Kennedy book features Los Alamos’ role in the Space Race

In their new book, “The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy,” author John Bisney and space historian J.L. Pickering have put together a 224-page, hardcover book featuring 528 rare color photos of President John F. Kennedy.

And not just rare photos, but photos that capture Kennedy engaged in the one of the most crucial missions of his presidency, getting an American on the moon.

Los Alamos residents especially will get a kick and perhaps a wave of nostalgia reading the book, as it features an extensive number of photographs from his December 1962 visit to Los Alamos. Kennedy visited the Los Alamos National Laboratory that December to check on “Project Rover,” where the laboratory was working a small nuclear reactor designed for rocket flight.

The book’s foreword is written by Christopher Kraft, the flight director for all of six manned Mercury missions at the Manned Spacecraft Center. He would later go on to serve as the center’s director of operations and then later as the center’s director.

Kraft recounts what happened sometime in 1961 when National Aeronautics and Space Administration officials let it be known to Kennedy that they had been thinking of sending a manned flight around the moon.

“Why just fly around the moon?” Why not land?,” the president told them.

“The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy” chronicles everything that happened after that sentence in beautiful black and white and color photography.

Bisney is a former correspondent who covered the U.S. space program for 30 years for CNN, the Discovery Channel, SiriusXM Radio and other news outlets. Pickering s a space-flight historian who specializes in rare images and historic artifacts from the U.S. space program.

Before “The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy” Bisney and Pickering collaborated on two other books about America’s space program, “Spaceshots and Snapshots of Projects Mercury and Gemini: A Rare Photographic History” and Moonshots and “Snapshots of Project Apollo: A Rare Photographic History.”

In their book about Kennedy, Bisney said the photos already uncovered for the prior two books led them on to see what other photos were out there.

“That led us to wonder what else might be available from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum,” Bisney said in their latest book’s introduction. “Once we realized we had plenty of unpublished or rarely seen material to work with, our goal became to follow the template of our previous two space history books, completed with detailed captions.”

Though Kennedy would never live to see America’s goal of putting a man on the moon, “The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy” captures perfectly the Kennedy’s engagement with the Mercury program all the way to him personally seeing the first two-stage Saturn I booster being readied for its first, record-setting flight.

Though the laboratory’s reactor concept was not used in the space program, the book features extensive photo coverage of Kennedy’s December 1962 visit to Los Alamos. The book shows rare photos of his speech at Sullivan Field and touring the Los Alamos National Laboratory with then director Norris Bradbury. Many of the photographs feature Los Alamos buildings and landmarks that are still recognizable, such as the Los Alamos Post Office. The pictures are so sharp and clear; residents who were around at that time might recognize themselves along the motorcade route down Central Avenue or in the crowd at Sullivan Field.

“The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy” and the authors’ other titles are available through the University of New Mexico Press, and can be ordered on line at

LA Monitor

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