On October 4 1957, at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union secretly launched Sputnik, the Earth’s first ever artificial moon. No bigger than a basketball, this tiny satellite was powered by a car battery. Yet for all its simplicity, Sputnik transformed science fiction into reality, passing over the stunned American continent once every 101 minutes and propelling the USSR from backward totalitarian regime to cutting-edge superpower and pioneer of the Space Age. The United States, desperate to catch up, trailed the Soviets into the space race the following year, with a controversial space programme masterminded by former Nazi rocket scientists.
Red Moon Rising tells for the first time the full story of this real-life historical thriller and its colourful cast of characters. There is Sergei Korolev, Russian rocket designer and literally toothless survivor of Stalin’s purges, whose identity remained secret until his death in 1966; Mihail Tikhonravov, a chain-smoking, hard-drinking space visionary who would eventually become a Soviet spymaster; Wernher von Braun, Nazi bomb maker turned American space prophet; and President Eisenhower, relaxing on the golf course whilst the USSR lays claim to the skies, a reaction to be echoed eerily in 2001 by the presidential behaviour following 9/11. Containing many parallels with today’s political landscape, this is the fascinating story of one of the greatest scientific and psychological coups of the twentieth century, and a pulse-racing account of a time when two nations and ideologies were pitted against each other in a quest that laid the foundations of the modern technological world.