When young Jim Schefter was a stringer for the Houston Chronicle
and later Life
magazine, he scored the plum reporting assignment of the 1960s--close-up coverage of the tense, heady race to space between the Americans and the Soviets. That pivotal decade in space exploration gave us near misses, giddy victories, and tragic failures that are hard to even imagine now as we yawn at the ubiquitous "routine shuttle launch". But the space race back then was deadly serious stuff: America's best and brightest scientists were teamed up with bold cowboy astronauts to win what was then seen as the most visible, most crucial battle in the Cold War. And Jim Schefter--thanks to an exclusive contract Life had inked with the astronauts and their families--sat front-row centre, from the earliest launches on to Neil Armstrong's hastily composed words as he stepped off the Eagle.
Armed with copious notes, reams of NASA and Soviet documents, and countless closed-door, at times embarrassing anecdotes, Schefter recounts the tit-for-tat one-upmanship of those early days in The Race. He goes as far back as the post-World War Two grab for Nazi rocket technology, revealing that many joked at the time that the US-Soviet race was being conducted by the Germans--"our Germans versus their Germans". Schefter ably conveys the era's tension and exhilaration, jumping back and forth between the US and Russian teams with smart, super-friends pacing (think "meanwhile, back at the Hall of Justice..."), while also offering up solid historical and technical context and many uncomfortably funny asides.--Paul Hughes
The Story of the Moon Race Between Russia and America