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Apollo 13: Junior Novelisation Paperback – 31 Jul 1995
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A children's novelization of a film starring Tom Hanks. In the 13th minute of the 13th hour of the 13th day, the Apollo 13 mission to the Moon is doing well - until it hits disaster. The three astronauts now face the grim possibility that they might never return to Earth.
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Apollo 13 tells this intense story from multiple perspectives: the astronauts on the stricken spacecraft, of course, NASA mission control, the families back home and the news media covering the story. These shifting narratives are all well-handled and judiciously edited in place, perhaps thanks to co-author Jeffrey Kluger (senior writer at Time magazine). Each of these cross-cutting stories is informative and the placement of them within the book is well judged, never appearing to interrupt the flow of the story. While Apollo 13 is essentially a book about an incredible technical problem, the story is told with warmth and humanity, with many great character portraits of the ground staff and the families, with the astronauts and Commander Lovell front and centre.
A challenge for this kind of book, is how much detail to include in what is essentially a human but also a very highly technical challenge: too much information and you risk losing the reader's attention, drowning them in a massive amount of information; too little detail and the audience might not understand how key challenges were overcome, they might feel condescended and the story might ultimately not make any sense. The authors of Apollo 13 strike just the right balance: they provide sufficient detail that we understand and appreciate the massive technical challenges while not swamping us with an overload of advanced mathematics.
Apollo 13 is a great read: highly recommended for those with an interest in space exploration and NASA but also for those who want a case study in level-headed crisis management: the problem of an exploded oxygen tank and draining batteries is masterfully negotiated by the scientists, engineers and mathematicians on the ground, while cool heads prevail on the drifting spaceship. A fascinating true story about the rescue of a near-terminally crippled ship, saved by a massive group effort, written in an engaging and warm style that finely mixes human drama with technical achievement.
Brilliantly researched, the book does not only cover the Apollo 13 mission, but also goes into detail about the astronauts, their early years, their families, their military careers (almost all Apollo astronauts were military men) and some of the earlier Apollo missions, including the tragic Apollo 1 oxygen fire which claimed the lives of three astronauts.
We all know the outcome of Apollo 13, so there are no spoilers to worry about, but the fact that they made it home is just astonishing. For instance, at one time the atmosphere in the capsule was nearly 15% carbon dioxide. The CO2 cartridges designed to purify the air were designed for the command module, and simply wouldn't fit into the air purifier in the lunar module, being used as a lifeboat. All the oxygen in the command module was gone, lost in the explosion, they had little electric power, and they couldn't see the stars to get a fix on their position (because of all the stuff which had vented into space after the explosion). The lunar module was never designed to come home attached to the great big command module, which made it very difficult to stabilise. At this point they were still headed outwards! Where do you start?
This great book goes into a lot of detail, telling us about the crisis meetings in Mission Control in Houston, the people who worked around the clock on the ground to solve the problems, and the astronauts themselves, who, in the bitter cold, managed to coax their crippled spacecraft around the moon and back to our lovely, benign blue planet.
You may or may not support human space travel, you may be totally against it, but even if you are, this is a tale of courage, ingenuity, stubborn-ness and ultimately triumph against considerable odds. An inspiring and thrilling read!
I found two other books enhanced my appreciation of everything that went into the Apollo 13 mission. One is "Apollo: The Race for the Moon", another behind-the-scenes history told from the point of view of the engineers who worked on the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. The authors are Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox. Another book is "Chariots for Apollo: The Making of the Lunar Module," by Charles R. Pellegrino and Joshua Stoff. When you read about everything Grumman did to create the lunar module, you understand just why it fit so well its role of life boat during the Apollo 13 mission.
With the launch of the initial International Space Station components next year, the world will enter a new phase of space exploration -- a time where cooperation, not competition, is the by-word. At such a time, looking back on how we got to where we are now -- our space program roots, as it were -- is vitally important. "Lost Moon" does the job with grace and flair.
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Factual but written in a style that is both informative and gripping.Read more