Story: In a way, this book picks up where Deke! leaves off – the prologue of the book describes the arrival of the old members of Slayton’s team of astronauts for his funeral in Texas. But the main portion of the book covers Deke and Alan Shepard’s adventures through their risky lives as military test and combat pilots, the origins and selection of the Mercury astronauts, and medical problems that later kept both of them Earthbound during the Gemini years. Both of them served as administrators during that time, and they dealt with everything from the tragedy of Apollo 1 through the triumph of Apollo 11 and the Apollo 13 emergency, from their own unique perspectives – sort of.
Review: With the help of two other writers, both space historians in their own right, the book is written in a curiously detached third-person perspective, not unlike “Lost Moon”. (It’s interesting to note that, unlike quite a few other biographical and factual books on one subject which diverge in their details, virtually all of these books, including Lovell’s “Lost Moon”, agree completely on the events of Apollo 13.) The best portions of the book deal with Shepard’s voyage as the first American in space on the first manned Mercury flight, and his later command of the make-it-or-break-it Apollo 14 moon mission (which had the mandate of restoring America’s confidence in NASA after Apollo 13, or face the early cancellation of the Apollo flights), and Slayton’s Apollo-Soyuz flight. Both of these stories begin with their central figures overcoming odds which others, including doctors, had given up on long ago. Their lives after Apollo are covered as well, ending with another bookend remembrance of the astronauts’ final salute to their former boss.
Slayton’s involvement is not unwelcome, but it is curious; he was writing his own biography simultaneously, and in that light, “Moon Shot” might have been more interesting if it focused on Alan Shepard more. It is also the thinnest of the Apollo history books, and its coverage of numerous events tend to be more brief and cursory than the other books; still, it’s a welcome complement to the other books reviewed here.
Authors: Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, Jay Barbree, Howard Benedict
Publisher: Turner Books
Pages: 383 pages