Cover image for The heavens and the earth : a political history of the space age
The heavens and the earth : a political history of the space age
McDougall, Walter A., 1946-
Personal Author:
Johns Hopkins paperbacks edition.
Publication Information:
Baltimore, Md. : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

Physical Description:
xxiii, 555 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally published: New York : Basic Books, c1985.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TL789.8.U5 M34 1985C Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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This highly acclaimed study approaches the space race as a problem in comparative public policy. Drawing on published literature, archival sources in both the United States and Europe, interviews with many of the key participants, and important declassified material, such as the National Security Council's first policy paper on space, McDougall examines U.S., European, and Soviet space programs and their politics. Opening with a short account of Nikolai Kibalchich, a late nineteenth-century Russian rocketry theoretician, McDougall argues that the Soviet Union made its way into space first because it was the world's first "technocracy"--which he defines as "the institutionalization of technological change for state purpose." He also explores the growth of a political economy of technology in both the Soviet Union and the United States.

Author Notes

Walter A. McDougall is Alloy-Ansin Professor of International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania, and editor of Orbis: A Journal of World Affairs . He is also author of France's Rhineland Diplomacy, 1914-1942: The Last Bid for a Balance of Power in Europe .

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian examines the competing U.S. and Soviet space programs. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

McDougall's book is destined to become the standard history of the origins of the space age. His exhaustive research and splendid writing style prove that good history and good writing are not only compatible but can result in a monumental work that will appeal to scholars and general readers alike. The Heavens and the Earth is a well-organized and beautifully told narrative history; a political analysis of the governmental decisions that began and perpetuated the space race; and a comparative study of how the US and the Soviet Union go about the business of technological development. Berkeley historian McDougall also captures the tone and temper of the times nicely. The ``media riot'' that erupted after the October 4, 1957 launch of Sputnik I brought a seemingly endless storm of American self-criticism from which Eisenhower emerges as one of the few reasonable voices. Readers will be interested, but probably not surprised, to learn that Lyndon Johnson ``was eager to get out front in space because it was the new national toy. He was trying to become President ....'' The book is well indexed and footnoted with exceptional thoroughness. Its major flaw is that the period from the mid-1960s through the 1970s gets far too hasty treatment; however, nothing better exists on this subject for the 1950s and earlier 1960s. McDougall's work belongs in all libraries.-G.N. Sandvick, North Hennepin Community College