American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race

by Douglas Brinkley

Hardcover, 2019




Harper (2019), Edition: First Edition, 576 pages


As the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing approaches, the award winning historian and perennial New York Times bestselling author takes a fresh look at the space program, President John F. Kennedy's inspiring challenge, and America's race to the moon. On May 25, 1961, JFK made an astonishing announcement: his goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. In this engrossing, fast-paced epic, Douglas Brinkley returns to the 1960s to recreate one of the most exciting and ambitious achievements in the history of humankind. American Moonshot brings together the extraordinary political, cultural, and scientific factors that fueled the birth and development of NASA and the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo projects, which shot the United States to victory in the space race against the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. Drawing on new primary source material and major interviews with many of the surviving figures who were key to America's success, Brinkley brings this fascinating history to life as never before. American Moonshot is a portrait of the brilliant men and women who made this giant leap possible, the technology that enabled us to propel men beyond earth's orbit to the moon and return them safely, and the geopolitical tensions that spurred Kennedy to commit himself fully to this audacious dream. Brinkley's ensemble cast of New Frontier characters include rocketeer Wernher von Braun, astronaut John Glenn and space booster Lyndon Johnson. A vivid and enthralling chronicle of one of the most thrilling, hopeful, and turbulent eras in the nation's history, American Moonshot is an homage to scientific ingenuity, human curiosity, and the boundless American spirit.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member jfe16
The fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing inspires the acclaimed historian to take a fresh look at the American space program, at President John Kennedy’s inspiring challenge, and at the race to the moon.

Drawing on new primary source material, Douglas Brinkley brings this fascinating
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history to life as he turns the spotlight on the men and women who made this giant leap possible while exploring the technology and the political tensions of the time.

Readers will find much to appreciate in this living history that chronicles one of our nation’s most thrilling events as it pays homage to the scientists and engineers whose magnificent efforts embody the curiosity and spirit of America.

Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member meacoleman
LOVED this book! Douglas Brinkley tells the behind-the-scenes story of the space race: how Eisenhower thought it was a waste of time and money, and how JFK saw the potential.
LibraryThing member yukon92
Very interesting look at the US Space Program. This audio book lost 1 star on the ratings for the horribly mangled pronunciation of the German words, expressions etc. I know that with today's translating programs it is possible to hear the correct pronunciation before you read them into an audio
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LibraryThing member lanewillson
Kennedy's passion and leadership served as the first stage of fuel for NASA's mission. Sadly, once his influence was spent, we never replaced his vision of the importance and impact of the space program in our daily lives.
LibraryThing member GeoffHabiger
American Moonshot is a wonderful and detailed look at John F. Kennedy and the influence he had on the American space program. Douglas Brinkley weaves an exciting narrative around Kennedy, Wernher von Braun, Lyndon Johnson, and all of the astronauts, bureaucrats, engineers, and everybody else who
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was responsible to bring about the US Space program and to undertake Kennedy's bold vision of "landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth". Told generally chronologically, the early part of the book tells dual narratives of Kennedy and von Braun as well as the other early pioneers of rocketry. As World War II end the narrative switches to be more focused on Kennedy, first as a member of congress, then his campaign for president, and his presidency.

I really enjoyed this in depth look at the American space program. Many events were put in place before Kennedy became president, and maybe we would have eventually made it to the moon, but the drive, the passion, and the influence that Kennedy brought - not only to the public, but to the politicians and engineers - was really brought home for me. We've all heard the speeches (or at least the sound-byte) but to be able to pull back the curtain and see how everything happened - from the great speeches to the back-room deals - cast a light on one of the most important parts of space history.
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LibraryThing member TobinElliott
Right off the top, this book was absolutely not what I expected it to be. I fully expected a history of the Apollo program, with a little background colour as to how we got there.

Nope, this book dives way back to the Fifties, and digs even farther back when discussing some of the early years of the
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key players (Kennedy, Werner Von Braun, Eisenhower, etc.). We're run through the build up to the space program, through its hesitant first steps. We're taken through all the political machinations for and against the space program, manned flights, and the moonshot.

Surprisingly, it actually ends prior to the actual moonshot of July, 1969, and only covers it briefly in the epilogue, of all places (and honestly, that's literally the only reason for the one star off rating).

Other than that, the content, the research, and the actual story are phenomenal, and it makes me remember how exciting the 1960s really were.
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LibraryThing member Hccpsk
The space race of the 1960s is one of the most talked about periods in American history, and Douglas Brinkley’s American Moonshot does a good job of attempting to convey the facts during John F. Kennedy’s political career.


Audie Award (Finalist — History/Biography — 2020)
Ohioana Book Award (Finalist — Nonfiction — 2020)


Original language



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