Thursday, November 8, 2007

Scott & Leonov - Two Sides of the Moon

It all seems a long time ago that the USA and USSR were squabbling over who rules the world. I think we look back now and forget the importance the space-race had at the time. Kennedy famously promised to get a man on the moon by the end of the 60s. The Americans just made it, the Russians failed.
  Maybe you had to be around in the 60s to appreciate this book. As a child back then it was a simple race. The Russians got off to a good start, but in the end the Americans pipped them at the post.

This book, written in part by David Scott, a Gemini and Apollo astronaut who walked on the Moon, and his 'rival' Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space and who would have most likely been the first Russian on the Moon, clarifies the story of the race and why the result turned out the way it did.

The book is not heavy on technicalities, just enough detail is given for the reader to appreciate just how hard the task was, and just how demanding of the men and women involved.
Both men show commendable modesty when describing their achievements, and are generous with praise for their comrades, notably Scott flew in Gemini with Neil Armstrong, and Leonev was great friends with Yuri Gagarin.

There is a bias towards David Scott in terms of pages written in this jointly authored book. But where Leonov loses on quantity, he makes up for it in quality... quality of insight anyway. It seems the Russian effort hinged on the leadership and brilliance of one man, and when he died prematurely the whole pack of cards collapsed. On the other hand, Scott reveals how close on many occasions the American effort nearly resulted in disaster which would have put an end to their attempts too. To summarise, I think, the Americans were just plain lucky to make it, the Russians unlucky to fail.

Highly recommended, 10/10, you could buy the paperback version here.

No comments: