Melodramatic folderol--mostly enjoyable--about the space program during JFK's first months in office. Presidential candidate Kennedy here is mostly anti-space--till he learns (via Bobby's spies) that Ike and Nixon are leaning heavily on the program, with secret info on Moscow's manned-flight plans. And, once in office, the New Frontier pushes Project Mercury to the hilt to beat the Russians, despite warnings of unsafety. Meanwhile, out of the blue, USAF fighter pilot Gary Herriman, son of a desk-bound three-star general, finds himself mysteriously accepted as one of the nine astronauts, and we follow his training with Grissom, Carpenter, et al. And, though Astronaut Liaison Officer Joe Ziegler soon becomes concerned about the problematic effects of Gary's wife Stella (an alcoholic nympho), Gary isn't dumped from the program. So, when Bill Simon, the first astronaut chosen to ride an Atlas, dies in a sabotaged training plane, Gary is picked to replace him for the big launch. Aloft at last, Gary finds himself the pawn in a devilish plot: his radio is spiked with the voice of a Russian beauty he was once brainwashed by in Germany; she's ordering him to change course (he'll crash into crowded Paris). Will Gary crash into Paris? Will the failure of our first manned spaceflight remain a dread Kennedy secret? Imaginative stuff, though solemnly delivered--and enlivened by the astronauts' Right-Stuff-style camaraderie.