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With this month's 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite, and the forthcoming 50th anniversary in 2008 of the establishment of NASA, there are many new books to whet the appetites of space enthusiasts. These two titles start at the same place, Sputnik's 1957 launch, with some background on the development of rockets in Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States, but A Ball, a Dog, and a Monkeystops with the launch of the first U.S. satellite in 1958, and Epic Rivalryfollows the space race to the Apollo 11moon landing. D'Antonio (Atomic Harvest), a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, brings a human perspective to the Sputnikstory by interviewing still-living participants and examining a few of the major characters. Much of the focus is on Wernher von Braun and Soviet chief designer Sergey Korolyov, but interviews with scientist James Van Allen, early space reporters Jay Barbree and Wickham "Wickie" Stivers, and many others add a unique personal background to the story.
Hardesty (Red Phoenix: The Rise of Soviet Air Power), a curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and journalist Eisman do an excellent job of covering the science, technology, and politics of the space race. As new materials become available for research in Russia, more is being learned about the Soviet space program, and Hardesty is well qualified to present the findings. The authors compare the U.S. and Soviet space exploration programs during the cold war. With 75 photos and extensive footnotes, this a good reference book as well as an engaging history. And the foreword by the grandson of Sovietpremier Nikita Khrushchev, Sergey Khrushchev, is great start. Both titles are recommended for space science collections in public and academic libraries. [For other Sputnikand space history titles, see also Giles Sparrow's Space Flight; America in Space: NASA's First Fifty Years; After Sputnik: 50 Years of the Space Ageand Michael J. Neufeld's Von Braun.-Ed.]