Broadcast 3746 Jeff Shesol

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Guest:  Jeff Shesol; Topics:  Jeff's new book, "Mercury Rising:  John Glenn, John Kennedy, And The New Battleground Of The Cold War," John Glenn in-depth discussions, Mercury 7 detailed discussions, the Soviet space program, the U.S. program, Glenn in the senate, Glenn flies in the shuttle and more.

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We welcomed author Jeff Shesol to the program regarding his new book, "Mercury Rising:  John Glenn, John Kennedy, And The New Battleground Of The Cold War."  Our guest introduced us to his book and quickly summarized why he decided to focus on JFK, Glenn and the first U.S. orbital spaceflight.  Listen to how he described the significance of the flight which he said was not about space but about winning the Cold War. He talked about the geopolitical significance of the flight which led to many questions throughout the program about Glenn's geopolitical awareness, the same for the Mercury 7 astronauts, Congress, the American people, when JFK realized the global significance of space in general and the same for others.  Pay attention to how he described this awareness from JFK to Glenn, all the way through NASA, down to the ordinary taxpaying citizen.  This discussion opened the door to many questions with answers about Glenn, almost as if our guest had written a biography of Glenn and Glenn was the sold topic of the evening. Glenn was center stage given the focus of the book but hearing about the Glenn interactions with so much of what was going on at the time plus the other astronauts, congress, the public, well, it was most informative, entertaining and extremely educational.

As I have done before, I suggest you follow the tags and key words as they do a good job in summarizing the discussion. For your convenience, I am repeating them here:

"Tags:  Jeff Shesol, Mercury Rising: John Glenn, John Kennedy, and The New Battleground Of The Cold War, The Mercury 7, first U.S. orbital flight, Alan Shephard, advance to the Moon, Soviet Union space program, Cold War, geopolitical concerns, President Eisenhower, movie star status, military test pilots, Freedom 7 sinking, Gus Grissom, U.S. space turning point with Soviet space program, Gemini program, heavy Russian rockets, smaller U.S. rockets, missiles versus guidance, Glenn was very competitive, Glenn public popularity, Glenn disliked within NASA, Glenn-LBJ relationship, alternative universe what if questions, Glenn as a senator, early space program as a Cold War battleground theater, Mercury 13, women astronauts, John Glenn's wife Annie, Glenn and Shepard clashes, Cocoa Beach, Mercury 7 astronaut behavior, President Nixon and the space program." 

Additionally, I strongly suggest you read Jeff's book because the perspective is unique, it is different from most space books of the day and age and you will learn from it. Remember, if you order it through Amazon, please do so through TSS Amazon page using the ad on our home page as Amazon will donate a portion of purchase price to One Giant Leap Foundation.  I was around at the time of the Glenn flight and all during the space program from the start through today. I joined in with the guest telling some of the stories I remembered about the program while in school in Tulsa and then later on when I was in university.  Hearing some of the behind the scenes stories to what I recall was most interesting.  I bet if you were around at the time, you will agree with me when you hear what our guest had to say about events we were fortunate enough to witness real time.

I personally found the Glenn personality stories to be new and fascinating.  I was not aware of his disdain from NASA management, the clashes with Alan Shepard but I did know of his enormous popularity with the people.  I followed his senate career, presidential aspirations and his return to space on the shuttle.  While I never interviewed Glenn, I did get to meet and/or interview a few of the Mercury 7 plus several of the Apollo astronauts.  While Glenn's ego was talked about, believe me, they were all driven people, highly accomplished, and competitive with one another.  Of course I had no way to compare those characteristics among the astronauts but do listen to what our guest had to say about astronaut relationships with one another, especially with Glenn and Shepard.

We talked about the importance and strategic value of space as recognized by both JFK and Glenn but not by everyone.  I even compared it to how many of us see space today but not everyone.  I commented on our having come full circle since the early days of our space program with not that much changing.  Our guest agreed with me.  The strategic value of space, the importance of the Glenn orbital flight for making American competitive and eventually passing the Soviet program by was a big part of our discussion.  It would be great if you would post your comments on what Jeff and I plus listeners talked about.  Put them on our blog, we want to read them.

A few listeners and myself asked Jeff if he ever imagined alternate universe outcomes for space and Glenn.  For example, JFK not being killed.  Nixon being elected rather than JFK.  An early accident in flight happening that crippled or was extremely damaging to the program.  Again, this was about an inflight accident on the way to the Moon without a recovery, not on the ground like the Apollo fire or Apollo 13.  Jeff commented on all these various scenarios so don't miss these discussions.  They fun, imaginative and interesting.  Again, post your ideas on the alternate universe happenings on our blog.

Near the end of the show, our guest talked about the behavior and conduct of the Mercury 7, including Shepard, with Glenn trying to contain them.  Glenn was telling the others that the eyes of the nation, the world, congress were on them and their raunchy behavior could damage the program.  Glenn's warnings were not that effective and it did not add to whatever popularity he had.  We talked about Cocoa Beah, the original Holiday Inn and stories I was told by the recently passed Jay Barbree, NBC veteran space reporter who reported on all of this back in the day.  I believe Jay was on TSS three times prior to his passing.  I loved his stories and miss him.  If you have never heard Jay's stories about the Mercury 7 and others, you should hear his shows on archives.  Start with his first one and end with his last one.

Our guest provided us with a summary of the discussion, we talked about the availability of the book and if he had any other space writing plans ahead of him.

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this show.  You can reach Jeff through me here at The Space Show.




Jeff's book "Mercury Rising: John Glenn, John Kennedy & the New Battleground of the Cold War"

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26 Aug 2021 Jeff Shesol
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