, and innovative scientists, engineers, and technicians who contributed to the Apollo mission from May 1961, when President John F. Kennedy announced that the United States would send a man to the moon by the end of the decade, until July 1969, when Neil Armstrong stepped onto lunar dust. Kennedy’s proposal stemmed not from an adventuresome spirit but from Cold War urgency: He wanted to beat the Russians in the space race and demonstrate the triumph of freedom over communism. However, that triumph was hardly certain; NASA, surprised by Kennedy’s announcement, gave the U.S. only a 50-50 chance of success. As Fishman amply shows, the nation was woefully unprepared for space flight. Astronauts had “exactly 15 minutes of manned spaceflight experience,” and rockets, landing ships, navigation equipment, spacesuits, and a new generation of computers and software all had to be invented from scratch. In the 1960s, computers took up whole rooms, required huge amounts of electricity, and could not run for more than a few hours without failing. The MIT Instrumentation Lab, headed by the irrepressible Charles Draper and his brilliant colleague Bill Tindall, was charged with inventing and building flight computers, writing and wiring their software, and training astronauts in their use, and 20,00 companies contributed to the construction and assembly of the spacecraft. For eight years, 410,000 people put in 2.8 billion work hours to make the flight possible. As the author sees it, those efforts—long before the innovations emanating from Silicon Valley—ushered in the digital age, making technology “a tool of everyday life.”

A fresh, enthusiastic history of the moon mission to be read alongside Douglas Brinkley’s American Moonshot and other recent books commemorating the 50th anniversary.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-0629-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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