John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon
By John M. Logsdon
(Palgrave Macmillan, Hardcover, 9780230110106, 308pp.)
Publication Date: December 15, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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On May 25, 1961, President John Kennedy declared: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” Over his remaining time in the White House, JFK actively involved himself in space decisions and several times reviewed his decision to go to the Moon, each time concluding that the benefits of being the leader in space outweighed the massive costs of the lunar landing enterprise. Logsdon traces the evolution of JFK's thinking and policy up until his assassination, which brought to an end his reexamination of the program's goal and schedule and his hope to collaborate, rather than compete, with the Soviet Union in going to the Moon. This study, based on extensive research in primary documents and archival interviews with key members of the Kennedy administration, is the definitive examination of John Kennedy’s role in sending Americans to the Moon.
Dr. John M. Logsdon is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, and until his retirement was the long-time director of GWU’s Space Policy Institute. Author of the seminal study The Decision to Go to the Moon (1970) and the main article for “space exploration” in the newest edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, he is a sought-after commentator on space issues who has appeared on all major broadcast and cable networks, along with many international news shows. He was a member of the NASA Advisory Council from 2005-2009 and remains a member of its Exploration Committee. From 2008-2009 he held the Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History at the National Air and Space Museum. In 2003 he served as a member of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.
“Echoes of this time lift off the pages of John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon, a new book by John M. Logsdon, a political scientist and longtime space policy specialist at George Washington University. He has drawn on new research in archives, oral histories and memoirs available in recent years to shed new light on the moon race.”—The New York Times “Some say that Kennedy conceived of the race to the moon principally to recover from the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs. John Logsdon, the doyen of American space studies, takes a more generous view in his new book. Kennedy was not especially interested in space, and said as much in private. But after the Soviet Union sent Yuri Gagarin into orbit he believed it to be vital for America to take on and beat the Soviets at something very hard. The moon fitted this need like a glove. Planting a man on its surface required no big technological innovations, says Mr. Logsdon, ‘just very expensive mastery over nature using the scientific and technological knowledge available in 1961.’”—The Economist
“Logsdon charts the evolution of JFK’s thinking about space—including repeated offers as president to cooperate with the Soviets—from his senatorial career up until the assassination. He chronicles the intergovernmental struggle for consensus and highlights the policymaking contributions of presidential aide Ted Sorensen, science advisor Jerome Wiesner, Vice President Lyndon Johnson and NASA administrator James Webb.”—Kirkus“For the inside facts about JFK’s instigation of the lunar missions, Logsdon, often seen in documentaries and television news about space, is the definitive authority.”—Booklist “A new account by John Logsdon, an eminent historian of the space program.”—The Washington Monthly “In a time when America is looking for another ‘Sputnik Moment’ to spur the country on a number of fronts, this scholarly and well-written look at the nation’s ‘Apollo Moment’ captures presidential decision-making stemming from the heat of the space race between the United States and the former Soviet Union. Readers will find this book a treasured resource. Logsdon’s devotion to this book is visible through and through – including an invaluable and insightful set of notes for each chapter. Beyond the U.S. President, you’ll find a landscape of people that also helped shape that “one small step” off planet. A must-read.”—The Coalition for Space Exploration In John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon, historian John Logsdon examines the political forces that shaped space policy in the tragically brief tenure of the Kennedy Administration. Logsdon is returning to familiar ground: in 1970 he published The Decision to Go to the Moon: Project Apollo and the National Interest, one of the first books to examine the rationale for embarking on such a risky, expensive endeavor. Why revisit the topic now? As Logsdon notes in the book’s preface, a lot of key documents from that era have been released in the intervening years; the 1970 book had been based primarily on interviews with key players and secondary sources, with the research mostly completed prior to Apollo 11 itself. And, just as important, the perspective that four decades of distance provides offers a new perspective on the events of that era and their aftermath.—The Space Review
“A comprehensive and insightful retrospect of the conception and early days of Project Apollo. Space aficionados will see immediate parallels between President Kennedy’s thought processes and the space policy debates of today.”—Neil Armstrong, Commander, Apollo 11
“In contrast to the hesitations, reconsiderations, and cancellations that have plagued recent U.S. activities in space, President John F. Kennedy’s shining May 25, 1961, challenge to send humans to the Moon remains a beacon of national resolve. John M. Logsdon’s review of the whole history of President Kennedy’s civil space policy, especially events after the May 25 speech, reveals the special circumstances that kept the lunar goal on track. Hesitation arose, but Kennedy’s pragmatism ultimately prevailed. Logsdon explains why. With this insightful analysis, Logsdon demonstrates again why he remains the dean of space policy historians.”—Howard E. McCurdy, Professor of Public Policy, American University and University of Washington, and author of Space and the American Imagination
“John Logsdon’s book is a high quality scholarly work, deeply researched, but also an easy read. It is an insightful history of JFK’s decision to use the space program and especially the Apollo lunar landing project as a rational Cold War response to the perceived ‘missile gap’ and the Soviet space challenges of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin’s flight.”—Bill Anders, Astronaut, Apollo 8, and Executive Secretary, National Aeronautics and Space Council, 1969-1972
“One of the definitive political histories of the quest to put a man on the Moon.”—Matthew Brzezinski, author of Red Moon Rising
“John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon provides a comprehensive, insider’s account of one of the most important and far-reaching policy decisions of the Kennedy administration. It is a masterful case study of presidential decision making.”— Professor Steven J. Wayne, Presidential Scholar, Georgetown University
“An extraordinary book on the genesis of Project Apollo . . . Indeed, the first clear and definitive account of the pivotal role played by John F. Kennedy in shaping the American space program. How President Kennedy reached his fateful decision to enter the space race to reach the Moon is now told fully in an insightful and authoritative way.”—Von Hardesty, Curator, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum