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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An uncomfortable truth
Let me set out my stall straight away, I'm a space flight enthusiast. What De Groot rather unhelpfully refers to as a 'Space Geek'.

The Dark Side of the Moon is a polemic on the real motivation behind the race to the Moon; to beat the Russians and to bolster public opinion for the White House. The book explores the political and historical background to why...
Published on 7 July 2007 by M. Morris

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Altiora pete
You will find devastating criticism of this book on the American Amazon site, amazon.com. Some of these relate to the NYU edition of 2006. The grosser errors, such as account that Apollo 9 went into lunar orbit, have been corrected in the Vintage Books edition of 2008 (page 230 of both editions). The author now correctly says that the testing of the docking manoeuvres...
Published on 14 April 2008 by Mr. P. W. Bishop


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Altiora pete, 14 April 2008
By 
Mr. P. W. Bishop (Manchester, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest (Paperback)
You will find devastating criticism of this book on the American Amazon site, amazon.com. Some of these relate to the NYU edition of 2006. The grosser errors, such as account that Apollo 9 went into lunar orbit, have been corrected in the Vintage Books edition of 2008 (page 230 of both editions). The author now correctly says that the testing of the docking manoeuvres by Apollo 9 took place in earth orbit. Similarly the statement that "An explosion ripped through the outer skin of the Command Module" of Apollo 13 has been corrected, placing the explosion within the Service Module (page 250 in both editions). According to one posted comment, deGroot was deeply embarrassed by these errors. Still the basic errors were made and undermine the scholarship.

The author is dismissive of Russian technology, crediting them with merely having oversized rockets (designed to lift their oversized nuclear warheads) but being far behind in all other aspects. This criticism is nothing new, but was also questioned long ago. When Lunik III successfully circled the moon, sending back pictures of the far side, Time of October 12 1959 pointed out that this required an accomplished package of instruments (by 1959 standards) as well as a powerful rocket.

I have no problems with the phrase "Dark Side of the Moon" as a title and metaphor. But on page 98 Lunik III is said to have taken "snapshots of the dark side". It would have been the height of folly for the Russians to have photographed the far side while it was in darkness; the published photographs show that it was not. Does the author, in the one sentence where he ought to drop the metaphor, not know the difference between the dark side and the far side of the moon?

The relative value of manned and unmanned exploration of both the moon and Mars is again becoming topical. DeGroot understands the value of near earth and geo stationary satellites for their utility in providing communication, navigation and observation. He shows no appreciation of the scientific interest of investigating the moon. It is perhaps not within his expertise to tell us how this might better have been done in the 1960s using unmanned missions. Given the success of the Mars Rovers Opportunity and Spirit, at very modest cost, the value of a manned mission to Mars needs to be questioned very seriously. Similarly, the case against a manned return to the moon would be strengthened by consideration of the unmanned exploration that is now beginning in earnest and what might be achieved by a series of unmanned lunar rovers capable of returning samples to earth.

The quotations from the Times, Telegraph and Observer on the book's cover are all complementary. I have more sympathy with the view of Robin McKie writing in the Guardian (3rd February 2008) "DeGroot, a sharp and witty writer, has prepared his case assiduously, though for my taste he overstates it badly, wilfully ignoring the romance and chutzpah of what was, after all, the 20th-century's crowning human achievement. More to the point, Dark Side of the Moon lacks any primary sources or interviews and is, essentially, a cuttings job, albeit a clever, enjoyable one."

I suspect that deGroot is a man with a profound social conscience who believes that the billions spent on the Space Race should have been spent on social welfare. He may well be right. Altiora pete. But writing an entire book saying how the money should not have been spent sounds like carping. Like most readers who have submitted reviews, I cannot recommend this book.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An uncomfortable truth, 7 July 2007
By 
M. Morris (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Let me set out my stall straight away, I'm a space flight enthusiast. What De Groot rather unhelpfully refers to as a 'Space Geek'.

The Dark Side of the Moon is a polemic on the real motivation behind the race to the Moon; to beat the Russians and to bolster public opinion for the White House. The book explores the political and historical background to why the race started and how many American politicians tried to stop it.

It makes uncomfortable reading to those who have unquestioning support for manned space flight. I don't think this is a balanced book, but then again I don't think that this is what the author was trying to achieve. De Groot is putting over a perspective that is rarely addressed in other books about Apollo, namely that manned spaceflight has little to do with science and a lot to do with politics.
Unfortunately, he falls in to the trap of quoting an urban myth (the 1 million dollar space pen - they actually cost just a few dollars each). I also think he seriously down-plays the good science that was done on Apollo. However, one could easily argue that this science could have been done a lot cheaper by unmanned rovers and sample return missions.

Despite these minor shortcomings, I think this book should be essential reading for anyone interested in manned spaceflight, particularly if read in combinbation with other books on the subject such as 'A Man on the Moon' by Andrew Chaikin; 'Last Man on the Moon' by Gene Cernan; and 'Dragonfly' by Bryan Burrough.

By the way, please don't get this book confused with the truly appalling 'Dark Moon' by David Percy and Mary Bennett; now there's a stinker!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars One side of the Story, 16 Sep 2008
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This review is from: Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest (Paperback)
With the hindsight of 21st century cynicism it's easy to look back at the moon landings with some suspicion. We've all heard the conspiracy theories about NASA's adventures in the 60's, but here the intention seems to prove that project Apollo was just a huge waste of time and money for all involved. In fact this book is so unbalanced that it constantly refers to the Space race as if only the US were involved.

While the author certainly has a fair point that manned spaceflight is infinitely more difficult and costly than unmanned explorations, to suggest it has absolutely no worth and has achieved nothing is overstating the case very strongly.

Apollo was politically motivated, but there was also a real effort to get some science done up there, in fact as a result of those missions and their carefully collected samples traditional theories for the origins of the moon were overturned. The field of Astrogeology advanced massively as a result.

The author also fails to mention in any depth the Russian Lunar Programme, so well documented in many publications now available. So while the Soviet's had at one time 3 separate manned Lunar projects running, his only mention is that a cosmonaut was hours away from launch in a zond mission in 1968 - a claim which has been widely discredited elsewhere (Two sides of the Moon is most certainly not a reliable reference book, just a good read). No mention either that the Soviets were still trying to undertake Lunar missions into the early 70's, and indeed other nations have continued unmanned explorations long after man had first visited the 'worthless rock' of the authors viewpoint.

Alternative views on this massive achievement are always welcome, but at least try and give a balanced account - not everyone involved was a self-serving egotist! A more interesting question might be what would have happened to US manned space exploration if the quagmire of Vietnam had not engulfed the US and tainted the second half of the 60s.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as it thinks it is, 16 Mar 2007
First, a spoiler. America and the USSR ran a race to see who could put on the most spectacular space events throughout the 1960s. It culminated in a maned landing on the Moon in July 1969.

Secondly, this book isn't really about that. Well, not entirely. It is about a perception of the race to the Moon that comes out of some dusty memos and selective quotations (all quotations are selective) and it adds to a rather sour taste in the mind. The problem is it is pretty unrelenting. The aim of the book is to show what a phenomenal waste of time sending anything much into space is, with the exception of communications and weather satellites presumably. The problem with the book is that the tone has sarcastic light moments and deadpan serious moments but doesn't seem to acknowledge that the Moon landings were a genuine achievement.

I presume the author wrote it on his laptop. He probably researched much of it on-line and almost certainly spent some time watching DVDs of the space program. Well,he hit some of the indirect spin offs - miniaturisation of electronics. Not that you would know that anything came out of the Moon landing program according to DeGroot. He has a downer on it and that's that.

There are minor quibbles about accuracy which are irrelevant really, both to his thesis and his willingness to be open. He says he set out to write a good ol' American boys story but the research changed his mind. I suspect the fact that the market is pretty much sewn up tight, with memoirs from astronauts and flight controllers, tomes on technical matters relating to Apollo and wider histories of spaceflight, whereas a sceptical view of the program is lacking in the popular literature. So here it is, a one sided polemic that, if you have read any of the other books out there on Apollo, you'd already know.

The best thing about the Apollo program is what was said on the plaque on the leg of Eagle, the Apollo 11 lunar module: we came in peace for all mankind. The space race was war minus the shooting. It was a contest to see who could reach the highest up the urinal wall. That meant not dropping bombs on other countries. It meant jobs at home and probably the most effective economic sanctions against the USSR anyone could have thought of. It meant the Cold War didn't actually get hot. DeGroot will disagree but it is self evident.

I'd recommend The Race by james Schefter ahead of this book. It is funnier, better written and more honest an account of the space race than DeGroot has written. Oh, and it's cheaper.
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5.0 out of 5 stars madness, 4 Nov 2011
an amazing insight into what they did to move heaven and hell,to beat the Russians there,who infact said it could not be done, and maybe it never was, i for one do not think they went.
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2.0 out of 5 stars The One Sided Review of the Moon, 15 Oct 2011
This review is from: Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest (Paperback)
As a Brit who followed the space programme in my early teens and who basically cried when I was recently fortunate enough to be in Florida to see Discovery take off for her last mission - I obviously have certain leanings which made me find the content of this book unsatisfactory. As many of the other reviewers have said there are some inaccuracies but I'll put that down to proof reading and some research errors. What I have most issue with is some of the conclusions that DeGroot makes in his book.

I feel a better jacket description would be 'meticulous [selective] archival research" and biased projections and conclusions. He speaks of the billions of dollars expended on the Space Programme but does not seem capable of recognising that a significant percentage of that money was 'recycled' as it came from the tax dollars of people who were working in the Space Programme. He also makes the false conclusion that the billions of dollars would have been spent on earth in the USA on social and domestic projects. History has shown that this would never have happened and will never happen without a 'cause'. History has also shown that 'pure science' (eg unmanned space activities) does not have any significant level of attraction to the people of the world - the key is always humanity and it was essential that man went into space for people on earth to have ANY interest in what NASA was doing.

DeGroot also makes great play on the German/Nazi links to the birth of NASA and America's Space Programme. Whilst nobody should be comfortable with those links (slave labour, etc) it was never the prime driver for most of the people in NASA. I am sure I could do 'meticulous archival research' and show all of the material that marginalised Von Braun and his fellow scientists.

To sum up a different view but not adequately researched or argued to come to any conclusion other than the one he originally set out to arrive at - it was a waste of time and money.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An alternative perspective to the Apollo missions of the 1960's, 3 May 2010
This review is from: Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest (Paperback)
I read this book whilst on summer vacation in 2009 and it was a truly compulsive read. I veritably devoured all 261 pages within two days! DeGroot shares an alternative perspective on the much celebrated achievement of the USA space programme that saw Apollo 11 land Neil Armstrong on the moon.

In the course of his narrative, DeGroot reveals that the `manned' flights to the moon in the 1960's were a consequence of `Cold War' politics. He argues that the drive to land a man on the moon was in large part to satisfy the `US public's' psychology and demonstrate US technological superiority. The Soviet Union had stunned the West with its own space programme by making headline catching events such as launching first Sputnik and then Laika (a dog) into orbit around earth. America's nervousness of inferiority to the USSR surfaced again when Yuri Gagarin was launched into space. These insecurities, argues De Groot, were the factors that launched the US on its costly mission to take a man to the moon. However, as De Groot shows, the US were already significantly more technologically advanced than the Soviets and the men in the White House suspected they were.

Hence, the politics for hearts and minds amid public hysteria took root. DeGroot surfaces other uncomfortable realities of the programme. He traces the development of rocket history from its inauspicious Nazi origins and use of slave labour to develop the V-bombs in 1945. He explores how once the US programme was launched the contracts to develop and manufacture components for the Apollo missions sustained the economies of many localities within the US and introduced a lot of dependents on US public funding. Hence, the sustaining of the Apollo mission programme became highly politicised.

He demonstrates that the decision to make the missions `manned' flights was unnecessary from a technological point of view, yet added enormously to the development cost of the programme as life support systems had to be built. He explores the profiles of the men chosen to be astronauts and how their `ego's' often clashed with those of the technicians that were developing the technology. It really is a fascinating and provocative insight into the history of space flight.

Prior to reading this book I have travelled on holiday to Florida on two separate occasions with my family and on both occasions for me the personal highlight of the trip was our visit to the Kennedy Space Centre. Whether touring the facilities of the preserved `launch control' centre for Apollo 7, or standing in the shadow of the huge Saturn V rocket, I have always felt an immense sense of awe, pride and respect those early pioneers in manned space-flight. Their achievement in taking a man to the moon and bringing him back is truly awe-inspiring. Despite the observations made by DeGroot I still retain that high level of admiration and respect for all the men and women who contributed to the success of taking man to the moon.

DeGroot's book provides a very well written alternative view on the achievement. It is a tremendous read and provides some great historical insight and context to the challenges and successes of manned missions is Space. What the book does perfectly to my mind, is that it illustrates the complex nature of human beings; how our emotions, fears and perceptions of self-interest are equally important drivers to attain our dreams; equally as important as the noble and heroic motives that we also choose to inspire us.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars compelling but not perhaps as critical as you might expect, 3 April 2007
I found this valuable, particularly the early history of the lunar mission in relation to the Second World War and the horrors of the concentration camps. I was hoping for a critical history of this well-trodden subject but as the book develops, the same observations and arguments are frequently repeated and DeGroot's disaffection with the manned space programme becomes all too obvious. It would perhaps have been interesting to hear more about the non-manned projects in relation to Apollo etc. but maybe that's another book. It may be that the quality of the available source material runs wide rather than deep, pretty shocking when one thinks about how much was spent on the space programme. I'd definitely recommend this if you want to find out more but I wished it was a bit more, well... critical, as much of its own approach as of it subject.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 24 Sep 2008
This review is from: Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest (Paperback)
I have seen lots of people pick holes in this book for factual inaccuracies, missing bits out or whatever. Frankly I didn't know and I don't really care, as they didn't detract from my main reason for reading it - namely why did they spend all that money? I heard this question being asked of a NASA spokesperson at a conference and he couldn't give a meaningful answer either.

I personally think this book is fascinating and should be mandatory reading for anyone involved in any project with a big budget. Ignore the inaccuracies and ask yourself on your next project - why are we doing this, and what's it worth? Now, remind me just what we are going to get from the Large Haldron Collider?

And, yes I am related to Neil.
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