David Greenwald
October 01, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Michael D’Antonio’s account of America’s fledgling space program in the first year after Sputnik.

Crucial Moment
One month after the Vanguard rocket’s failure on Dec. 6, 1957, Explorer 1’s journey into orbit is dubbed a ”near miracle.”

Lowdown
With its narrow time frame and dearth of compelling protagonists, A Ball, a Dog, and a Monkey doesn’t quite clear the atmosphere. B-

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