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.
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.