Friday, June 15, 2012
Books I'm Reading: A Man on The Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts (June 15, 2012)
Andrew Chaikin's excellent book A Man on The Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts (Penguin, 1995) covers the period of transition from the Gemini missions to the Apollo program following Kennedy's challenge to land a man on the moon and return him safely home before the end of the 1960s through the last moon landing, in 1972. Chaikin pays careful attention especially to the preparations for the scientific work of the later missions, mostly geological investigations. While I remember some of the most important events of the time, A Man on the Moon puts it all into perspective. Perhaps the most startling thing that emerges is the brevity of it all. Only a little more than eight years separate Kennedy's historic speech of May 25, 1961 and the first moon landing, and the six lunar landings spanned only three-and-a-half years. The last of them was already 40 years ago.
Well written and meticulously researched, the book is based on contemporary media reports, NASA mission archives, and extensive interviews with 23 of the 24 men who visited the moon, as well as interviews with many of their wives and some of their children, and with Apollo program managers, experiment scientists, engineers, flight controllers, flight directors, geologists, historians, NASA administrators, and even some of the men that designed and created the spacesuits worn on the moon missions. The result is a narrative that gives a palpable sense of having been there. Highly recommended.