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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
This review is from: Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest (Hardcover)
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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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 Mar 2011 18:08:44 BDT
The miniaturisation of electronics wasn't a space race spin-off - read some histories of the semiconductor industry.

And arguing that the Cold War didn't get hit because the moon race provided a substitute is firstly bizarro logic and, secondly, ignores three million of so dead people in SE Asia.

In short, an amazingly ignorant and cognitively flawed review.
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