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  Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest
cspg
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posted 06-28-2006 02:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Stumbled across this book at Amazon. Anyone familiar with DeGroot's work? Didn't he write articles for BIS' Spaceflight?

Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest by Gerard J. DeGroot

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: New York University Press (November 2006)
Language: English
ISBN: 0814719953

For a very brief moment during the 1960s, America was moonstruck. Boys dreamt of being an astronaut; girls dreamed of marrying one. Americans drank Tang, bought "space pens" that wrote upside down, wore clothes made of space age Mylar, and took imaginary rockets to the Moon from themes parks scattered around the country.

But despite the best efforts of a generation of scientists, the almost foolhardy heroics of the astronauts, and 35 billion dollars, the moon turned out to be a place of "magnificent desolation," to use Buzz Aldrin's words: a sterile rock of no purpose to anyone. In Dark Side of the Moon, Gerard J. DeGroot reveals how NASA cashed in on the Americans' thirst for heroes in an age of discontent and became obsessed with putting men in space. The moon mission was sold as a race which America could not afford to lose. Landing on the moon, it was argued, would be good for the economy, for politics, and for the soul. It could even win the Cold War. The great tragedy is that so much effort and expense was devoted to a small step that did virtually nothing for mankind.

Drawing on meticulous archival research, DeGroot cuts through the myths constructed by the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations and sustained by NASA ever since. He finds a gang of cynics, demagogues, scheming politicians, and corporations who amassed enormous power and profits by exploiting the fear of what the Russians might do in space.

Exposing the truth behind one of the most revered fictions of American history, Dark Side of the Moon explains why the American space program has been caught in a state of purposeless wandering ever since Neil Armstrong descended from Apollo 11 and stepped onto the moon. The effort devoted to the space program was indeed magnificent and its cultural impact was profound, but the purpose of the program was as desolate and dry as lunar dust.

Gerard J. DeGroot is professor of modern history at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland. He is the author of ten books, most recently The Bomb: A Life, which won the prestigious [2004] Westminster Medal for the best book on a war or military topic.

WAWalsh
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posted 06-28-2006 09:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for WAWalsh   Click Here to Email WAWalsh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Based solely on the information posted, the book sounds like an enormous pile of drivel provided by an author who has spent a little too much time alone on the Scotish highlands with the sheep.

Matt T
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posted 06-28-2006 11:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Matt T   Click Here to Email Matt T     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I wouldn't necessarily argue with the premise of the book (as presented); however I never cease to be surprised that this take on any historical subject is still considered daring or valuable to our understanding.

A politically inspired and driven project undertaken for less than altruistic reasons?

SAY IT AIN'T SO!

John K. Rochester
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posted 06-28-2006 11:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for John K. Rochester   Click Here to Email John K. Rochester     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The great tragedy is that so much effort and expense was devoted to a small step that did virtually nothing for mankind.
He finds a gang of cynics, demagogues, scheming politicians, and corporations who amassed enormous power and profits by exploiting the fear of what the Russians might do in space.

The effort devoted to the space program was indeed magnificent and its cultural impact was profound, but the purpose of the program was as desolate and dry as lunar dust.

At the great risk of alienating many of you, I agree with some of what he's saying here.

The lunar program did a great many things to further technology as far as astronautics, but what did it do to make the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Every-American any better.

Plus... you can't discount the fact that a great many companies and politicians and even some astronauts, made their fortunes from the Apollo Program. In the American space program, just as in almost everything the government touches there are bound to be hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars of overspending.

WAWalsh
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posted 06-28-2006 03:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for WAWalsh   Click Here to Email WAWalsh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ah come on John, the lunar program gave Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public Tang for their meals.

Seriously, I am sure someone can pull up the link for the RAND study that provides the cost-benefit breakdown for the space program and showing the huge payback that we have received. The manned program, I suspect, also helped to drive the unmanned program as well as simple technological development. In an era when everyone seems to have a cellphone in their pocket, a computer in their home and the ability to watch in high definition events as they happen half way around the world, there remain a few of us who recall the problems making a long-distance phone call or the grainy image as we watch Prince Charles invested as the Prince of Wales back in 1968 (?).

More importantly, the early manned space program captured and inspired the imagination of a generation. That one small step on the Moon forever removed the word impossible from the English language. As much as many wish to decry the space program as a waste of time and money, nothing captures everyone's imagination like the launch of a rocket. The majesty and power of the liftoff causes even the most cynical to pause and watch...

Dennis Beatty
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posted 06-28-2006 05:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dennis Beatty   Click Here to Email Dennis Beatty     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, if nothing else, I'd like to borrow a quote from George Mallory who, when asked why he wanted to be the first to climb Mt. Everest replied..."Because it's there". We as a species need to stretch our minds and our bodies. Not to spend too much time on the soapbox, but we've become complacent. It's time for another bold challenge. I'm not concerned about a few dollars "wasted" on space exploration. I propose that any $$ spent on space endeavors will generate greater results than what we've seen in Iraq.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-28-2006 07:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by John K. Rochester:
The lunar program did a great many things to further technology as far as astronautics, but what did it do to make the lives of Mr, and Mrs. Every-American any better.
There are historians and political analysts that have put forth the suggestion that the moon landings -- and more importantly how America shared them with the world -- can be credited with the beginnings of the end of the Cold War. Had the peaceful exploration of space not have been the priority for both nations, the United States and Soviet Union might have staged a different type of race: a nuclear arms race (not to say that one didn't in fact occur, but it might have been much larger). Further, they suggest that the experience of witnessing such a tremendous feat at the same time worldwide, provided the U.S. with the reputation for accomplishing anything it set its mind to do, enhancing the nation's position in the world order. So, in some ways, the average Joe or Jane American can credit their safety and well being on the small steps and giant leaps of 12 men.

MCroft04
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posted 06-28-2006 09:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There have been many benefits from our ventures into space. Granted, we probably didn't have to go to the moon to reap these improvements (just making it into orbit would probably have resulted in many spin-offs), but nevertheless there has been many benefits from going into space. Most likley many if not all of these would have eventually been developed without space flight, but the facts are we have these great discoveries now to help make our lives better, all because of the space race. It only takes a quick search of the internet to make a long list. Computer based scheduling systems, semi-conductor cubing, structural analysis (used in many other industries), Air quality monitoring, virtual reality, water purification systems, athletic shoes, microspheres, weather forecasting, telemetry systems, fire resistant material, breast cancer detection, laser angioplasty, programmable pacemakers, voice controlled wheelchairs, engine lubricants and advanced lubricants, better brakes, etc, etc.

capoetc
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posted 06-29-2006 06:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for capoetc   Click Here to Email capoetc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Not a direct correlation here, but what were the direct benefits to John Q. Public within the first 50 years after the Lewis and Clark expedition? Or Columbus discovering the new world? Heck, it took almost 30 years after Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic non-stop to see reliable trans-oceanic travel, and it was too expensive then for John Q. Public anyway.

It is waaaayyy too early to determine the ultimate value of Project Apollo, IMO.

On a note related directly to the original post... I'm confused now. Were the moon landing flights a complete waste of time, or were they faked on a sound stage in Hollywood?

John K. Rochester
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posted 06-29-2006 09:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for John K. Rochester   Click Here to Email John K. Rochester     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Dennis Beatty:
Well, if nothing else, I'd like to borrow a quote from George Mallory who, when asked why he wanted to be the first to climb Mt. Everest replied... "Because it's there".
There are many things in this universe that are "there", and as much as we would like to explore them all let's get our (stuff) together here first. Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-space, anti-exploration... but lets be honest, wasn't there a better way to spend the tax dollars than go have gone to the moon five more times, and now to go again?.

Yes, 1968-69 was the greatest time in our lives, those of us who love space exploration, for the excitement of going to the moon for the first time on Apollo 8, and the landing on Apollo 11... terrific times!!

But even you can't say that once Neil, Mike, and Buzz returned MOST of the nation's attention turned back to what was ailing them at the time.

I know that the NASA budget is just a pittance of what is being wasted on so many other unnecessary things in this country and abroad... but it's still enough to make a difference in many peoples lives. There was just recently a major breakthrough in stem cell research... something that may possibly make paralysis like polio, a thing of the past. If you had a choice, where would your tax dollars go?

By the way, Mel, great response. I liked it...

SpaceCat
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posted 06-29-2006 11:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceCat     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've found, more often than not, that those who believe the space program is/was a complete waste of money are people who wake up in the morning with a digital alarm clock, warm their breakfasts in a microwave oven, drive to work in a car equipped with electronic fuel injection, radial tires, anti-lock brakes and air bags. During the drive, they may listen to news or music from satellite radio or a CD player, while talking on their cell phone. They may plan their activities on satellite-derived weather reports, and have instant access to world news events throughout the day.

In their offices they work on their PC's, use an electronic calculator and let their digital wrist watches remind them of appointments. Part of their business may involve shipping and recieving of goods that are tracked world-wide by GPS.

At home on the weekends they may tackle some hobbies or home improvements using battery-operated power tools, talk to friends on a wireless telephone and watch movies on DVD's.

They, or someone close to them may have been saved by medical telemetry from ambulances to hospitals, or found the use of cat scan or NMR imaging devices permitted a disease to be caught and diagnosed before reaching fatality.

If they lived within a few hundred miles of any NASA Centers or contractor hubs, no doubt they patronized businesses- contractors, retailers, restaurants, hotels.... that would not have existed without the influx of space monies to those communities- where direct workers and supporting businesses all thrived, bought homes, cars, all manner of goods and put their kids through college thanks to space.

Well- you get the idea. Would many of these items have existed without a 'space race?' Sure. Would they have become small, portable and affordable to most of the public without the space-induced microelectronic and digital revolutions? I doubt it- and the mass production of many of these items have created a massive global economy for Asia from virtually nothing.

In addition to all this and more- perhaps the greatest benefit of Apollo in the grand scheme of things is that which Robert brings up above, and our friend Naraht and I have discussed at length elsewhere... it was a 'substitute for war'- and a noble substitute at that. If the Cuban missle crisis was any indication, antagonism between the US and USSR might well have escalated to a nuclear shooting match without the space race to vent hostilities in a more productive manner.

Dwayne Day
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posted 06-30-2006 12:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I admit to being intrigued by this book. The jacket blurb sounds over-the-top, and the book itself may not be as extreme. However, it sounds thought-provoking.

There are in fact at least 3-4 left-of-center/liberal critiques of the space race in general and the Apollo program in particular. I admit to not having read any of them. But they can provoke thought by making people defend positions and views that they take for granted.

Of course, the flip side of this is that they tend to be critiques of American society and values, tending to ignore the Soviet Union and its society and values. I doubt that you will find a liberal critique of the Soviet space program.

fabfivefreddy
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posted 10-01-2006 10:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fabfivefreddy   Click Here to Email fabfivefreddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This type of thinking is bad for the future of man. If we are lead to believe that space exploration is useless, we won't progress forward. This planet is in trouble in many ways- manned space exploration offers it hope.

SRB
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posted 11-11-2006 12:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SRB   Click Here to Email SRB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Dark Side Of The Moon is a highly uneven book written by Gerard DeGroot, a Professor of History and an award winning author. The book adopts the now generally accepted view the America's space program in the 1960s was driven by cold war politics rather than important scientific goals. The book also argues that the Apollo program was a dead end for space exploration rather than a significant event in the ongoing human exploration of space. The author then proceeds from these not unusual ideas to argue that America's manned exploration of space was a massive waste of money, a mere American ego trip and a grossly mismanaged rush to the moon. These are much more debatable propositions.

The shocking aspect of the book is that the author of this "history" relies on an Apollo mission to the moon that never took place as part of his argument that Apollo was an ill conceived rush to the moon. DeGroot believes that Apollo astronauts made three trips to the moon prior to the Apollo 11 moon landing mission, thus making even the Apollo 11 flight to the moon "routine." Showing his lack of knowledge of what actually happened in the Apollo program, DeGroot writes on pages 230-231 -

For NASA, Apollo 8 provided valuable confirmation that the package which would take Americans to the Moon actually worked. Apollo 9 then took on the original profile of Apollo 8, except for the fact that, given the earlier mission's success, there seemed little point in testing the lunar module in Earth orbit. The crew of James McDivitt, David Scott, and Rust Schweickart therefore went to the Moon. After the command module separated from the spent rocket, the crew turned it around and then docked with the lunar module, which was still enclosed in Saturn's final stage. They then pulled away and headed for the Moon.

Once in the Moon's orbit, McDivitt and Schweickart climbed into the lunar module, separated it from the command module, and flew it for the first time.

This story about Apollo 9 going to the moon is fiction, not history. This is no mere typo or misstatement, but an appalling error in scholarship by this historian. Apollo 9 never went to the moon. Astronauts McDivitt, Scott and Schweickart did not orbit the moon in Apollo 9. Apollo 9 was planned and executed (highly successfully) as an Earth orbit mission. One minute of on on-line research can confirm this. The difference between an Earth orbit mission and a lunar obit mission is vast. How vast? Well, since the last Apollo flight to the moon in 1972 there have been over a hundred Earth orbit flights and not a single flight to the moon. Since Apollo 11 was only the second time the lunar module went to the moon and only the third time men traveled to the moon, it was not a "routine" event. In erroneously describing the Apollo 9 mission as traveling to the moon and using that as part of his argument for criticizing NASA, the author seriously undercuts his credibility.

Furthermore, continuing factual errors about the Apollo program show that the author does not have any in depth knowledge of what actually occurred on these missions. For example, in writing about what DeGroot describes as the "well known" Apollo 13 mission, he states "An explosion ripped through the outer skin of the Command Module, which quickly lost electric power." P. 250. In fact, the explosion ripped through the skin of the service module, an entirely different part of the space craft. If the explosion had ripped though the skin of the command module, the astronauts would have immediately died from decompression of the command module. An author of a book about the Apollo missions should better understand the design of the Apollo command and service modules that made up the Apollo spacecraft. Especially if it is a book highly critical of the entire program.

The author also shows that he does not have a clear grasp of the events that took place during the Apollo 11 moon landing. DeGroot describes the exciting events taking place as Neil Armstrong pilots the lunar module to a safe landing spot on the moon as it was running out of fuel. Then, in describing the actual landing on the moon (p. 235) he writes, "Armstrong uttered the magical words: 'Contact.'" Armstrong did not say that; the NASA transcripts of the flight clearly show that Buzz Aldrin spoke the words "Contact Light" when the lunar module Eagle's probe touched the lunar surface and the contact light flashed on control panel. Putting Aldrin's words in Armstrong's mouth may by itself be viewed as a small error, but in this situation of repeated errors it evidences poor scholarship.

The legacy of the Apollo moon landings may be fairly debated. Was it a milestone of human achievement and one of the most memorable events of the Twentieth Century or and an unnecessary ego trip that wasted many billions of dollars? It is an interesting debate but this book, because of its errors and poor scholarship, does not provide a credible answer to that question.

freshspot
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posted 11-12-2006 06:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for freshspot   Click Here to Email freshspot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great review, Steve and I am glad that you also posted it on Amazon. I've got a copy of the book, but have not read it yet, so it is good to know what's coming. But since I read most anything on Apollo, I'll get to this one at some point.

I do think it is important to read and understand what detractors say too. People like Walter Mondale have had valid opinions even if we disagree.

But there is no excuse for non-existent fact checking. I am a book author too, and to screw up as significantly as DeGroot did is just plain sloppy. The errors diminish his messages and opinions to the point that you can dismiss them and insults the people who worked on the program.

Blackarrow
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posted 11-12-2006 02:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Any author of a book on Project Apollo which states that Apollo 9 went to the Moon is a buffoon and his book is fit only for landfill. It beggars belief that anyone writing a book on any subject could make such an enormous error of fact. It also beggars belief that the editors and publishers failed to spot the travesty. Absolutely incredible.

ColinBurgess
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posted 11-12-2006 03:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In defence of editors, they are not in the business of checking all the facts presented by an author. They only check the grammar, spelling, layout and other aspects of the manuscript, although they will obviously query with the author any fact they suspect could be wrong. It is essentially up to the author to offer a manuscript free of factual errors, but any author worth his or her salt is foolish if they do not allow someone with a solid knowledge of the subject to read the manuscript and offer comments before it is presented to the publishers.

That said, most good publishers will normally send a manuscript to at least one qualified reader with a solid working knowledge of the subject whose job it is to read and assess the contents and reliability of the submitted work before a final go-ahead decision is made. Any queries in this reader's report are referred back to the author for checking and correction. The system does not seem to have worked well in this case, with such fundamental errors left in the text.

Sometimes a person's ego won't allow them to share their precious work before it is submitted, and this is undoubtedly why this author's work and reputation are now so irredeemably flawed.

Dwayne Day
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posted 11-12-2006 03:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ColinBurgess:
In defence of editors, they are not in the business of checking all the facts presented by an author.
Yes, it is ultimately the author's responsibility to check their work. One problem with getting a second opinion prior to submission, however, is time. An author is either under deadline, or will not know somebody who can review it.

However, often a publisher will require an author to suggest potential reviewers. A little more on the review process in a moment.

Dwayne Day
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posted 11-12-2006 03:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I forgot to add something in response to Colin's comment. Most people don't understand what editors do. They think that an editor's job is essentially to do those things above--i.e. fix the grammar and spelling. However, many publishers will usually have a dedicated copy editor for this (often that person is a contractor to the publisher, not an employee). The actual editor serves a different function, which is to a) identify potential manuscripts for publication, b) determine their quality, c) recommend to their publishing board that a manuscript be published, d) get at least one or more people to review the manuscript for errors, and e) shepherd the book through the publication process, which often means working with a copy editor, the author, graphics people, etc.

Dwayne Day
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posted 11-12-2006 04:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ColinBurgess:
That said, most good publishers will normally send a manuscript to at least one qualified reader with a solid working knowledge of the subject whose job it is to read and assess the contents and reliability of the submitted work before a final go-ahead decision is made.
Sorry about the multiple replies to Colin's post, but I wanted to reply to different parts separately.

Colin's right about this. I've served as a manuscript reviewer on a number of occasions. Usually a press will employ at least two reviewers, with the editor serving as a third. Sometimes they'll do more.

Although the review process serves as a screen against crap getting published, it's not perfect. Quite often a person will review a book and write only a page and a half of comments, often at a rather general level--in other words, instead of identifying each fact that is wrong, they might simply say "chapter 3 has a lot of factual errors and should be fixed." That is not always going to work.

I tend to take manuscript reviewing extremely seriously and I consider the reviewer to essentially be an extension of the author-editorial team. So I have occasionally reviewed manuscripts and offered 20-page single-spaced replies, listing not only errors or misinterpretations, but suggestions where the author can get better information. I'm a little obsessive about it, but my goal is to help the author produce a good product. However, I've had both good and bad experiences at this. A good one was several years ago with the NASA book on the development of the Centaur. I offered a very detailed critique along with documents and suggestions. The author was very appreciative and made a number of changes (and gave me a nice acknowledgment too). I thought it was a good manuscript that deserved to be even better.

But I also did the same thing on another book a few years before that and suggested that the publisher not publish it until they corrected what I considered some serious weaknesses. These were not really "mistakes" in the true sense, but problems. Certainly somebody could dismiss them as matters of opinion, but I thought that the book had some major flaws. After spending a lot of time on that, the book sailed into print completely unchanged and I felt like I had wasted my time.

One other thing worth noting is that sometimes independent review can fail completely. Sometimes you can have six reviewers and all six miss the fact that you forgot to carry a decimal point while doing your math, or can miss an incorrect footnote or other factual error. There are plenty of examples of fraudulent papers in respected journals being exposed years later--and those papers went through peer review. I am directly aware of an article published in a space journal several years ago that supposedly went through peer review that was ridiculously error-filled. My only conclusion then was that their entire peer review process was a mess. So reviews don't always work.

Dwayne Day
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posted 11-13-2006 12:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, more thrilling stories of the review process...

I think that I might have given a mistaken impression of the review process at publishers. The reality is that most manuscript reviewers are asked to provide general comments, not really to fact-check. And publishers normally use these reviews not to correct errors, but to decide whether or not to publish a book. Therefore, there is plenty of opportunity for mistakes to get into print.

That said, in the science world, peer review is much more serious. There an author is required to respond specifically to every point raised by a reviewer. Speaking as somebody who has to deal with this in my own job, it's a lot of work. Often I have to draft 30-page responses listing how I have changed a report to respond to every single comment made by a half dozen different reviewers. But I would also add that even though we take it very seriously, it's still possible for errors to creep in. I've caught things in manuscripts that our own reviewers have missed.

freshspot
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posted 11-21-2006 04:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for freshspot   Click Here to Email freshspot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, a review process certainly makes a book stronger. I am now finishing up my third book. Alas, it is not about Space -- "The New Rules of Marketing & PR: How to use blogs, news releases, podcasts, viral marketing & online media to reach buyers directly" -- is about internet marketing. Our own Robert Pearlman is featured in the book talking about the Web as a tool for marketing to collectors. Book out in June, around the time of the KSC show.

Anyway... In my case, I am getting "peer reviews" the easy way. I am posting parts of the book on my blog as I go along and people comment in near real time. You can't beat that for fast feedback. Most authors and publishers are scared of this approach because they fear people "stealing the information". Nonsense. It makes the book the better.

The author of "Dark Side of the Moon" totally screwed up. There is no excuse for that big an error. If time were a factor, he could have submitted his manuscript chapter by chapter to someone in its raw form. If a peer agrees to review, it does not need to be at the very end of the writing process.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-13-2006 05:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
James Hansen recently reviewed Dark Side of the Moon for Nature magazine:
This precocious book stands, and falls, on its cunning sound bites. With cheeky rhetorical flourish, the author, a history professor at the University of St. Andrews, assails the integrity of the American Moon landing program of the 1960s. Thankfully, DeGroot does not venture so far as to suggest that the landings never really occurred but were part of a U.S. government conspiracy to fool the USSR about America's strategic capability during the Cold War, though the book's presentation is almost as fanciful.

FFrench
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posted 12-13-2006 08:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
An interesting, well-written review.

Dwayne Day
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posted 12-14-2006 08:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Another review appeared here.

Dwayne Day
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posted 12-14-2006 09:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I personally think that people are making a little too much of the author's factual error about Apollo 9. Although it is certainly more than a typo, it is not the kind of mistake that completely sinks a book. Sometimes people get their facts wrong and goof up. An author can easily dismiss such criticisms as unimportant to the larger narrative of his book.

The bigger issue appears to be the author's misunderstanding of concepts and relationships. This is harder for people to summarize--it's easier to simply say "he said Apollo 9 went to the Moon; he's wrong!" than it is to explain how he misunderstands cause and effect. But from the reviews I have read, it appears that DeGroot really bends reality in order to conform to his thesis. Hanson's review contains a good example of this when he points to DeGroot's claim that Americans drove to parties celebrating the lunar landing in foreign cars, like Renaults. This indicates to me that DeGroot knows very little of American history, because foreign imports did not account for a significant fraction of American automobile sales until many years later. Anybody familiar with American social history would understand that it was the 1973 oil crisis that led to Americans buying foreign (particularly Japanese) cars with better gas mileage. And the quip about Renault is priceless--I doubt that Renault ever had more than one percent of the US auto market, if that. Even today, most American autos are Chevys and Fords, and only recently has Toyota outsold Ford. (And it is worth noting that many Toyotas are actually primarily manufactured in the U.S.)

What is telling about that anecdote is that it implies that DeGroot wanted to take a poke at American society so badly that he was unwilling to check his facts. That indicates a much bigger flaw with the book--a desire to not let facts get in the way of his ideology. It's something that I despise in modern society.

ea757grrl
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posted 12-14-2006 08:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm glad to see this kind of scrutiny being placed on "Dark Side." It does worry me that, with the guy's faculty rank and the fact that the book was published by a university press, it gives his arguments more of a veneer of legitimacy than if it had been published by others, and thus gives ammo to those who have an axe to grind.

I'm currently going through the editing dance with a university-based press on a biographical volume, and yesterday I got a very concise and very incisive critique of my manuscript. It didn't mince any words in basically saying "you got a little ways to go on this one," but I can tell you that I was grateful for it, and my editor is being very good about working with me to improve the book so it'll be worthwhile when it is printed. I wish someone had done that with this volume.

Unfortunately, DeGroot's book isn't the only book by an academic to have come out from a renowned publisher, only to have its methods and conclusions shot full of holes. The worst part of it all is that someone who has the same axe to grind will see in this book a confirmation and legitimization of what they want to believe. Sort of like the moon-hoaxers did when Fox aired that so-called "special" a few years back.

I agree with what some of this book's more distinguished reviewers have written, that there's a heck of an interesting story at the core of all this that should be told, examined and analyzed...but this book ain't it.

FFrench
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posted 12-15-2006 12:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I know of a particular instance where a book of this type received a number of Amazon reviews listing specific errors - and the author and publisher used that information to correct the second edition. This book is different, but it goes to show that Amazon reviews can pack some power with authors and publishers.

SRB
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posted 12-15-2006 01:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SRB   Click Here to Email SRB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is a letter I received today from the Director of NYU Press, the publisher:
Thank you very much for drawing our attention to several factual errors in Gerard DeGroot's Dark Side of the Moon.

As a university press, we make it a central part of our process to have each book manuscript carefully vetted by experts before we decide in favor of publication. But despite review by these experts, as well as by the acquiring editor and the copyeditor, errors still occasionally make their way into a finished book. That is why we are always grateful to have attentive readers such as you.

Professor DeGroot is very embarrassed about these errors and has rewritten the sections in question. The corrected text will be included in all reprints and future editions of the book.

Thank you again for taking the time to write.

It is nice to know that this publisher is responsive to readers, and that they thought it worthwhile to have the factual errors corrected.

Dwayne Day
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posted 12-15-2006 03:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As a university press, we make it a central part of our process to have each book manuscript carefully vetted by experts before we decide in favor of publication. But despite review by these experts, as well as by the acquiring editor and the copyeditor, errors still occasionally make their way into a finished book. That is why we are always grateful to have attentive readers such as you.
That's a cut and paste response that they use for any complaint about factual errors.

Dwayne Day
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posted 12-15-2006 03:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SRB:
It is nice to know that this publisher is responsive to readers, and that they thought it worthwhile to have the factual errors corrected.

Well, the critiques of the book make it sound as if the problems are not really factual errors, but errors of interpretation. He makes a lot of poorly-supported claims. I can guarantee that he won't bother correcting that problem.

freshspot
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posted 12-16-2006 04:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for freshspot   Click Here to Email freshspot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
And of course, the errors will only be corrected in future editions or additional printings of this edition. If the reviews are any guide, the first edition won't sell enough copies to warrant any reprintings...

I wonder if the publisher or author has been sent a link to this thread?

Dwayne Day
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posted 12-18-2006 09:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by freshspot:
If the reviews are any guide, the first edition won't sell enough copies to warrant any reprintings...
It may make it to paperback. That can happen even with relatively few copies sold.

Dwayne Day
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posted 03-06-2007 02:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the Washington Post:
As the United States revs up the engines for a return to the moon by 2020 and further travel to Mars, a solid look at the costs and benefits of the nation's earlier experiences with lunar exploration seems especially timely. Was Neil Armstrong's "giant leap for mankind" in July 1969 worth the billions spent to make it happen? Did it fire the imagination in any long-lasting and positive way that subsequent unmanned missions could not? One might expect that Dark Side of the Moon, Gerard J. DeGroot's new look at the Apollo space missions of the 1960s and '70s, would offer valuable insights into these questions. Unfortunately, it does not.

From its first pages, the book bristles with hostility toward virtually everything associated with America's drive to the moon. The lunar quest that DeGroot, a historian at Scotland's University of St. Andrews, describes is scientifically barren, unconscionably costly and absurdly risky -- little more than an ill-conceived Cold War race to outshine the Russians in space. The semi-heroes of the book are President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who saw no reason to race into space, and Alexei Leonov, the cosmonaut of the 1960s and '70s tapped to lead the first Soviet mission to the moon, who is liberally quoted saying enlightened things -- including recalling that his fellow cosmonauts applauded when Armstrong first touched the lunar surface. The goats are just about everyone else -- especially John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Walter Cronkite (a great space buff) and the leadership of NASA.

There certainly was a lot of hyperbole associated with America's early trips to the moon, but by focusing so relentlessly on the "dark side" of the quest, the author becomes blind to its wonder and value. There is, of course, no "dark side" of the moon that never experiences sunshine. There is a far side that we never see. But it, too, is sometimes bathed in light.

Dwayne Day
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posted 03-06-2007 02:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The semi-heroes of the book are President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who saw no reason to race into space, and Alexei Leonov, the cosmonaut of the 1960s and '70s tapped to lead the first Soviet mission to the moon, who is liberally quoted saying enlightened things -- including recalling that his fellow cosmonauts applauded when Armstrong first touched the lunar surface.
I haven't read the book yet, but how far does he take this?

As Jim Oberg demonstrated years ago, Leonov spent many years lying about the Soviet moon program, denying that it existed. In fact, I believe that Oberg noted that Leonov was pretty vociferous about this. Once he was allowed to talk, he took a 180 and started claiming that he would have been the moonwalker.

So it seems odd to make Leonov into a moral hero.

freshspot
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posted 03-07-2007 04:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for freshspot   Click Here to Email freshspot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
OK guys, I have read this book.

It isn't fair to criticize it unless you have read it. As an author of 3 books I can say with certainty that when people slam a book based on something other than reading it for themselves, it is not only unfair, but insulting. If somebody doesn't like my book, that's fine. Sure it hurts. But if they explain why, then I learn from it. If they slam the book without reading it, I'm pissed.

Yes, there are factual errors in Dark Side of the Moon as were expertly pointed out by Steve who started this thread. That is a shame because I do think that the author's alternative opinion on the space race should be read by all of us. No, I do not agree with the author. No, I do not think that going to the moon was a magnificent folly. No, I don't think that putting humans in space had no rational purpose. But that doesn't mean I should dismiss the book without reading it first. And yes, after reading it I still do disagree with the author.

However, there were many things that I found interesting in the book. The alternative view actually strengthened and enhanced my thinking and understanding of the space program and that is valuable and a reason to read it. Even though I disagree with the author I learn something.

I wish in our current divided political climate in the US people would read and understand the political views of the other side before slamming others views as "wrong". In the past month I have read "What a Party!: My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators and Other Wild Animals" by Terry McAuliffe (a top Clinton aide) AND "Taking Heat: The President, the Press, and My Years In The White House" by Ari Fleischer (a top Bush aide). Without saying anything about my political learning, reading these two books one after the other was an important exercise in understanding. I don't want to just read the stuff I agree with.

The author of "Dark Side of the Moon" has an incredibly cynical way of telling history that I found worked well for him and that I found enjoyable to read. For example:

"Leave It To Beaver, that iconic portrayal of white middle class suburban contentment, premiered on CBS the same night as Sputnik, proof that history has a talent for irony. The coincidence was of course accidental, but no less striking. In the new age of space, a high standard of living suddenly seemed an indicator of cultural inferiority." P. 73.

Read the book first then let's discuss it here.

Dwayne Day
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posted 03-07-2007 01:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by freshspot:
It isn't fair to criticize it unless you have read it.
So, what you're saying is that we should all shut up and end this thread.

Are we allowed to ask questions?

freshspot
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posted 03-07-2007 02:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for freshspot   Click Here to Email freshspot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No, the thread is a good one and I don't think it should end. I have followed it and have posted to it even before I read the book.

But speculating on what the author did or didn't mean based on just the reviews of the book rather than the book itself is insulting to the author in my opinion and doesn't make for a very lively or productive discussion.

Just my opinion...

Tyler
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posted 11-23-2009 03:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tyler   Click Here to Email Tyler     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Being a new member at this forum, I just want to state that this book is one of the most truly asinine additions to the literature surrounding the Apollo program that I have ever encountered.

Consider, for example, DeGroot's analysis of Neil Armstrong's famous quote upon stepping onto the Sea of Tranquility. "Armstrong could have said 'the Moon's a balloon' and millions would have praised his profundity...Armstrong provided a freeze-dried slogan, something prepared earlier and then taken into space along with the Tang and the tubes of hamburgers" (p. 240). I find this quite offensive. Armstrong most certainly did not prepare the statement earlier and then "take it into space." Armstrong formulated the statement in the time after the landing and before the first step. To say that his words were "freeze dried" and not a thoughtful and very personal evaluation of the hard work accomplished by 400,000 Americans, is just lazy and demeaning.

DeGroot also makes this statement, along with several other similar statements to the same effect throughout the book: "...so much beauty and imagination was invested in to a trip to a sterile rock of no purpose to anyone" (241). Well, guess what? DeGroot may not be interested in the effort to explore the lunar surface, but there are indeed plenty of professional scientists who have an interest in geology. Before the Apollo program, there really was a debate between the so-called "cold mooners" and "hot mooners" as to the nature in which the Moon formed. The samples returned by the astronauts revealed that the Moon formed 4.6 billion years ago, in an environment of searing heat created by a magma ocean. The space agency went to the expense of lengthy geological training programs for the later crews in particular, realizing the importance of having trained observers on the lunar surface in the midst of an extremely tight timeline.

In short, knock it off with this conclusion that Apollo was an "ego trip" to a "sterile rock of no purpose to anyone." Just because you're not interested doesn't mean that other people aren't.

cspg
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posted 11-23-2009 11:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Tyler:
In short, knock it off with this conclusion that Apollo was an "ego trip" to a "sterile rock of no purpose to anyone."

But at first, it was an "ego trip" to show that the US was more technology advanced than the USSR, wasn't it? The US didn't go the Moon for scientific reasons- but since astronauts were to go there, might as well do some science.The Moon is sterile, its formation still unknown. "No purpose to anyone" is certainly false but the number of people interested in the Moon's physical structure and origin is relatively small compared to the vast amount of ressources the Apollo program required to satisfy their curiosity.


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