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Operation Moonglow

A Political History of Project Apollo

Teasel Muir-Harmony

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Basic Books
27 January 2021
On July 20th, 1969, over half of the world's population tuned in to witness the first lunar landing, waiting with bated breath as Neil Armstrong ventured outside the cabin door of Apollo 11 and declared that's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind. As the most expensive civilian scientific and technological program in American history, Project Apollo symbolised the unmatched prestige of American space exploration. Yet despite appearances, the project was never just about winning the Space Race, advancing scientific progress, or even conquering the final frontier. Instead, the ambitions of Project Apollo would ultimately reveal that the American government was more interested in establishing its superiority much closer to home.

In Operation Moonglow, Smithsonian curator Teasel Muir-Harmony explores how and why the moon landing became one of the most decisive geopolitical events of the 20th century. In the wake of the Soviet Union's pioneering launch of Sputnik in 1957 and a humiliating defeat at the Bay of Pigs four years later, President John F. Kennedy approached a budget-wary Congress with Project Apollo, an unconventional proposal that had the potential to restore America's tarnished geopolitical standing. With Cold War tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States approaching an all-time high, Kennedy argued that ramping up the space program would inspire global confidence in American excellence -- and might even persuade people in developing countries to pick American freedom over Soviet tyranny. Following the successful return of Apollo 11, its illustrious crew embarked on a diplomatic tour around the world, celebrating the mission as an accomplishment for all of humanity. Meanwhile, the accompanying American officials used the trip as an opportunity to conduct secret meetings with influential heads of state, leveraging the space program's global popularity to advance American values and interests.

More than just a history of spaceships, astronauts, and moon rocks, Operation Moonglow is a history of geopolitical manoeuvring, of propaganda and public diplomacy, and -- above all -- of the intricate relationship between scientific innovation and national identity. Featuring first-hand accounts by Apollo astronauts, original interviews with USIA and NASA staff, and never-before-seen archival materials, Operation Moonglow is the definitive account of the Apollo mission -- and a fascinating look at how the Space Race shaped the contours of globalisation and global interdependence.
By:   Teasel Muir-Harmony
Imprint:   Basic Books
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 236mm,  Width: 158mm,  Spine: 40mm
Weight:   620g
ISBN:   9781541699878
ISBN 10:   1541699874
Pages:   384
Publication Date:   27 January 2021
Audience:   College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  General/trade ,  Primary ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Teasel Muir-Harmony is the curator of the Project Apollo collection at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and teaches at Georgetown University. She is the author of Apollo to the Moon: A History in 50 Objects and a contributor to the television series Apollo's Moon Shot. She lives in Washington, DC.

Reviews for Operation Moonglow: A Political History of Project Apollo

The Apollo program is a performance of power in this fascinating history of the way American presidents used the race to the moon to strengthen U.S. diplomacy. Operation Moonglow is a deeply researched and beautifully written fusion of space, politics, and international relations. It will appeal to a broad audience. --Mary L. Dudziak, authorof War Time The epic tale of Apollo has been told with precision and passion by numerous historians of politics and technology, including myself. But only now, fifty years after the first Moon landing, we have at last the big story others ignored: Apollo's global triumph in public relations. Moreover, Muir-Harmony's thorough research, elegant style, and evocative anecdotes decorate every page. Operation Moonglow is a joyful trip down memory lane for aging baby-boomers and a welcome inspiration for younger Americans. --Walter A. McDougall, author of thePulitzer-Prize winning Heavens and the Earth Teasel Muir-Harmony brings the early years of the space race vividly back to life in this wonderful book. Operation Moonglow focuses on a little-known part of this story: how NASA astronauts came to play a significant role in U.S. diplomacy, and the impact they had on America's international standing. Muir-Harmony's richly-detailed narrative reminds us how turbulent this era was-with the Cold War at its height, the fall of colonial powers abroad, racial unrest, and assassinations at home-and the many delightful anecdotes she includes humanize the main actors. --KathrynD. Sullivan, former NASA astronaut Operation Moonglow I love the title, because to me, the moon does glow. The book is a thorough examination of the Apollo Program, and provides a fascinating tour of our political evolution from nationalism to global diplomacy. As a work of history, it is first rate. Teasel Muir-Harmony's focus on space diplomacy lends a unique perspective on the space age. Full of fascinating interviews, sprinkled with little-known tidbits, the narrative glows. --Michael Collins, Apollo11 astronaut


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