This is of course only a partial list of the great space-race books out there. What are some of your favorites? Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments section for other titles you would recommend to interested readers.
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And check out these books that served as great resources:
“A Man on the Moon,” by Andrew Chaikin
Andrew Chaikin interviewed nearly every astronaut to make a journey to the moon, and in this book he retells the story of Apollo missions with intimate detail.
“American Moonshot,” by Douglas Brinkley
Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley turns his focus to John F. Kennedy’s decision to go to the moon in this newly published biography.
“Apollo 13,” by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger
While the Apollo 13 mission took place after the main events covered in the “Moonrise” podcast, I still found it useful to read astronaut Jim Lovell’s account of his training, as he was also part of the Apollo 8 mission, the first human trip to the moon.
“Apollo in the Age of Aquarius,” by Neil Maher
Neil Maher, who appeared as a guest on Episode 11 of the “Moonrise” podcast, examines how the Apollo program intersected — sometimes collaborating, sometimes colliding — with social movements of the 1960s, including women’s rights, civil rights, the environmental movement and protests against the Vietnam War.
“Apollo to the Moon,” by Teasel Muir-Harmony
This is a guide to artifacts from the Apollo missions, which each reveal unique stories about the space race. Teasel Muir-Harmony is the curator of the National Air and Space Museum’s Apollo collection. She also appeared as an expert on “Moonrise” and was hugely helpful in furthering my understanding of the geopolitics of the Apollo story.
“Astounding,” by Alec Nevala-Lee
This book has fascinating details about the golden age of science fiction, particularly the lives and careers of sci-fi creators John Campbell, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. In addition to using this book as a font of information for “Moonrise,” I interviewed author Alec Nevala-Lee about his science fiction expertise for several of the podcast episodes.
“From the Earth to the Moon,” by Jules Verne
This novel, originally published in 1865 by French author Jules Verne, is considered one of the first science fiction depictions of launching humans on a rocket to the moon. It inspired a generation of rocket designers and sci-fi readers to dream of space travel.
“John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon,” by John M. Logsdon
Space historian John Logsdon pulls together a detailed account of John F. Kennedy’s Apollo decision and its lasting effects on U.S. space policy.
“Master of the Senate” and “The Passage of Power,” by Robert A. Caro
These two biographies in Robert Caro’s massive (and ongoing) series about Lyndon B. Johnson were extremely useful in constructing an image of Johnson’s role in shaping U.S. space policy, from Sputnik through Apollo.
“Right Stuff, Wrong Sex,” by Margaret Weitekamp
Margaret Weitekamp, a historian with the National Air and Space Museum, appeared regularly on the “Moonrise” podcast. This book of hers looks at the first program that attempted to put women in space in the 1950s and ′60s, telling the interwoven story of the U.S. space program and the women’s rights movement.
“Rocket Men,” by Robert Kurson
This is a great account of the Apollo 8 mission, the first time humans flew all the way to the moon. We tell a (much abbreviated!) version of the Apollo 8 story in episode 11 of “Moonrise.”
“Rockets and People — Volume III: Hot Days of the Cold War,” by Boris Chertok
Boris Chertok worked under Soviet rocket designer Sergei Korolev, and this volume of his autobiography gives a rich firsthand account of Korolev’s final days, as chronicled in “Moonrise” Episode 10.
“Rocket Ship Galileo,” by Robert A. Heinlein
This young-adult fantasy book about a trip to the moon served as the basis for the film “Destination Moon,” one of the earliest Hollywood depictions of space travel. The influence of such works on popular culture — and, subsequently, U.S. space policy — is explored in Episode 6 of “Moonrise.”
“Space and the American Imagination,” by Howard McCurdy
Howard McCurdy is a professor in the School of Public Affairs at American University, and he appeared regularly on the podcast. This book in many ways has a similar aim to “Moonrise” — it examines the way fictional imagery in popular culture shaped real policy decisions involving the space program.
“Spaceflight and the Myth of Presidential Leadership,” by Roger Launius and Howard McCurdy
Both Roger Launius and Howard McCurdy were frequent guests on the “Moonrise” podcast, and their book is a collection of essays on the intersection between presidential politics and space policy. It illuminates patterns and differences among the many American presidents who had a hand in shaping U.S. space goals.
“The Age of Eisenhower,” by William I. Hitchcock
William Hitchcock’s biography of Dwight Eisenhower was instrumental for me when I was creating the presidential podcast, and I found myself rereading several chapters of it for “Moonrise” to better understand Eisenhower’s thinking on Sputnik and the United States’ military interests in space.
“The Left Hand of Darkness,” by Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin was the first woman to win the prestigious Hugo and Nebula science fiction awards. This novel of hers, published in 1969 — the same year as the Apollo 11 moon landing — is an example of science fiction’s use of space settings as laboratories for exploring social and cultural dynamics on Earth.
“The Red Rockets’ Glare,” by Asif Siddiqi
Asif Siddiqi is one of the foremost experts on Soviet space history. His book “The Red Rockets’ Glare” showcases his meticulous research into the early Soviet space program. Particularly useful for me in making “Moonrise” were his detailed accounts of Soviet rocket engineer Sergei Korolev’s role throughout so much of the space race.
“The Right Stuff,” by Tom Wolfe
While astronauts are far from the main characters of “Moonrise,” this classic Tom Wolfe nonfiction work is a great jumping-off point for understanding NASA’s culture in the 1960s.
“The Smithsonian History of Space Exploration,” by Roger Launius
Roger Launius appeared regularly on the “Moonrise” podcast, sharing his expertise across a wide array of space-history topics. In this massive book, he gives a thorough overview of all things space — from ancient studies of the stars to future projects to explore them.
“The Space Barons,” by Christian Davenport
Christian Davenport is a colleague of mine at The Washington Post who covers NASA and the private space industry. He was a great help throughout my reporting process, and his book provides a really informative and engaging look at the figures leading, and financing, space exploration today.
“Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War,” by Michael J. Neufeld
Michael Neufeld is a historian with the National Air and Space Museum, and his biography paints a complex, nuanced portrait of German-turned-American rocket engineer Wernher von Braun. Neufeld was a guest on several “Moonrise” episodes, particularly contributing his expertise on von Braun’s Nazi past and his story of coming to the United States after World War II.