Fascinating look at how politics and science intersected in the glory years of NASA.




The story of the space race, from an angle only insiders knew until now.

Space journalist Bizony (The Rivers of Mars, 1997) opens with the proposition that Webb, a politically savvy technocrat from North Carolina, deserves the primary credit for NASA's winning the race to put a man on the moon. The Soviet Union's 1957 launch of Sputnik 1 had set off waves of alarm in Washington circles, which quickly recognized space flight as a key to American power and prestige. Eisenhower, wary of excess military influence on U.S. policy, wanted a civilian agency to oversee the nascent space effort; the result was NASA. Webb, a New Deal Democrat who had served as a budget administrator under Truman, became NASA's director at the beginning of the Kennedy administration. Kennedy promised an American moon landing by the end of the ’60s, and Webb took that promise and ran with it. Bizony details how Webb's personnel decisions, his awarding of contracts and his negotiations with power brokers turned NASA into one of the most prestigious government organizations. Webb believed he was creating a new form of management, and for a long while, his successes made him all but untouchable. Then a fire killed three Apollo astronauts in January 1967. NASA was under the microscope, and the subsequent investigation uncovered enough irregularities to damage Webb’s career. At the same time, the escalation of Vietnam put NASA's budget under new restraints. Webb left the agency in 1968, just before its greatest triumphs. Bizony notes that no subsequent director has come close to Webb’s impact or success. He ends with a scathing look at the agency’s recent years.

Fascinating look at how politics and science intersected in the glory years of NASA.

Pub Date: June 10, 2006

ISBN: 1-56025-751-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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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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