... the best of the Apollo 11 books to appear so far this year but also, surprisingly and pleasingly, the best biography of Kennedy published in years. Here as in all his books, Brinkley is a generous, beguiling writer; he takes readers on a longer narrative of Kennedy’s life in order to show them the man behind the moonshot – and attempt to plumb his motives.
Though Brinkley tries to make it clear in the beginning that the book is more about a contribution 'to U.S. presidential history (not space studies),' it is made obvious how many facts and lore surrounding the first three human spaceflight programs he has had to internalize and articulate in one volume ... In an effort not to rehash the same tired facts surrounding the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, Brinkley focuses his book on JFK’s efforts to understand the technology and engineering necessary for a lunar landing. There are still topics introduced that add a new dimension to and appreciation for the many unsung heroes ... does the service of explaining how the space program and America benefited from JFK’s dedication to the moonshot. Few have undertaken such an effort before, but Brinkley does a masterful job due to his extensive research and the weaving of American history that illuminates the fascinating characters about whom he speaks. It also paints us a vivid reminder of an America willing to accomplish a common and worthy goal. The continuous struggles that the Apollo mission faced is not discussed much here, perhaps to its benefit ... Space and Cold War enthusiasts alike will be delighted by this highly engaging resource into the political development of the program that ended in historic triumph rather than tragedy.
...the best new study of the American mission to space, rich in research and revelation ... Brinkley carefully considers this and other attacks launched by civil rights activists, like the National Urban League’s Whitney Young.
Brinkley’s story is a gripping one, matching the passion and idealism of the New Frontier with the technological, engineering, and physics challenges inherent in converting rudimentary rockets into space boosters for Project Mercury and then, with an eye on the main prize, developing the giant Saturn V rocket and concocting the notion of sending a lunar-excursion module to the lunar surface while a command module orbited above the moon waiting to ferry the astronauts (and their cache of moon rocks) home to a breathless Earth ... Brinkley writes with an eye to the main narrative but with ample digressions to explain the political and, often, technical challenges Kennedy faced. And as someone who was only 2 years old when Kennedy was assassinated, Brinkley’s vision is fresh, not affected by, nor infected with, the lost-promise romanticism dating to Nov. 22, 1963, that so many writers of that period possess.
... transcends mere narrative to help the rest of us understand how America geared up for the astonishing feat of landing a man on the moon. With the approach of the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s 'small step for man,' Brinkley’s focus on the all-important early days provides a valuable perspective.
Brinkley does a masterful job of showing how Kennedy’s idealism, Cold War mentality, and political savvy combine to pledge the U.S. to a moon landing in his historical speech of May 25, 1961 ... If one man can be said to have gotten Americans to the moon, it was definitely John F. Kennedy, and this new book brings out the full story of that fateful pledge to 'land a man on the moon and return him safely to the Earth.'
... it’s clear that [Brinkley] mastered a great deal of the facts and lore surrounding the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo projects that landed American astronauts on the moon 50 years ago.A highly engaging history not just for space-race enthusiasts, but also students of Cold War politics.
If you are interested...in how the U.S. launched itself on the improbable mission of getting people to the moon when it could barely get a rocket off the pad, then Douglas Brinkley's American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy And The Great Space Race may be the read for you. Part Kennedy biography, part political space history, Brinkley's book makes it clear that launching the Apollo program was all about beating the Russians ...