Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries that Ignited the Space Age

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For the fiftieth anniversary of Sputnik, the behind-the-scenes story of the fierce battles on earth that launched the superpowers into space

The spy planes were driving Nikita Khrushchev mad. Whenever America wanted to peer inside the Soviet Union, it launched a U-2, which flew too high to be shot down. But Sergei Korolev, Russia's chief rocket designer, had a riposte: an artificial satellite that would orbit the earth and cross American skies ...

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Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries that Ignited the Space Age

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For the fiftieth anniversary of Sputnik, the behind-the-scenes story of the fierce battles on earth that launched the superpowers into space

The spy planes were driving Nikita Khrushchev mad. Whenever America wanted to peer inside the Soviet Union, it launched a U-2, which flew too high to be shot down. But Sergei Korolev, Russia's chief rocket designer, had a riposte: an artificial satellite that would orbit the earth and cross American skies at will. On October 4, 1957, the launch of Korolev's satellite, Sputnik, stunned the world.

In Red Moon Rising, Matthew Brzezinski takes us inside the Kremlin, the White House, secret military facilities, and the halls of Congress to bring to life the Russians and Americans who feared and distrusted their compatriots as much as their superpower rivals. Drawing on original interviews and new documentary sources from both sides of the Cold War divide, he shows how Khrushchev and Dwight Eisenhower were buffeted by crises of their own creation, leaving the door open to ambitious politicians and scientists to squabble over the heavens and the earth. It is a story rich in the paranoia of the time, with combatants that included two future presidents, survivors of the gulag, corporate chieftains, rehabilitated Nazis, and a general who won the day by refusing to follow orders.

Sputnik set in motion events that led not only to the moon landing but also to cell phones, federally guaranteed student loans, and the wireless Internet. Red Moon Rising recounts the true story of the birth of the space age in dramatic detail, bringing it to life as never before.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
October 2007 marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of the unmanned Soviet satellite that the American media dubbed Sputnik. In a new millennium when even small companies launch orbital probes, the achievement seems modest, but at the time, the tiny Russian "moon" caused widespread panic throughout the Western world because it signaled (somewhat deceptively) the advent of the USSR as the second great superpower. Matthew Brzezinski's eye-opening history of the early space race reveals that priorities and alliances were often far different than they seemed. He notes, for example, that all the top Pentagon officials were former defense contractor executives who were more dedicated to sending business to their old companies than in creating viable rockets. He shows how Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson became strange bedfellows in the technology war. And, not least, he shows how Nikita Khrushchev used the competition to mask the gaping holes in his military defenses.
Mark Atwood Lawrence
There is nothing especially new in Red Moon Rising, which is heavily indebted to painstaking research by legions of historians who came before. But Brzezinski, a former Moscow correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, tells the story of American and Soviet decisions with remarkable dramatic—even cinematic—flair.
—The New York Times
Bryan Burrough
…however broad Brzezinski's strokes, one comes away not only entertained but informed, with a clear sense of why the pennywise Soviets leapt ahead in missile technology while the Americans, focused on developing bombers to reach Russian soil, failed to realize the importance of space until they woke beneath a communist moon…Throughout, Brzezinski remains in firm control, carving a fast-moving narrative from his own interviews and the research of others…In the end, what you think of Red Moon Rising probably depends on what you expect from popular history. Want a fun, easy read, something you can gulp down while idling in the after-school pickup line? Buy it. Want something comprehensive, authoritative, Caro-like? Pass. Whatever your preference, keep in mind the name Matthew Brzezinski. This book feels like a practice run from a young author destined for big things.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

The writing is fast-paced and crisp, the stakes high and the tension palpable from the first pages of this high-flying account of the early days of the space race between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., a race ignited by the Soviet launch of the first satellite, Sputnik, in 1957. Brzezinski (Fortress America), a contributor to the New York Times Magazine, says this battle for military and technological control of space, part of the larger Cold War, had lasting consequences. Brzezinski illuminates how the space race divided Americans: for instance, then Sen. Lyndon Johnson wanted to aggressively pursue the race, but President Eisenhower thought the ambitious senator was merely seeking publicity. The author also dissects the failed American spin: despite White House claims that Sputnik was no big deal, the media knew it was huge. Sputnik II, launched a month later, was even more unsettling for Americans, causing them to question their "way of life." The principals-Khrushchev, Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles, rocket scientist Werner von Braun-are vividly realized. Yet even more than his absorbing narrative, Brzezinski's final analysis has staying power: although the U.S. caught up to the U.S.S.R., it was the Russians' early dominance in space that established the Soviet Union as a superpower equal to America. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
The famous satellite's shiny metal orb reflects the entire nerve-racking history of Soviet/American relations during the Cold War. Brzezinski (Fortress America: On the Front Lines of Homeland Security-An Inside Look at the Coming Surveillance State, 2004, etc.) brings years of experience as a Moscow-based journalist to bear on his subject, the very earliest days of the space race. His exhaustive research among newly opened archives in both Moscow and Washington is evident. He begins with a terse, dramatic description of a V-2 rocket attack on London before moving on to the cutthroat contest between former allies to find, isolate and capture Hitler's rocket technology, including the visionary scientists like Werner Von Braun (see Michael J. Neufeld's Von Braun, 2007, for more information) who created it. The story is told in fast-paced, parallel narratives with the taut undertones of a spy novel as Brzezinski intertwines the Sputnik program's technical achievements with the global conflict growing between the emerging superpowers led by Dwight Eisenhower and Nikita Khrushchev. Though the author focuses primarily on events leading to the launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957, subsequent chapters cover the launch of Explorer I, the first U.S. satellite in February of 1958. In the process, Brzezinski demonstrates, America and Russia both changed drastically as a new culture of competition emerged. His anecdotes range from absurd (Von Braun and actor Ronald Reagan host a Disney program on "Tomorrowland") to prescient (Eisenhower observes that a war waged with atomic missiles "would be just complete, indiscriminate devastation") to terrifying (as Moscow detonates its first atomic bomb, GeneralCurtis LeMay grumbles over the lost opportunity to completely destroy Russia with an anticipatory atomic attack). Extrapolating the space race's impact on future technology, the author offers largely superfluous and obvious conclusions in the epilogue. Otherwise, his well-drawn expose of this fundamental conflict is first-rate. A chilling portrait of rocket scientists and cold warriors at work. Agent: Scott Waxman/Waxman Literary Agency
From the Publisher
"In our fear of terrorist attacks, we forget there was an even more panicky time—when Russia's Sputnik first sped across the night sky in October 1957, signaling that the Soviet Union could launch nuclear-tipped missiles at the United States. By plumbing Russian as well as American sources, Matthew Brzezinski has given us a vivid, insightful account of that paranoid age."—Evan Thomas, author of Sea of Thunder and coauthor of The Wise Men

"Matthew Brzezinski's Red Moon Rising fills a significant hole in our understanding of the Cold War. Using the Sputnik launch as his centerpiece, Brzezinski brilliantly flashes back and forth between Washington, D.C., and Moscow. A truly gripping, important book."—Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge and The Boys of Pointe du Hoc

"Matthew Brzezinski's reportorial skills and smooth writing propel the narrative forward at the perfect pitch. Red Moon Rising is a combustibly entertaining mixture of scientific daring, politics, Cold War duels, and big-time personalities."—Neal Bascomb, author of Red Mutiny

"Matthew Brzezinski has crafted a dazzling account of the people and events that led to the world's first earth satellite. It is one of the most important stories of the twentieth century, and Brzezinski tells it supremely well. His account not only tells us how the Russians did it, but how the Americans, bewildered at first, finally got going with their own space program. It is historical storytelling at its finest, and I thoroughly enjoyed every page. In a word: Prodigious!"—Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys (October Sky)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805088588
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/5/2008
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 776,001
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthew Brzezinski is a former Moscow correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and has reported extensively on homeland-security issues for The New York Times Magazine and other publications. He is the author of Casino Moscow: A Tale of Greed and Adventure on Capitalism's Wildest Frontier and Fortress America: On the Front Lines of Homeland Security. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents

Prologue     1
The Request     17
Jet Power     45
Trials and Errors     60
Tomorrowland     78
Desert Fires     95
Pictures in Black and White     115
A Simple Satellite     142
By the Light of a Red Moon     161
Something for the Holidays     188
Operation Confidence     213
Goldstone Has the Bird     240
Epilogue     268
Notes     279
Acknowledgments     309
Index     311
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 9 of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2007

    Excellent history!!

    Red Moon Rising captures the essence of the paranoid race to beat the Russians to the moon and to put up Sputnik. The author is also much more accurate -- and less politically correct about Wernher von Braun's implication in war crimes against slave laborers used to build V-2 rockets during World War II than other recent historians' white washes. This should stand as one of the most important histories of cold war technology.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

    Great book!

    The book is a bit more lively than mist history books

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