Saturday, December 29, 2007

I stayed the cold day with a lonely satellite

There are many in my generation ( the X one) that wish they had experienced the 60s, by which they either mean the Summer of Love or the political idealism. Well if you ask me, we have plenty of free love and political idealism these days, but what we don't have is the excitement of the space race. With that, we had a (brief) flourish of interest in science and in expanding the realm of humanity. Sure it was mostly pipe dreams and a cover for international rivalry. That said, it must have been both scaring and thrilling at the time.

In Red Moon Rising, Matthew Brzezinski tells the story of the start of the space race, the launch of Sputnik. His main areas of interest are the personal and bureaucratic rivalries that held the US back and helped get the Soviet Union ahead initially. He presents a clear picture of how policy is often accidental.

The story has been told before, but Brzezinski has the talent, like Richard Preston in the Hot Zone, to surface the thriller elements and to explain what makes each development so interesting. He begins the book with a detailed and almost breathless account of a V-2 launch against London and then the rush by the Western and Soviet armies to collect as many German scientists and V-2 technology as possible.

The book is short and the result is that there is not as much analysis as one might like. That said, this is a fun and informative read.

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