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

Norton. Jun. 2021. 416p. ISBN 9781324003243. $28.95. HIST
In this dramatic account, Shesol (Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court) tells the story of the first manned American spaceflight into orbit. In the introduction, Shesol skillfully sets the scene, describing an anxious nation that watched as John Glenn prepared to launch aboard the spacecraft Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962. The event transpired during a critical time in the Cold War, when the U.S. perceived increasingly aggressive behavior on the part of the Soviet Union. In 1957, with Sputnik, the USSR became the first nation to send a satellite into orbit; in 1961, they sent the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin. France and Britain were concerned about the lagging performance of the United States (their ally) in the space race; at same time, polls throughout Western Europe showed declining confidence in American strength and leadership. Adding to the sense of anxiety, the launch of Friendship 7 had been delayed several times due to cloudy weather, high Atlantic seas, and technical difficulties. While Glenn’s historic launch would revitalize America’s space program and help to allay the fears of the nation’s allies, it would not go off without a hitch.
VERDICT This well-researched and exciting read is recommended for those interested in the history of the space race or the Cold War.
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