Journalist Bizony's excellent corrective to NASA's mythologized history takes an unflinching look at how James Webb, a North Carolina farm boy turned Washington insider, ran his end of the space race as NASA's administrator under presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Presiding over the agency during its build-up to the Apollo moon mission, Webb grew the agency into a research and development behemoth by leaning heavily on the old boy network: he called in favors, brokered backroom deals, bullied those who weren't in lockstep with his vision and commandeered vast sums of federal budget money-all the while driven, Bizony contends, by ""pure-hearted ideals."" Bizony shows both the spectacular successes and failures leading up to the Apollo lunar landing and discusses success's cost in terms of dollars, human life and political ambition. The book closes with a chapter detailing the crippling blows dealt to NASA by the Nixon administration, a time period that saw the beginning of the space shuttle project. Hampered by budget restrictions, NASA engineers had to design a ""dangerously imperfect piece of technology"" that later resulted in two famous disasters. Bizony laments the militarizing of NASA under Reagan and the ""wavering"" public support for expanding the space program, but this firebrand of a book should rekindle interest.