Story: Each mission is given plenty of coverage, and a lot of attention is paid to the doomed Apollo 1 test mission as well as what the future of America’s manned moon presence could have been if not for budget cuts to redirect funding to the Vietnam War. I learned an incredible amount of information I had never heard before from this book, including something of a minor scandal involving the crew of Apollo 15.
Review: Though I thoroughly enjoyed Jim Lovell’s “Lost Moon”, I have to hand the definitive honors in the category of books about America’s push to reach the moon. It’s amazing how many of the astronauts, families and support crews Andrew Chaikin tracked down and interviewed, and the resulting gold mine of information and feelings barely fits into this admittedly thick book.
Among the most fascinating sections of the book deals with the lives and careers of the Apollo astronauts after the Apollo program came to an end, from the reclusive Neil Armstrong to John Young, who went on the captain the first space shuttle launch and was eventually quietly shuffled into the background after his outspoken criticisms of NASA’s safety standards following the death of the Challenger crew.
Chaikin dwells often on the astronauts’ thoughts and impressions as both scientists and tourists, and explains the technology involved in getting them there without making the reader feel as though he needs an Intel inside to grasp the basics. More than anything, however, the book is about the people involved, in space and on the ground.
Of all the books I’ve read about the Apollo program, even including Lost Moon (which inspired the movie Apollo 13), “A Man On The Moon” nets my highest recommendations. This book will hold the interest of anyone even remotely interested in the most ambitious phase of the American space program.
I was not surprised to learn that the HBO miniseries From The Earth To The Moon was based on Chaikin’s outstanding book; it helped lend Tom Hanks’ big-budget Apollo retrospective a great deal of credibility. But as always, the book’s better.
Author: Andrew Chaikin
Pages: 640 pages