A MAN ON THE MOONby Andrew Chaikin
(1994, Penguin Books)
A very detailed description of the US manned Moon landing program, from its inception.
-- 2nd reading (hardcover)
I love the detail this author puts into the book. He starts with the
dramatic fire, and of course the heightened sense of urgency in Apollo 8
and the moon landing, and the obvious drama of 13, which was so well
documented in the movie. But he gives the same analytical detail to the
other landings, and spends long chapters describing the missions that were
not well-advertised. I’ve read this book before, decades ago, but was still
shocked to learn that one of the later missions was almost waved off
completely, even as the lander was on its approach to the lunar surface.
The first part of the book beautifully illustrates preparing for the moon,
while the second is about the landing and refinement of the missions. The
last part of the book deals with science, lunar geology, and how so many of
the theories (many of which seem absurd these days) were so very wrong.
It’s a fascinating read, not just the mechanics of the missions, of which
there is plenty, but the biographies of the astronauts themselves, and
their feelings, albeit often described twenty years later. Many of their
lives were very touching; others were pragmatic. Even among astronauts,
there is such a variety of personalities. The author captured the great
cross-section, and even traced their current lives (current as of the
writing of the book in 1994 of course). A great educational trip. It’s a
big book, but it’s worth every page.
I was amazed to note in the bibliography how often one of my favorite books
about the Moon program was referenced. Apollo: Race to the Moon, about the
flight controllers and engineers, and others in mission control is a
fantastic book. This history uses it to supplement the information from
technical briefs, audio recordings and so on, not to mention the
astronauts’ own recollections of those days.
I'm surprised that the author didn't spend a bit of time detailing how
three men went to the moon twice. There's a caption about the one who first
orbited the moon twice, but nothing more.
-- First reading (hardcover)
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