Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest
by Gerard J. deGroot
Review by Paul Haggerty
New York University Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0814719953
Date: November, 2006 List Price $29.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Gerard J. DeGroot claims in the preface that he wanted to write a book on the space program as a antidote for the toxic environment he suffered in while writing his previous book about nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, instead of heroes, he found more opportunists, liars, schemers, and lots of corporate greed. Dark Side of the Moon is a story of the story behind the story of the quest for the Moon; one with heros and villains aplenty.
Dark Side of the Moon is a history book detailing the events we're familiar with, but from a different perspective. Much of it (being a space nut) I'd heard of before, some of it was new. Most of it will be unknown to the majority of people. DeGroot covers the checkered backgrounds of some of the German scientists imported at the end of WWII (the State Department wanted some of them imprisoned immediately, but were overridden), the wheeling and dealing of the congress (if they couldn't kill it, then they'd make darn sure a hefty chunk of the budget went to their districts regardless of what sense that made), and the short-cuts and redesigns made to the hardware to meet a nearly impossible deadline.
It is a long sordid tale, but underneath it is the assumption by the author that the entire project was never worthwhile. I think this is something that he and I are going to have to disagree on. While the evidence to support the lies and deceptions is pretty well established, none of the negatives overwhelm the possible benefits. What we do agree on is that the WAY the project was done was inefficient, short sighted, and designed in such a way as to waste billions of dollars and still not have anything worthwhile at the end other than the national pride of having "beaten" the Russians.
I think for those of us that still dream of space, this book, while being really depressing in places, serves more as a warning of what to watch for as we move forward into the future. The moon race was the right thing to do, but done for the wrong reasons, in the wrong way, and by the wrong people. And the damage of its success still haunts us to this day.
Read this book, but keep watching the skies!