Douglas Brinkley book American Moonshot

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.

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”—President John F. Kennedy

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.


Harper Collins


April 2, 2019

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Praise for American Moonshot:

“Douglas Brinkley is not only a scholar, he’s a true storyteller. American Moonshot evokes an era, and brings to life the vivid personalities that accomplished one of the greatest feats in history.” — Lawrence Wright, author, God Save Texas and The Looming Tower


“In an age when so little seems possible, Douglas Brinkley has taken us back to a moment when everything did. In telling the riveting story of John Kennedy and the race to the moon, Brinkley explores the complexities of politics, diplomacy, technology, and, perhaps most important, of human nature itself. This is a great book.” — Jon Meacham, author of Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush


“Graced by Douglas Brinkley’s remarkable gift for writing richly textured, sympathetic social, cultural and biographical history, American Moonshot delivers an epic narrative: it is the sweeping story of how humankind’s impetus for space exploration evolved from the early visionaries in Russia, Germany, and the United States at the dawn of the 20th century through the scientific and technological achievements–albeit associated human horrors–of two world wars, giving birth to the “Space Age”. Brinkley’s special insights into the life of John F. Kennedy make this book a particularly intimate and fascinating read.” — James R. Hansen, author of First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong


“Prepare to recall what it was like to be inspired and thrilled by American greatness. Doug Brinkley recounts, with deep research and exciting narrative, the bold spirit and faith in innovation that was embodied in Kennedy’s decision to launch a mission to the moon. His vision restored a vitality to America, something we could use today.” — Walter Isaacson, author of Kissinger and Albert Einstein


“American Moonshot is masterful.  Pulsing with fresh new research, Douglas Brinkley’s latest book captures that Cold War moment when America made a magnificent leap into the heavens. Brinkley weaves the presidency, biography, and science into a gripping narrative, rewarding readers with a tour-de-force of the Space Race. This is history at its best.” — Yanek Mieczkowski, author of Eisenhower’s Sputnik Moment:  The Race for Space and World Prestige


“At a time when national demoralization is so prevalent, Douglas Brinkley’s American Moonshot could not be more timely. His reconstruction of JFK’s bold commitment to space exploration and the heroic efforts of the men who made the “moonshot” a reality reminds us that America was and can be again a great principled nation that leads the world on to new frontiers.” — Robert Dallek author of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917 – 1963


“Douglas Brinkley is a historian with a heart as big as his intellectual range, and his love of this assignment shines through on every page. Moonshot looks at the Kennedy presidency through the prism of space and the space program through the prism of Kennedy—and shines on both levels, making connections that render these two important, well-chronicled Cold War phenomena in a fresh and satisfying way.” – Diane McWhorter, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama—The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution


“American Moonshot is a  thoroughly terrific work which should reach the widest possible audience. As a study in leadership, it is absolutely first rate. As history, it is inspiring and enthralling. And to cap it all, it is a completely riveting story about the Space Age.  I love this book.” — Doris Kearns Goodwin is author of the Pulitzer Prize winning No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front During World War II


“May Brinkley’s well researched and elegantly told tale introduce new generations to the glory, romance, and innocence the American people once upon a time celebrated as one.  Kennedy is the principal focus, but this is more than presidential history.  The author’s innovative approach really presents a rich collective biography of all the engineers, astronauts, managers, and politicians who inspired and launched the Apollo Moon Program.  A-OK!” Walter A. McDougall, University of Pennsylvania professor and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning …the Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age