Blue Dot: Mercury Rising: Jeff Shesol’s New Book Casts New Light on The Right Stuff (6/26/2021)

Host Dave Schlom delves into some familiar territory for him, the early space program, but with some fresh takes on the space race with author Jeff Shesol. His new book, Mercury Rising: John Glenn, John Kennedy and the New Battleground of the Cold War is an amazing journey back to a time when America was decidedly NOT first in space. With President Kennedy newly occupying the White House in 1961, NASA’s Mercury program is literally struggling to get off the ground and keep pace with the Soviet Union. With the April orbital flight of Yuri Gagarin, the US once again finds itself, as it had with the launch of Sputnik in 1957, in a very distant second place in space. Shesol, who was one of former President Clinton’s West Wing speechwriters, delves deeply into the story with astronaut John Glenn at the center of the narrative. Glenn has often been portrayed in print, film and television as one dimensional all American guy next door when in reality he was a fierce competitor in everything he did. And while the first flight into space for the US went to Alan B. Shepard, it was Glenn who rocketed to fame with the orbital flight of Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962. Shesol shares his own passion for discovery in this story as he tells of unearthing previously unknown letters and audio tapes from Glenn’s archives that reveal an astronaut that was convinced there was a very real possibility that he would not survive America’s first attempt at putting an astronaut into Earth orbit.

Airs Saturday, June 26, 2021 at 9am


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Author: Jeff Barrett

Jeff Barrett is KSPB's chief operator and manages the station's operations.