Barbree, Jay 1934-

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Barbree, Jay 1934-

PERSONAL:

Born 1934; married, c. 1960; wife's name Jo.

CAREER:

Television and radio journalist and writer. National Broadcasting Company, Inc. (NBC), space correspondent, beginning 1958. Also worked for WALB, Albany, GA.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Emmy Award for reporting of the Apollo Moon landings.

WRITINGS:

(With Martin Caidin) Bicycles in War, Hawthorn Books (New York, NY), 1974.

The Hydra Pit, Ashley Books (Port Washington, NY), 1977.

The Day I Died: One Man's Successful Battle Back from the Dead (memoir), New Horizon Press (Far Hills, NJ), 1990.

(With Martin Caidin) A Journey through Time: Exploring the Universe with the Hubble Space Telescope, Penguin Studio (New York, NY), 1995.

(With Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, and Howard Benedict) Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon, Turner Publishing (Atlanta, GA), 1995.

(With Martin Caidin with Susan Wright) Destination Mars: In Art, Myth, and Science, Penguin Studio (New York, NY), 1997.

Live from Cape Canaveral: Covering the Space Race, from Sputnik to Today (memoir), preface by Tom Brokaw, Smithsonian Books/Collins (New York, NY), 2007.

ADAPTATIONS:

Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon was adapted for television, 1994.

SIDELIGHTS:

Jay Barbree is believed to be the only journalist to have witnessed every manned launch by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from the 1960s into the twenty-first century. Barbree joined the National Broadcasting Company, Inc. (NBC) in the late 1950s and began reporting on manned flights for NBC television and radio in 1961 with coverage of Alan Shepard's historic fifteen-minute space flight. Prior to joining NBC, Barbree was working as a cub radio announcer in Georgia when he first began getting scoops on the U.S. space project at Cape Canaveral in Florida. He gained numerous leads over more experienced journalists by doing things such as hiding in a men's room stall, where he overheard people talking about the launch of a satellite that would carry a recorded message from then President Dwight D. Eisenhower. As a result, he scooped reporters from many larger news organizations to announce that the U.S. was planning the first broadcast from space. He then covered the next 150 manned space launches by the NASA for both NBC radio and many of its television news programs, such as The Today Show.

Barbree is also the author of several books focusing on NASA's efforts and outer space, as well as two memoirs: The Day I Died: One Man's SuccessfulBattle Back from the Dead, which recounts an episode in his life when he dropped dead while running on the beach and was revived by medics, and Live from Cape Canaveral: Covering the Space Race, from Sputnik to Today, which focuses on his career as a reporter.

Barbree is author with Martin Caidin of A Journey through Time: Exploring the Universe with the Hubble Space Telescope. The 1995 book, which includes two hundred full-color photographs taken by the four-story Hubble Space Telescope (HST), provides a spectacular view of the universe. "Their text strives to excite as much as the pictures do," wrote Gilbert Taylor in Booklist. For example, the authors describe the concept of a light-year and write about the various scientific data that the Hubble has provided scientists. "A Journey through Time is engaging with its romantic language and beautiful photographs," wrote Richard Berendzen for Sky & Telescope, who added that "it stresses HST's important findings about galaxy development in the early universe." Alexandra Witze commented in Astronomy that "this book leaves no doubt as to its purpose: To convey the awe-invoking beauty of the universe."

Barbree and fellow journalist Howard Benedict collaborated with astronauts Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton, who were part of the pioneering NASA space program from the beginning, to write Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon. The book focuses on the human drama behind the lunar race between the United States and the former Soviet Union. Although the authors focus primarily on the sacrifices and risks of American astronauts that were necessary to make a manned landing on the moon, they also include a historical perspective of the space program, from the World War II German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun onward. The book includes thirty-two pages of photos.

Writing for the New York Times Book Review, Alex Roland called Moon Shot "lively and readable" and "visionary and reverential." Referring to the book as "a tremendously gripping, suspenseful chronicle," a Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the authors "deftly intercut between Cape Canaveral and the Soviets' parallel exploits—Sputnik, the first space walk, etc."

In Destination Mars: In Art, Myth, and Science, Barbree and coauthors Martin Caidin and Susan Wright explore how the planet Mars has been perceived throughout history in such areas as mythology, astrology, early scientific history, and science fiction. They also address space travel in the modern scientific age as they write in depth about NASA's exploration of Mars, from the Mariner and Viking missions of the 1960s and 1970s to the two Mars missions in 1997. The book includes 175 illustrations and photos. Jeanette Brown, writing in Astronomy, commented that the book provides "a complete and breathtaking portrait of a planet that has long captivated earthlings." Noting that the authors present a "readable narrative that abruptly juxtaposes … Martian fact and fiction," Sky & Telescope contributor Joshua Roth wrote that the authors "remind us of the profound cultural impact of astronomical research."

In his 2007 memoir, Live from Cape Canaveral, Barbree presents his memories of covering NASA space flights over five decades. With his unique perspective as the only reporter to have covered every manned space launch by NASA, the author provides portraits of astronauts and some of his fellow journalists. Vanessa Bush, writing in Booklist, noted that Barbree offers "a fascinating look at the people behind the U.S. space program." Among the many anecdotes Barbree offers is the time a private investigator gave the author an audiotape as evidence that one of the astronauts was having an extramarital affair. Barbree said he would see if NBC was interested in the story but merely erased the tape when he was alone.

Commenting that the book "illustrates the differences in how the media covered the space program over the last half-century," Space Review Web site contributor Jeff Foust added: "The differences go beyond just the level of attention paid to the exploits of the early Space Race compared to the relative disinterest in today's program. The relationship between astronauts and the media—at least those who covered the space program closely—appears much closer than it does today." The author describes how the space program and news coverage of the program has changed over the years. In his look behind the scenes of the space program, the author writes about everything from the pranks astronauts played to riveting accounts of the disasters that have resulted in the deaths of more than twenty astronauts. In the process, Barbree presents his autobiography, beginning with his life growing up on a farm in Georgia.

Noting that the author "provides a trenchant analysis of the emotional underpinnings that initially drove the program" as a result of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry to be the first on the moon, a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "It's hard to imagine a more comprehensive or enjoyable history of the Space Race." A contributor to Publishers Weekly declared that the author "writes with infectious enthusiasm" and commented that Live from Cape Canaveral is "an enjoyable introduction for a new generation and a fond remembrance for boomers."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Barbree, Jay, The Day I Died: One Man's Successful Battle Back from the Dead, New Horizon Press (Far Hills, NJ), 1990.

Barbree, Jay, Live from Cape Canaveral: Covering the Space Race, from Sputnik to Today, preface by Tom Brokaw, Smithsonian Books/Collins (New York, NY), 2007.

PERIODICALS

Ad Astra, spring, 2008, Robert Z. Pearlman, review of Live from Cape Canaveral: Covering the Space Race, from Sputnik to Today, p. 57.

American History, October, 1994, review of Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon, p. 22.

Astronomy, April, 1996, Alexandra Witze, review of A Journey through Time: Exploring the Universe with the Hubble Space Telescope, p. 84; March, 1998, Jeanette Brown, review of Destination Mars: In Art, Myth, and Science, p. 102.

Booklist, November 1, 1995, Gilbert Taylor, review of A Journey through Time, p. 444; September 1, 2007, Vanessa Bush, review of Live from Cape Canaveral, p. 34.

Choice, June, 1995, T. Page, review of Moon Shot, p. 1619.

Entertainment Weekly, June 24, 1994, D.A. Ball, review of Moon Shot, p. 97.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2007, review of Live from Cape Canaveral.

Library Journal, April 15, 1994, Thomas Frieling, review of Moon Shot, p. 106; January 1, 1996, Jack W. Weigel, review of A Journey through Time, p. 134.

Nature, January 25, 1996, review of A Journey through Time, p. 309.

New York Times Book Review, July 17, 1994, Alex Roland, review of Moon Shot, p. 1.

Publishers Weekly, May 9, 1994, review of Moon Shot, p. 57; July 23, 2007, review of Live from Cape Canaveral, p. 57.

SciTech Book News, September, 1997, review of Destination Mars, p. 28.

Sky & Telescope, April, 1996, Richard Berendzen, review of A Journey through Time, p. 54; April, 1998, Joshua Roth, review of Destination Mars, p. 68.

Variety, February 10, 2003, Craig Offman, "Tech Vets Steer Shuttle Coverage," p. 7.

Wall Street Journal Western Edition, June 29, 1994, John McGinnis, review of Moon Shot, p. 14.

ONLINE

BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (July 10, 2008), Michelle Jones, "Out of This World: The 50th Anniversary of Sputnik," review of Live from Cape Canaveral.

HarperCollins Web site,http://www.harpercollins.com/ (July 10, 2008), brief profile of author.

Inside Cable News,http://insidecable.blogsome.com/ (September 6, 2006), Curtis Kreuger, profile of author."

Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (July 10, 2008), information on author's film work.

MSNBC.com,http://www.msnbc.msn.com/ (August 31, 2007), Marcia Dunn, "NBC Newsman Distills 50 Years of Spaceflight," profile of author.

Space Review,http://www.thespacereview.com/ (September 4, 2007), Jeff Foust, review of Live from Cape Canaveral.