Ronald Reagan and the Space Frontier by John M. Logsdon; Palgrave Macmillan, 2019; hardcover: 419 pages, $35.00

Another thumbs up book from John Logsdon, internationally recognized as a consummate historian and analyst of space issues. This volume is another classic regarding presidential space policy.

During Ronald Reagan’s eight years as U.S. president (1981-1989), his administration saw the NASA’s space shuttle program’s first flight, the calamitous loss of Challenger and its 7-person crew, as well as approving space station “Freedom” as the “next logical step” in space development.

The book is divided into 24 expertly written chapters, impeccably researched with notes assigned to each chapter.  

Logsdon makes use of a trove of declassified primary source materials and oral history interviews to spotlight Reagan’s civilian and commercial space policies – decision-making that possibly made the man the most pro-space president in American history.

As a side note, this reviewer was resident in Washington, D.C. during the Reagan space years, part of some three decades of covering NASA, Capitol Hill, and presidential space activities. But Logsdon offers a wealth of insider and behind-the-scenes discussions few of us were privy to; the book’s pages offer tell-tale observations that showcase the complexity and personalities involved with establishing space policy.

Logsdon does note up front that Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative – often labeled the “Star Wars” plan – is not detailed, nor are other national security space issues. Rather, the book’s focus is on civilian and commercial space policy during the Reagan administration.

This volume is a tutorial on the leadership and legacy of Reagan’s space interests, details that should be instructive to all those in the space community eager to fathom today’s presidential pronouncements about America’s space agenda.

Once again, this new book from Logsdon adds to the author’s legacy of space policy observations. He is the author of John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon (Palgrave, 2010) and After Apollo? Richard Nixon and the American Space Program (Palgrave, 2015), both of which are award-winning, definitive accounts of presidential space policy. He is Professor Emeritus at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs and founder of its Space Policy Institute.

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