...the Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age

...the Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age This Highly Acclaimed Study Approaches The Space Race As A Problem In Comparative Public Policy Drawing On Published Literature, Archival Sources In Both The United States And Europe, Interviews With Many Of The Key Participants, And Important Declassified Material, Such As The National Security Council S First Policy Paper On Space, McDougall Examines US European, And Soviet Space Programs And Their Politics Opening With A Short Account Of Nikolai Kibalchich, A Late Nineteenth Century Russian Rocketry Theoretician, McDougall Argues That The Soviet Union Made Its Way Into Space First Because It Was The World S First Technocracy Which He Defines As The Institutionalization Of Technological Change For State Purpose He Also Explores The Growth Of A Political Economy Of Technology In Both The Soviet Union And The United States

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  • Paperback
  • 584 pages
  • ...the Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age
  • Walter A. McDougall
  • English
  • 12 October 2019
  • 9780801857485

10 thoughts on “...the Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age

  1. says:

    McDougall s book is very well researched It largely tells the back and forth space development, exploration, and exploitation tale between the USSR the US The book is thematically centered on the emergence of technocracy in the US as a result of perceived or real need to compete with the USSR for national prestige in space In McDougall s analysis, the success of the lunar landing set the stage for LBJ to implement a number of technocratic, centrally managed national programs, to include the management of Vietnam and the Great Society writ large Once the space program proved centralized management successful, education initiatives and social programs followed McDougall takes a very cautionary view of this, invoking often Ike s fear of technocratic tendencies to shove aside the American ideals of freedom.

  2. says:

    A very thorough look at the space race from a political viewpoint The problem with this book is it is horribly overwritten 461 pages of dense text that could be whittled down by at least 100 pages Excruciating details are discussed leaving the reader with a headache from all the material The author also wants to get deep towards the end and turn philosophical I was so tired that my eyes glazed over reading about the origins of the universe There is also a lot of exclamation points in this book Lots of typos on the kindle edition as well Plus they included the page numbers in the text which was annoying Mediocre at best for such a highly acclaimed book Not for the average reader who wants a review of the space race.

  3. says:

    Outdated, alas about a third of the book is devoted to the passage of the 1962 Comsat Act, which was repealed by the Orbit Act about 15 years ago Still, like all his book, wonderful writing and keen insight My favorite why did the Russians make it into space first Simple the U.S had the first H bomb, so the USSR had to build one quickly, and therefore couldn t devote time to miniaturizing it Thus, half a decade later, when ICBMs were developed, the Russians had to build bigger ICBMs to be capable of hitting America with the bomb Flash forward another decade, and could Russia strap 5 ICBMs together and boost Sputnik into orbit Not so with smaller US ICBMs.

  4. says:

    Pretty good political industrial history of the space race, but through no fault of its own suffers from its age Published in 1985 or 6 there s a lot that the west didn t yet know about the Soviet program.

  5. says:

    I read this in tandem with Charles Murray s Apollo, and it suffered mightily in the comparison Judging from the glowing reviews of this book that are out there and its Pulitzer Prize for History for 1986 I might the only person whose primary reaction to this very broad, extensive, and well sourced Political History of the Space Age was that it could have used some perspective, but that s life Before I start complaining, let me describe the work McDougall s subject here are the changes that the United States and the Soviet Union underwent as a result of the Space Race, with particular emphasis on shifts in the civilian military relationship and how the decision to be 1 increased the role of the government as a setter of national priorities as opposed to the people the market the prior way of doing things It s an ambitious subject, and for the most part the book is filled with a wealth of fascinating detail about the struggle for space superiority The sections that cover the Soviet side of the story in particular are a great exposition of the benefits and the dangers that a command economy can pose when it comes to scientific research, the latter of which can t be emphasized enough Interestingly, McDougall discovers that in some ways the Soviet terrors and purges did not seem to materially hamper their space program as much as might be thought, due to the great emphasis they put on closely related military projects like nuclear weapons Even interestingly, McDougall pokes some big holes in the common perception that the early space race was initially largely between our Germans and their Germans the Soviets had plenty of talented engineers and scientists of their own, as demonstrated by their highly effective tanks and rockets However, since the USSR did not have the equivalent of NASA, a civilian agency, their space program was even influenced by their military than was the American program, and hence had even greater problems articulating peaceful goals and interacting with the world at large I was also highly engaged by the way that the US used space dividend technological advances as diplomatic tools to head off the Soviets through trade deals with other countries, as well as the discussions about international cooperation and demilitarization of space, and also how the space race began to spread to other nations like France However, I can t rate the book very highly overall, and my main issues can be summarized thusly it s biased, it s sensationalist, and it doesn t settle any of the questions it raises because McDougall doesn t really understand them Let s take those one at a time First off, let me say that whatever your position on the timeless philosophical question of can history ever truly be objective , I think we would all agree that there s a difference between the kind of inevitable forced subjectivity that comes from having only limited space to write, in other words bias due to the limits of space and time, and the kind of subjectivity that comes from trying to force facts into a narrative To a certain extent this second kind of bias is just as inevitable as the first after all, if you just wrote a collection of facts unordered by any kind of higher logic, that s basically the opposite of a history , but in choosing the precise narrative what to emphasize, what kind of higher principle animates the past events, what to make of changes and discontinuities you ve always got to make sure you re not artificially tying down some loose ends that are actually part of a bigger tapestry McDougall has issues with this It s always a bad idea to read history through the lens of your own political leanings, but when you encounter histories this soaked in ideology you almost can t help mentally recoiling Plainly put, McDougall has a bad case of Eisenhower worship, and this ended up unraveling most of the appeal of the book for me Now, if you are an Eisenhower fan, then you ll be silently cheering as you read the twentieth time he gets portrayed as a sage visionary and misunderstood guardian of America s most cherished and time honored values If, like me, you regard him as very prescient when it came to things like the dangers of the military industrial complex but not exactly out in front when it came to solutions to problems of poverty, racism, or other the complex social issues that came to the forefront during these times, then you see McDougall s constant belittling of people who had different ideas than Eisenhower as what it is bias It s fine to be conservative, and it s fine to write a history from a conservative perspective, but it doesn t help anyone to mislead your readers by artificially stacking the deck in favor of your heroes McDougall does this in a few different ways, most irritatingly by giving the impression that different positions held by different people at different times were really unified factions, thus allowing wise statesman Eisenhower to calmly steer the country past these chattering herds of loons Even worse, this is frequently done in that dismayingly dense, convoluted academic style of quoting critics citing summaries of positions being disparaged by yet other people, layered over with links of strawmen One example is the discussion of the changing role of the federal government in education in response to Sputnik McDougall is trying to show that people were cashing in on the Cold War alarm to sell the notion that government money was a panacea for all variety of deficiency as a prelude to validate his later support of Eisenhower s attachment to the existing system of primarily state and local funding against those meddling do gooder liberals who will arrive during the Great Society period a few years later He starts by claiming that John Dewey s Progressive Education was the reigning philosophy of American schools but that it came under attack In lieu of actually describing it, he simply quotes the later attacks of James Killian that Dewey s system supposedly advocated education as a sovereign remedy for all our social problems as well as the contention of the unnamed author of And Madly Teach, whatever that was, that Dewey proposed the same amount and kind of education for all individuals He then tacks on still completely unrelated criticisms of public education in general from unnamed social progressives worried about racial discrimination and then Cold War pragmatists that want excellence to be set apart and cultivated McDougall solemnly concludes after this almost indecipherable mishmash that these people had Opposite emphases, but the same solution federal direction and subsidy Now, it should be obvious that those people had nothing to do with each other, so he can t legitimately conclude that any of those people would have advocated anywhere the same solutions to their various concerns as the others In addition, I ve never heard of anyone claiming that money from the feds would solve all problems ever in the history of the world That this kind of analysis is pretty much the only game in town for nearly 500 pages means that the work reads largely like a debate between McDougall and his strawmen, and not really a debate between the views of any real people at all This impression is enhanced by his near inability to simply tell you what someone said without also telling you what you should think about it An example is when he slams the New York Times as having little interest in accurate reportage for a 1959 headline of US Space Program Far Behind Soviets , mere pages after reproducing a table from National Security Council memo NSC 5814 1 saying exactly the same thing Maybe looking back you can confidently sneer at the Times, but back then it wasn t so obvious what was going on with the USSR at all, and like in countless other cases in the book, they get lots of snide commentary and 20 20 hindsight I get that this is a political history, meaning that it has to concentrate on what people were saying at the time which frequently means cataloging all sorts of errors and lies , but this determined effort to cheerlead for Eisenhower and his idea of America is the framework for the whole book, and is transparently not good history This is why I thought it could have used perspective McDougall continually champions the old, pre New Deal Great Society of thinking, and makes much of our transition or saltation into technocracy a vague term that isn t ever clearly defined, but seems to mean a sort of managed capitalism oriented towards goals managed by the central government , but while the space race might be one of the clearest modern examples of the fight between the Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian visions of America, he never really makes clear that this conflict is as old as, well, Jefferson and Hamilton Indeed, pretty much every society in world history has had conflicts about how much power to allocate to their central government, or which projects they d like it to undertake Is it really so hubristic or unprecedented to ask If we can put a man on the moon , especially when it had such dramatic success McDougall s inability to come to really come to terms with this broader perspective on why people actually advocate for or less government involvement in big social prospects lead him finally into the morass of the last two chapters, which I frankly confess I found to be almost meaningless swamps of jargon and religious philosophizing How can a writer with his ability and poetic sensibility get so totally lost Maybe it s just me, and I ve completely missed the insights McDougall uncovered, but by the end of the book I d come to the conclusion that he was just playing with words in order to comfort himself about his own sentimental attachment to the pre Apollo era and inability to come to terms with progress Maybe that s just the definition of a conservative All I know is that while there s plenty of good stuff in the book, it comes with a lot of baggage.

  6. says:

    So many details This is one of those history books where you wonder how the author could possibly dig up so many details, yet the narrative doesn t get lost in them.

  7. says:

    Excellent book I picked this up to learn about NASA history now that i work for them, but expected it to be on things like the moon missions, etc In fact, it was much a book on the cold war and cold war policy That being said, it was a fascinating look at how our RD structures came into being and an interesting analysis of what happens when a capitalistic society tries to fight communism by installing state run research and technology programs Technocracy was the big word throughout In all, the book was a much thorough analysis of the cold war then most cold war books i ve read because it delved right into the ambiguities and the policies that were enacted Except for a few pages on various US and USSR missile and space budgets every now and then, it was a very engaging read, and I d recommend it to anyone interested in how our attitudes towards funding science developed, the cold war, or the early days of the space race.

  8. says:

    The author finished writing this tome shortly after the Challenger exploded on lift off, killing all seven astronauts, i.e over three decades ago However, a lot of space history occurred before that incident If one did not already know, Czarist Russia had scientists working on the theory of space flight a preponderance of the early space scientists found their inspiration in writers such as Jules Verne and H.G Wells and, the missile gap did not exist The book is logically divided into parts the first two being before Sputnik followed by a parts on the U S space program and the Soviet program, with a concluding part philosophizing on the space ages affect on society Though it is a lengthy work, it is worth the read.

  9. says:

    This is a fascinating book most of us know the basics of the space program Mercury, Apollo, Gemini, etc but fewer know about how Eisenhower didn t take Sputnik very seriously, because it really wasn t a major feat of science The book tells of a lesser known space race between the the Army and Navy and the NACA later NASA to see who would develop the USA s major launch vehicles Lots of good discussion of military and civilian uses of space, the history of spy satellites, and the like A bit thick and academic, but very worthwhile.

  10. says:

    This book was required reading during a graduate course covering space policy I found it to be a beautifully written book, something rare among books covering the history of spaceflight and the deeper meaning space holds for humankind the irony isn t lost on me A must read for those who a seeking a solid and well written account of space history and the role of politics throughout.

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