A valuable summary of an important piece of modern history and its effects and a must-read for space enthusiasts.




The former chief historian of NASA examines the history and lasting impact of America’s program to reach the moon.

Launius (The Smithsonian History of Space Exploration, 2018, etc.) begins with one of the most significant scientific feats of the 20th century, the July 20, 1969, landing of the Apollo 11 astronauts on the moon. After summing up that historic moment, he turns to the ways it has been viewed since: as an awesome achievement in its own right, a waste of valuable resources better used otherwise, an abuse of government power, or even (by a minority) a hoax. The author then examines every phase of the program: creating rockets powerful enough for the job, building the spacecraft and moon lander, and devising the technology to guide and control it—all of which had to be done from scratch. The human component—the astronauts and their support team—receives similar scrutiny, with a focus on how the astronauts were positioned (and marketed) as real-life heroes and how they were received by the public. As for its scientific impact, the program essentially changed our understanding of the moon, while attempts to apply its management principles to more mundane projects—e.g., city management—were less successful. One chapter takes the historian’s viewpoint, examining how the many artifacts generated by the program have or haven’t been preserved. Especially interesting is a chapter on how the images captured by the astronauts have made an impact on the world, notably the iconic images of the Earth from space. Launius even attempts—without notable success—to figure out why, despite all evidence, some continue to deny that the moon landing occurred. The book also provides extensive background material on the space program, both from within NASA and from outside observers, as well as a useful annotated bibliography for those who want to do their own research.

A valuable summary of an important piece of modern history and its effects and a must-read for space enthusiasts.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-58834-649-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Smithsonian Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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