One of the Washington Post's 20 Books to Read This Summer
A riveting history of the epic orbital flight that put America back into the space race.
If the United States couldn’t catch up to the Soviets in space, how could it compete with them on Earth? That was the question facing John F. Kennedy at the height of the Cold War—a perilous time when the Soviet Union built the wall in Berlin, tested nuclear bombs more destructive than any in history, and beat the United States to every major milestone in space. The race to the heavens seemed a race for survival—and America was losing.
On February 20, 1962, when John Glenn blasted into orbit aboard Friendship 7, his mission was not only to circle the planet; it was to calm the fears of the free world and renew America’s sense of self-belief. Mercury Rising re-creates the tension and excitement of a flight that shifted the momentum of the space race and put the United States on the path to the moon. Drawing on new archival sources, personal interviews, and previously unpublished notes by Glenn himself, Mercury Rising reveals how the astronaut’s heroics lifted the nation’s hopes in what Kennedy called the "hour of maximum danger."
Historian Shesol (Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. The Supreme Court) recreates in this entertaining and deeply researched account the early days of the U.S. space program, culminating with astronaut John Glenn becoming the first American to orbit Earth in February 1962. Shesol sketches Glenn's childhood in New Concord, Ohio; service as a fighter pilot in WWII and Korea; and breaking of the transcontinental speed record in 1957. One of seven "astronaut volunteers" selected for Project Mercury, Glenn served as backup to Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom for the first suborbital flights before being picked for the Friendship 7 mission to orbit Earth. Shesol provides plenty of historical and political context, including the Soviet Union's early lead in the space race, the Bay of Pigs, and escalating tensions in Berlin and Southeast Asia, but the book achieves liftoff in its extended depiction of Glenn's nearly five-hour flight, vividly recreating his perspective ("As the sun began to set, it seemed to flatten into the horizon, almost to melt, pooling liquid light across the curve of the Earth") and documenting fears that a technical issue would cause his capsule to burn up on reentry into the atmosphere. Readers will savor the hair-raising ride.
An Excellent Read and Review of the Mercury Program
A very well documented and detailed accounting of the background concerning the development of the U.S. Space program, NASA, and the 7 astronauts that embodied the quest for space exploration and the quest for the moon landing. The focus on John Glenn’s orbital flight in its rich detail and description captures the sense of the focus and more particularly the drama of the lift off when, after a series of cancellations and delays, it seemed unlikely. The writing captures the drama and emotion as if you were transported back in time to witness it all over again. Just amazing-a page turner amidst a documented historical series of events and actions. For those who lived this period of U.S. history it is a recollection of events difficult to replicate-but it’s done in this book. Highly recommend Mercury Rising. Very well worth the read.
AMERICAN HERO ASTRONAUT!
On February 20, 2022; America and the world will be commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the First American Astronaut to Orbit the Earth. One extraordinary man on-board the Mercury-Atlas 6, “FRIENDSHIP 7” spacecraft successfully completed his historic mission into space!
COLONEL JOHN HERSCHEL GLENN JR., USMC (Ret.) as one of the “original” NASA Mercury Seven astronauts epitomizes the true meaning of Duty, Honor, and Commitment. His lifetime achievements and contributions to America’s Human Spaceflight Program is exquisitely detailed in this monumental masterpiece titled:
“MERCURY RISING: John Glenn, John Kennedy, and the New Battleground of the Cold War”. A must read for all ages; which transports the reader to the early pioneering days of the 1960’s during the quintessential Space Race with the Soviet Union at the brink of the Cold War.
Author Jeff Shesol has created a unique new expose on all the events; that set the stage for the culmination of the First Lunar Landing on the surface of the Moon in 1969.
Join me in this epic journey called the Space Race and re-live the greatest moments of America’s quest for adventure into the unknown. President John F. Kennedy set the challenge and with the combined efforts of thousands of men and women; the ultimate goal was achieved. Task Accomplished….
WE DID IT!