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New York University Press
Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest

Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest

by Gerard Degroot, Jan Lewis


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Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest

A selection of the History, Scientific American, and Quality Paperback Book Clubs

For a very brief moment during the 1960s, America was moonstruck. Boys dreamt of being an astronaut; girls dreamed of marrying one. Americans drank Tang, bought “space pens” that wrote upside down, wore clothes made of space age Mylar, and took imaginary rockets to the moon from theme parks scattered around the country.

But despite the best efforts of a generation of scientists, the almost foolhardy heroics of the astronauts, and 35 billion dollars, the moon turned out to be a place of “magnificent desolation,” to use Buzz Aldrin’s words: a sterile rock of no purpose to anyone. In Dark Side of the Moon, Gerard J. DeGroot reveals how NASA cashed in on the Americans’ thirst for heroes in an age of discontent and became obsessed with putting men in space. The moon mission was sold as a race which America could not afford to lose. Landing on the moon, it was argued, would be good for the economy, for politics, and for the soul. It could even win the Cold War. The great tragedy is that so much effort and expense was devoted to a small step that did virtually nothing for mankind.

Drawing on meticulous archival research, DeGroot cuts through the myths constructed by the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations and sustained by NASA ever since. He finds a gang of cynics, demagogues, scheming politicians, and corporations who amassed enormous power and profits by exploiting the fear of what the Russians might do in space.

Exposing the truth behind one of the most revered fictions of American history, Dark Side of the Moon explains why the American space program has been caught in a state of purposeless wandering ever since Neil Armstrong descended from Apollo 11 and stepped onto the moon. The effort devoted to the space program was indeed magnificent and its cultural impact was profound, but the purpose of the program was as desolate and dry as lunar dust.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814719954
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 11/01/2006
Pages: 321
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.88(d)

About the Author

Gerard J. DeGroot is professor of modern history at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland. He is the author of ten books, most recently The Bomb: A Life, which won the prestigious [2004] Westminster Medal for the best book on a war or military topic.

Table of Contents

1 Fly Me to the Moon
2 Slaves to a Dream
3 What Are We Waiting For?
4 Sputnik
5 The Red Rocket’s Glare
6 Muttnik
7 Rocket Jocks
8 Before This Decade Is Out
9 The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
10 Lost in Space
11 Sacri?ces on the Altar of St. John
12 Merry Christmas from the Moon
13 Magni?cent Desolation
14 Nothing Left to Do
About the Author

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“The book is well written and quite engaging with its cast of colorful characters.”


Dark Side of the Moon is an elegant contribution to the history of the space age.”
-The Sunday Times


“DeGroot presents a chronicle of exploration, concentrating on the utter uselessness of NASA’s lunar missions, boondoggles every bit as myopic and costly as the Cold War that spawned them.”
-The Atlantic Monthly


“DeGroot writes compellingly about the convergence of political, military, and industrial forces that produced the ‘magnificent madness’ of the space agency NASA in the 1960s. . . . A fine writer with a real flair for storytelling has fun with NASA's extravagance and its tendency to look for complex solutions where simple ones would do.”
-The Financial Times


“DeGroot weaves a compelling tale.”
-Chicago Sun-Times

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Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Dark Side Of The Moon is a highly uneven book written by Gerard DeGroot, a Professor of History and an award winning author. The book adopts the now generally accepted view the America¿s space program in the 1960s was driven by cold war politics rather than important scientific goals. The book also argues that the Apollo program was a dead end for space exploration rather than a significant event in the ongoing human exploration of space. The author then proceeds from these not unusual ideas to argue that America¿s manned exploration of space was a massive waste of money, a mere American ego trip and a grossly mismanaged rush to the moon. These are much more debatable propositions. The shocking aspect of the book is that the author of this ¿history¿ relies on an Apollo mission to the moon that never took place as part of his argument that Apollo was an ill conceived rush to the moon. DeGroot believes that Apollo astronauts made three trips to the moon prior to the Apollo 11 moon landing mission, thus making even the Apollo 11 flight to the moon ¿routine.¿ Showing his lack of knowledge of what actually happened in the Apollo program, DeGroot writes on pages 230-231 ¿ ¿For NASA, Apollo 8 provided valuable confirmation that the package which would take Americans to the Moon actually worked. Apollo 9 then took on the original profile of Apollo 8, except for the fact that, given the earlier mission¿s success, there seemed little point in testing the lunar module in Earth orbit. The crew of James McDivitt, David Scott, and Rust Schweickart therefore went to the Moon. After the command module separated from the spent rocket, the crew turned it around and then docked with the lunar module, which was still enclosed in Saturn¿s final stage. They then pulled away and headed for the Moon. Once in the Moon¿s orbit, McDivitt and Schweickart climbed into the lunar module, separated it from the command module, and flew it for the first time.¿ This story about Apollo 9 going to the moon is fiction, not history. This is no mere typo or misstatement, but an appalling error in scholarship by this historian. Apollo 9 never went to the moon. Astronauts McDivitt, Scott and Schweickart did not orbit the moon in Apollo 9. Apollo 9 it was planned and executed (highly successfully) as an Earth orbit mission. One minute of on on-line research can confirm this by searching for Apollo 9 at the NASA web site. The difference between an Earth orbit mission and a lunar obit mission is vast. How vast? Well, since the last Apollo flight to the moon in 1972 there have been over a hundred Earth orbit flights and not a single flight to the moon. Since Apollo 11 was only the second time the lunar module went to the moon and only the third time men traveled to the moon, it was not a ¿routine¿ event. In erroneously describing the Apollo 9 mission as traveling to the moon and using that as part of his argument for criticizing NASA, the author seriously undercuts his credibility. Furthermore, continuing factual errors about the Apollo program show that the author does not have any in depth knowledge of what actually occurred on these missions. For example, in writing about what DeGroot describes as the ¿well known¿ Apollo 13 mission, he states ¿An explosion ripped through the outer skin of the Command Module, which quickly lost electric power.¿ P. 250. In fact, the explosion ripped through the skin of the service module, an entirely different part of the space craft. If the explosion had ripped though the skin of the command module, the astronauts would have immediately died from decompression of the command module. An author of a book about the Apollo missions should better understand the design of the Apollo command and service modules that made up the Apollo spacecraft. Especially if it is a book highly critical of the entire program. The author also shows that he does not have a clear grasp of the events that too
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
So was it worth it for you? The journey to the Moon cost $2000 for EVERY man, woman and child living in America in 1969. That's an awful lot to pay for some Teflon and Velcro, especially when you consider that (contrary to NASA's claims) Teflon and Velcro were invented before any American actually took to space. For far too long, we have been fed a load of lies about the importance of going to the Moon and man's need to explore. Why can't we find something worthwhile to do with all that money on earth?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not many people realize that, for most of the Sixties, the Vietnam War was a lot more popular than Apollo. Americans got the occasional kick out of the rocket launches, but, when asked whether the fantasy in space was worth the $35 million dollar price tag, a clear majority usually said 'No'. This book exposes the underside of the race to the moon, especially all of the underhand, devious and sometimes criminal ways NASA used to maintain government support for Apollo. It's going to make a lot of people very mad, but these needs to be said, and congratulations to DeGroot for saying it. In addition to providing some really shocking revelations about how we were manipulated, it is also a darn good read.