The Space-Age Presidency Of John F. Kennedy.

By John Bisney 

Presentation of the NASA Distinguished Service Medal to Astronaut Major L. Gordon Cooper on May 21, 1963. Photo taken by White House Photographer Robert Knudsen.


By John Bisney

For millions of older Americans, late November can often trigger a tragic memory from 1963. Almost everyone who is of retirement age can still recall how they first heard the news that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas on November 22.

Asked about his legacy 56 years later, today these same Americans may mention the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Bay of Pigs invasion, but most will also cite his bold goal of landing a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s. Excerpts from his two “moon speeches” have become iconic visual moments in American history.            

Kennedy also put his imprint on other aspects of the US space program during his three-and-a-half years in office, and his tenure saw many historic US firsts; among them, the first Americans in space and in orbit, the first communications and weather satellites, nuclear rocket propulsion development, and the first fly-by of another planet. With the passage of time, however, many have been forgotten. 

Cooper, Grissom, and Kennedy.

The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy is dedicated to recalling these other aspects of his administration.  It’s the first book, surprisingly, to visually document Kennedy’s interactions with the American space program: no-one has ever before compiled a chronological account of all of his activities from 1961-1963. Authors John Bisney and JL Pickering do so for the first time, drawing from rarely-seen or unpublished images from the Kennedy Library, NASA, Los Alamos Labs, and other sources to present a new look at Kennedy’s travels, briefings and speeches involving the Space Age and the Space Race with the Soviets. It’s a lasting legacy that should not and cannot be forgotten.

Kennedy and officials from McDonnell Douglas inspect a Gemini mock-up with engineer Elbert Wiegand in the cockpit.


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Picturing Apollo 11 in LA Times Top 8 Apollo Anniversary Book Reviews

The Apollo 11 mission to the moon launched 50 years ago. These 8 books tell the story

Buzz Aldrin’s 1969 moonwalk

Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin walks on the moon. He and Neil Armstrong their historic landing on July 20, 1969.

Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most remarkable moments in American history: the day that astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. The Apollo 11 mission remains one of NASA’s most incredible achievements, and photographs from the moon landing are some of the most recognizable images in the world.

If you’re interested in the stories behind the historic mission (or are the parent of a young space buff), there’s no shortage of reading material that will help you understand Apollo 11 and the turbulent history of the era in which it took place. Here are eight books inspired by the moonshot for readers of all ages.

“Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11,” James Donovan

Dallas author Donovan’s new book is a narrative chronicle of the famous NASA voyage set against the backdrop of the Cold War. Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins called the book “extensively researched and meticulously accurate” and “the best book on Apollo that I have read.”

“One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon,” Charles Fishman

Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins tend to get all the glory, but the moonshot was the result of hard work by hundreds of people whose names aren’t as familiar to most Americans. Fishman’s 2019 book takes a look at the scientists, mathematicians and factory workers who helped make Apollo 11 a success.

“The NASA Archives: 60 Years in Space,” Piers Bizony, Andrew Chaikin and Roger Launius

Publisher Taschen is known for its elaborately constructed and gorgeous art books. Its new volume about NASA is an illustrated history of the space agency that features more than 400 photographs documenting America’s history in space. In a review for the L.A. Times, Drew Tewksbury wrote that the book “catalogs with beautiful detail the rapid pace of scientific and engineering advances during the 20th-century space race.”

“Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11,” Brian Floca

Kids with an interest in space will likely be fascinated by this story of the moon landing from award-winning children’s book author and artist Floca. The book tells the story of NASA’s historic mission, from takeoff to touchdown, using simple language and dramatic illustrations.

“Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson,” Katherine Johnson

Apollo 11 wouldn’t have been possible without Johnson, the mathematician whose work helped launch many of NASA’s most important projects. In her new autobiography for young readers, the 100-year-old Johnson (one of the subjects of the hit book and movie “Hidden Figures”) writes about her childhood and her remarkable career, when she was forced to deal with racism and sexism on a daily basis.

“The Penguin Book of Outer Space Exploration: NASA and the Incredible Story of Human Spaceflight,” edited by John Logsdon

Space-obsessed readers will likely find plenty to hold their interest in this curated collection of historical documents dealing with Apollo 11 as well as other NASA missions. Edited by the founder of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, the book features a foreword by everyone’s favorite science guy, television personality Bill Nye.

“I Love You, Michael Collins,” Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Baratz-Logsted’s 2017 book for middle-grade readers follows 10-year-old Mamie Anderson, whose class is given an assignment to write letters to the Apollo 11 astronauts. Mamie, whose family is in the midst of an upheaval, chooses the space explorer she has the greatest connection with: Michael Collins, the only one of the three astronauts who didn’t get to set foot on the moon.

“Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments,” J.L. Pickering and John Bisney

The Apollo 11 moon landing was responsible for some of the most iconic images in American history. In their new book, Pickering and Bisney present a host of never-before-seen photographs of the mission, including images of the three astronauts, the Kennedy Space Center and spectators gathered to watch history being made before their eyes.


Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments


Need a gift idea for Fathers Day?

Fathers Day is June 16th.

Fathers day Project2[9248]


Picturing Apollo 11 and The Space Age Presidency of JFK


Other Fathers Day suggestions from our collection.



Spaceshots and Snapshots of Projects Mercury and Gemini




Moonshots and Snapshots of Project Apollo


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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

You’ve Seen The Apollo 11 Movies; Now, Here Are The Books by Emily Carney | Mar 16, 2019 | Apollo, Book Reviews: Non-Fiction as published in National Space Society.


The last six months have brought us two major movies about Apollo 11, and some of its figures: First Man (released October 2018), and Apollo 11 (currently playing in theaters). While this 50th anniversary year will bring many related films, documentaries, and books to the fold, here are five that stand out. While four have either been recently released or are awaiting release, one is a 1970 classic that should be revisited by space fans and those who are maybe just learning about Apollo alike.

Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments, by J.L. Pickering and John Bisney (University of Florida Press): Space historian Pickering and journalist Bisney have combined many never-before-publicly-seen photos of the era with text that judiciously explains the entire Apollo 11 mission from training through splashdown and quarantine (and beyond). Space buffs will be thrilled to see rare shots of, say, Michael Collins posing model-like by a simulator, and of course the stunning lunar vistas captured by Armstrong and Aldrin during their short time upon the Moon’s surface.

Pickering has been archiving rare spaceflight photos and images for over 40 years; he and Bisney together have co-authored several books, including Spaceshots and Snapshots of Projects Mercury and Gemini: A Rare Photographic HistoryMoonshots and Snapshots of Project Apollo: A Rare Photographic History, and the upcoming The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy: A Rare Photographic History. For more rare spaceflight images, Pickering’s Retro Space Images photo discs are highly recommended viewing.

First Man: The Annotated Screenplay, by Josh Singer with James R. Hansen (Titan Books): While the title of this book pretty much explains the bulk of its contents, devotees of First Man the movie and Hansen’s 2005 Neil Armstrong biography (which remains the only authorized biography of the publicity-shy late astronaut) will enjoy reading about the decisions behind keeping certain scenes and personalities within the film.

Moreover, it’s attractively illustrated, featuring scenes from the film and pertinent NASA photos from the 1960s. It’s exciting to read about how actual astronauts and key figures contributed to the movie’s accuracy; for example, Joe Engle – X-15 spaceplane pilot and NASA astronaut, and the only space shuttle commander to conduct a partially manual reentry – was heavily consulted for the film’s X-15 scenes, which Armstrong also piloted before his 1962 NASA astronaut selection.

The Step, by Martha Lemasters (Morgan James Publishing): The Step provides its readers with a different perspective of the Apollo program, one that doesn’t necessarily include all men, wearing the ubiquitous of-their-time NASA-issued American Optical sunglasses, piloting and training for thousands of hours. Lemasters is one of the few women who worked for an Apollo contractor at Cape Canaveral during the 1960s. The Step is her story about her rise from divorced single mother to writer at IBM, at a time when IBM was building and enterprising one of the key components of the Saturn V Moon rocket, the Instrument Unit (IU).

The story of Apollo, its workers, and its unique challenges are told back-dropped by her life’s story, which involves coming into her own as a woman during a time when women were frequently underrepresented (or not represented at all) in scientific fields. Lemasters uses a fine brush to paint a vivid picture of what it was like to be a young, attractive woman in a field that did not attract many young, attractive women, and how a rather demure miniskirt was capable of scandalizing an entire Vehicle Assembly Building.

First on the Moon (2019), by Rod Pyle (Sterling Publishing): Writer and space historian Pyle, who is the editor-in-chief of the NSS’ Ad Astra and authored the recently-published Space 2.0has put together an unmissable journey of a book that explains each step of the Apollo 11 mission, including Apollo’s humble origins. The reader sees how America’s space conquest goes from strength to strength in a short decade’s time, from recovering from embarrassing early launch failures (such as the infamous “Kaputnik”) to achieving one of the world’s greatest engineering feats, putting two humans on the lunar surface with no major failures.

Pyle’s book is also beautifully illustrated, featuring rare photos and helpful diagrams showing each mission phase. What also makes this book distinctive is a chapter looking forward to the future of lunar explorations, featuring the sci-fi visions of artists including James Vaughn. This chapter hearkens to the theme of this year’s ISDC, which is “Back to the Moon to Stay.” First to the Moon is scheduled for release on April 2, 2019.

First on the Moon (1970), by Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin written with Gene Farmer and Dora Jane Hamblin (Little, Brown and Company): This book was one of the “gateway drugs” that got me into spaceflight during my childhood, and still stands the test of time after nearly 50 years. Its perspective upon the historic mission is still somehow startlingly fresh after all this time, and it captures the personalities of key personnel almost better than anything I have ever read. While it’s championed as “the astronauts’ own book,” we also read about figures including secretary Lola Morrow and astronaut nurse Dee O’Hara. But if astronauts are your thing, you’ll enjoy reading about each phase of the mission in the astronauts’ own distinctive voices.

This volume – and each volume on this list – deserves a revisit (or visit) this summer, as we celebrate 50 years since the signature Moon landing mission.

Photo Credit: NASA, dated May 1969: “The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has named these three astronauts as the prime crew of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. Left to right, are Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot.”


Emily Carney is a writer, space enthusiast, and creator of the This Space Available space blog, published since 2010. In January 2019, Emily’s This Space Available blog was incorporated into the National Space Society’s blog. The content of Emily’s blog can be accessed via the This Space Available blog category.

Note: The views expressed in This Space Available are those of the author and should not be considered as representing the positions or views of the National Space Society.

The Space-Age Presidency of John F Kennedy: A Rare Photographic History

Co-Authors John Bisney and JL Pickering. Forward by Dr. Christopher C. Kraft Jr.

Our book is the first to visually document JFK’s interactions with the American space program. We have pulled together more than 520 images, many unpublished, from NASA, the USAF, Los Alamos, White Sands, the Kennedy Library, and other sources to chronicle his activities and travels from 1961-63. Each photo, as usual with our books, is accompanied by a detailed caption providing historical depth. We also include related memos, models and historical artifacts from the Kennedy Library and Museum collection. Project Mercury and X-15/X-20 fans will enjoy this book, but it also encompasses the new age of satellites, space probes, and nuclear missiles. We take you behind the scenes at the White House and on field trips to military and space facilities around the country as Kennedy explores his nation’s growing capabilities.

The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy gives readers an in-depth look at President Kennedy’s involvement in the beginning stages of the gargantuan effort to reach the Moon–before the Russians. The combination of rare photographs and insight Bisney and Pickering lend to the story gives a unique context to the politics and events of the era.”–Roland Miller, author of Abandoned in Place: Preserving America’s Space History

Presidents Day Our 35th President John F. Kennedy.

Today we mark the birthday of our first president, George Washington, which was actually February 22. The holiday, however, has become widely-known as Presidents’ Day to honor all who have held the office, and so is also an opportunity to remember our 35th president, John F. Kennedy.

In the 1960s, February 22 was a federal holiday, no matter what day of the week it fell (Lincoln’s February 12 birthday, incidentally, was never a federal holiday). On all three times it rolled around during his administration, President Kennedy found time to relax. In 1961, after a series of morning briefings at the White House, he played nine holes of golf in the afternoon, followed by a few more meetings and then dinner at a friend’s home. In 1963, he was at the Kennedy family compound in Palm Beach, Fla. He went to the beach in the morning and cruised on the yacht Honey Fitz in the afternoon.

On February 22, 1962, he was also in Palm Beach. He had flown down from Washington earlier in the day, accompanied by the family of astronaut John Glenn. They would all attend a medal ceremony in Glenn’s honor the next day at Cape Canaveral after becoming the first American to orbit the Earth on Feb. 20.

It was Kennedy’s first visit to the Cape, and he received a brief tour of launch facilities before pinning NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal on Glenn’s lapel. The president would come to the space center on two more occasions during his time in office. We cover all three visits with multi-page photo spreads in our new book, The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy, along with detailed captions providing the rich historical background for each image.   By John Bisney for Retrospaceimages Blog.  

This book is now available.  Follow the affiliate link below to view on Amazon. 


The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy




JFK Feb 22 President John F. Kennedy (at bottom of airplane stairs) and members of John Glenn’s family exit Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Florida on February 22, 1962. Walking down the stairs behind Kennedy are Glenn’s wife, Annie; his daughter, Lyn; and his son David.