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Mercury Rising: John Glenn, John Kennedy, and the New Battleground of the Cold War

Mercury Rising: John Glenn, John Kennedy, and the New Battleground of the Cold War

by Jeff Shesol


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A riveting history of the epic orbital flight that put America back into the space race.

If the United States couldn’t catch up to the Soviets in space, how could it compete with them on Earth? That was the question facing John F. Kennedy at the height of the Cold War—a perilous time when the Soviet Union built the wall in Berlin, tested nuclear bombs more destructive than any in history, and beat the United States to every major milestone in space. The race to the heavens seemed a race for survival—and America was losing.

On February 20, 1962, when John Glenn blasted into orbit aboard Friendship 7, his mission was not only to circle the planet; it was to calm the fears of the free world and renew America’s sense of self-belief. Mercury Rising re-creates the tension and excitement of a flight that shifted the momentum of the space race and put the United States on the path to the moon. Drawing on new archival sources, personal interviews, and previously unpublished notes by Glenn himself, Mercury Rising reveals how the astronaut’s heroics lifted the nation’s hopes in what Kennedy called the "hour of maximum danger."

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781324003243
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 06/01/2021
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 110,521
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Jeff Shesol is the author of Supreme Power and Mutual Contempt, both selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year. He is a former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and is a founding partner of West Wing Writers.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 The Nearest to Heaven I Will Ever Get 7

Chapter 2 Supersonic 23

Chapter 3 Red Moonlight 38

Chapter 4 Zero G 55

Chapter 5 A Seven-Sided Coin 72

Chapter 6 Second in Space 93

Chapter 7 Suspended Animation 108

Chapter 8 The Problems of Men on Earth 125

Chapter 9 The First Man 142

Chapter 10 Go or No Go 164

Chapter 11 Holocaust or Humiliation 183

Chapter 12 Talking Our Extinction to Death 199

Chapter 13 Contingencies 214

Chapter 14 The Big Scrub 233

Chapter 15 Godspeed, John Glenn 253

Chapter 16 A Real Fireball 270

Chapter 17 The Big Lift 291

Epilogue Escape Velocity 316

Acknowledgments 327

Notes 333

Bibliography 377

Illustration Credits 385

Index 387

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