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"Two sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race" by Alexei Leonov and David Scott

I ordered this book from Amazon when I was intending just to buy the book of the (excellent) TV mini-series "Space Race", it was one of those deals that Amazon are so good at, you know "you may like this as well", where you spend more money but think you've saved a fortune.

The books authors are both men with extensive space flight experience, Leonov was, amongst other things, the first man to walk in space and the commander Soyuz craft that docked with the American vehicle in the historic 1975 joint mission. Scott went into orbit in Gemini 8 with Neil Armstrong and also made a landing and walked on the Moon as commander of Apollo 15.

The format of the book is that periods from 1965 to 1975 are split into arbitary portions and each astronaut/cosmonaut writes anything between a couple of paragraphs and several pages on subjects such as events in his personal life, his country but mainly in his countries space programme. Because of the format used the book is very easy to read and can skip effortlessly from USA to the USSR and back again without losing any momentum or it feeling forced. All the main characters and events are covered from a personal perspective, the first satellite –Sputnik, Korolev, von Braun, Gargarins first space flight, the death of Komarov, Americas initial problems getting a reliable launch vehicle, the tragedy of Apollo 1, the USSR/USA casualties that occurred during training/preparation for flights as well as all the successes of the various missions and the men behind them. Fascinating stuff.

The only slight disappointment for me came in the Epilogue where Scott uses it for a bit of gloating/ political tub-thumping over America getting to the Moon first. It’s nothing too major but I goes so much against the spirit in which the rest of the book is written that it’s really noticeable and a bit puzzling.

In short, one of the best books I’ve read on the subject. Recommended.

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