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A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts Hardcover – 1 Jun 1994
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Technically, of course, it is three books in one as that is how the text is split up. Book one takes us through from the dreadful catastrophe of Apollo 1 through the various steps along the way towards the soaring success of Apollo 11 and the quite amazing technological leaps that had to be made to make that possible. Book two takes us through the middle "consolidation" period of lunar exploration with Apollo Missions 12-14 and includes dramatic descriptions of the ill-fated Apollo 13 which many people now regard as NASA's "most shining moment". Book three covers the astonishing successes of the last three moon landings, Apollo Missions 15-17, building on what had been achieved before and slowly uncovering more and more about the fascinating geology of the moon and leaving you with a slight sense of loss that the programme was not allowed to continue - not least when you discover what the Moon could still offer us in terms of solutions to our energy crisis for example - if only we'd been brave enough to stretch our minds to the possibilities on offer to us.
The book finishes with an epilogue telling where the former Astronauts were in their lives at the time of original publication back in 1994. This is a very thought-provoking and insightful piece which maybe should have been updated for the new edition in 2009, but wasn't. Possibly, as some of the main players involved are now no longer with us, it is more meaningful to remember them as they were then, but some kind of acknowledgement that time has once again moved on might have helped clarify things a little to a new audience. Nonetheless, a lot of what those Astronauts had to say was very meaningful and Ken Mattingly's comments about the lack of continuance in the engineering process ("If you don't build things, you don't know HOW to build things") seems to sum up the frustrations felt by many former key players from that generation.
The appendices are very useful giving all the biographical details of the various astronauts and a list of the relevant data of each of the Apollo missions in a handy "list" format which is useful to have. All-in-all this is a very satisfying and beautifully written book to have as an overview of this most fascinating of human achievements.
But just being a good read wouldn't be enough for all those space geeks like me who lap this sort of stuff up. It is replete with technical details explained in such a way that you would barely know if there has been a technical factlet just gone by. And the author did such wonderful research that there is enough new anecdote to keep even the jaded Apollo fan going. If you buy only one general Apollo hstory, buy this one.
And definitely buy it in the three volume illustrated version. This has Chaikin's original text with a slew of fantastic photos beautifully reproduced. Expensive, perhaps, so do what I did and get your wife/husband/partner/etc to get it for you as a present. You will love them forever.
Critically acclaimed book by renowned Aerospace author and scientist Andrew Chaikin. I read the previous edition of this book a few years ago and it's great!
Reading somewhere between history, biography, popular science and a thriller this is a well respected, bestselling book on the Apollo space program with a few photos in the middle.
Definitely 5 stars.
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