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Book Reviews


The Dark Side of the Moon: Werner von Braun, the Third Reich and the Space Race
Author: Wayne Biddle

Publisher: W W Norton & Company

ISBN: 978-0-393-05910-6

Price: £18.99 (Hb), 220pp


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Wayne Biddle, an American Pulitzer prize-winning reporter, has at last been able to penetrate the murky Nazi past of Dr Wernher von Braun, creator of the Saturn V rocket that enabled the United States to land the first men on the Moon in 1969. US intelligence gathered all the details of how closely he was involved with the ruthless use of slave-labour during the war years, but kept the information secret for half a century while they used his services.

So, after personally briefing Hitler on rocket technology, von Braun was able to move Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon on the subject. He was truly unique. Less than two years after surrendering to the Americans, von Braun was allowed to return to Germany – though with a round-the-clock guard – to marry his first cousin, aged 18, and take both her and his dispossessed parents back to El Paso in the US, where in effect they lived happily ever after.

By the time he died in 1977, von Braun’s days of being feted as the hero mainly responsible for the moonlandings were over. Details were at last beginning to leak out of his participation in the ghastly slave-labour camp in the Hartz mountains that was mass-producing his wartime V2 rockets. Had he lived much longer it is probable he would have had to join Dr Arthur Rudolph, the former camp director, in a humiliating exile back to Germany.

Wayne Biddle’s book is a fascinating but difficult read, for it is necessary to refer constantly to 43 pages of notes, which would have been better incorporated in the main text.

Reginald Turnill

2009 Yearbook
This 132-page special edition features the ultimate observing guide for 2009, a review of all the biggest news stories of 2008, in depth articles covering all aspects of astronomy and space missions for 2009, previews of International Year of Astronomy events and much, much more.
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Infinity Rising
This special publication features the photography of British astro-imager Nik Szymanek and covers a range of photographic methods from basic to advanced. Beautiful pictures of the night sky can be obtained with a simple camera and tripod before tackling more difficult projects, such as guided astrophotography through the telescope and CCD imaging.
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Exploring Mars
Astronomy Now is pleased to announce the publication of Exploring Mars. The very best images of Mars taken by orbiting spacecraft and NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers fill up the 98 glossy pages of this special edition!
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Mars rover poster
This new poster features some of the best pictures from NASA's amazing Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
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