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It's , and a lunar mission lands at Tranquility Base. A crew of heroic young Indians - or Chinese - quietly folds and puts away America's sixty-year-old flag.
If the world saw that on television, wouldn't the gesture be worth tens of billions of rupees or yuan? But memory plays tricks. According to author Craig Nelson, the first step onto the Moon's surface occurred on July 20, at 9: Evidently it was the landing I recall, not the initial EVA.
An online encyclopedia has that first step being taken at So, now I'm even more confused - but apparently not the only one. I just hope his facts are more accurate than my memory.
Since most of my generation is more or less acquainted with how the Apollo 11 flight played out, perhaps the more instructive section of the book is that which describes the evolution of America's rocketry program and manned missions in the milieu of the Cold War, when both the United States and the Soviet Union perceived or misperceived as the case may be the abilities of the other.
The competitive race approached being a farce on a grand scale. And, in the last chapter, when the post-mission lives of Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins are briefly summarized, the reader realizes that personal glory with a capital "G" is sometimes best left unrealized.
I was a bit puzzled, however, by the author's treatment, or lack thereof, of the four manned Apollo missions preceding The narrative might lead the reader to believe that Apollo 8, a flight which the text briefly summarizes and memorably sent American astronauts around the Moon on Christmas Eve , was the first.
Yet it was Apollo 7, about which there is no mention at all, that lofted the Command Module into Earth orbit and which was the initial manned test of the Apollo vehicle in space.
And Nelson says nothing about Apollo 9 or 10, the former testing the docking maneuver of the Command and Lunar Modules in Earth orbit, and the latter, which was a full dress rehearsal for 11 and included everything but the actual lunar touchdown.
I, for one, can say that July 20, was the time of my life that I was proudest to be an American. Honor is due Nelson for doing the events of the day justice.
Nelson apparently has no technical background. If his editors at Viking had considered that circumstance they might have arranged for a technical review that could have corrected multiple errors.
I could cite several, but one will be sufficient to make my point--on page Mr. Nelson writes that the surface temperature of the Moon in darkness is "minus one hundred kelvins.
I rest my case. The author has taken one of mankind's greatest events and made it a dull slog. There seems to be no editing or organization.
Every possible quote and detail from anyone involved with the space program, no matter how uninteresting, is included.
The low point is a lengthy description of astronaut vomit patterns floating in zero gravity. I only read it because of a book club asssignment.
I noted that there's a lot of disagreements among reviewers, particularly over the author's portrayal of the technical aspects of the Apollo program.
I'm not an engineer so can't comment, but I do think it's important to provide an objective review of the book as a history of the Apollo program and politics behind it.
In this, Craig Nelson provides the most current and comprehensive account of America's Moonshot, but it does at times seem a bit disorganized.
First, the good parts of the book. Nelson tries to retell the story of Apollo 11 by stressing the huge risks involved with the program. The public, during the s and many years later, never appreciated some of the risks involved.
This is well illustrated early in the book, when Nelson recounts a debate among lunar geologists over the composition of the moon.
At the time, geologists weren't even quite sure what the moon was made of. Some though the surface might be a puffy dust that would not support a landing craft.
Eventually, the presence of boulders convinced most that the moon had a hard, rocky surface. But just the fact that there were questions showed how risky and bold the entire endeavor really was.
Second, Nelson does a good job teasing out the personalities of the astronauts. For Nelson, the symbol of this is the slide rule for those of you too young to remember, it was an ancient form of the calculator and the ultimate geek accessory.
The astronauts as test pilots - not fighter pilot jocks - had both engineering background and top flight experience. The biggest problem faced by the crew is that the touchdown was so soft that it didn't trigger the shock-absorbers and retract the landing struts.
As such, there's a three foot gap between the ladder and lunar surface. This renders Armstrong's first words on the moon ironic -- "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
As it stands, the sentence doesn't make a lot of sense. The other challenges faced are pretty minor -- the top-soil if you can call it that is so thin the astronauts have a hard time getting the flag to stand up; Buzz describes a rock as looking like mica, which pisses off the geologists at mission control.
The crew lifts off and makes an unremarkable rendezvous with the mothership, followed by an uneventful return to Earth.
The characters are borderline cardboard -- everyone who works for this NASA organization is an uber-professional expert who seems to have stepped out of the s.
Nelson even mentions this, explaining that the scientists, engineers and astronauts are so focused on their jobs that they don't pay attention to the changing world outside.
The only exception is the, uh, let's say "feisty," Buzz. One memorable scene has him arguing about whether he or Armstrong should be the first on the surface.
Unfortunately for him, plot-logic dictates that the guy named Buzz must be the wacky sidekick and Armstrong the jut-jawed hero.
Too bad there's no room for Anne Francis. The book does well enough in depicting what space might really be like, but this whole "mundane sci-fi" movement does nothing for me.
No Robbie the Robot, no sale. View all 10 comments. It served as a stark wakeup call and reminder that even boyhood heroes who slip the surly bonds of Earth with such majesty and dignity cannot live forever.
I remember that Sunday afternoon when the lunar landing actually happened. My folks were packing the truck to come home from a successful weekend camping trip; I was too enthralled with the moon landing to help, and they were too wise and intelligent to force me out of that truck.
Its windows were down, its doors were open, and the lunar landing feed was being pumped at me through the blow torch signal of KSL radio.
Even now, I remember vividly the dialogue between Armstrong and Aldrin as he, Aldrin, described what he could see as Armstrong manually piloted Eagle to a safe landing spot.
First, it humanizes these astronauts in ways that left me constantly charmed and amazed. In fact, so enthused was I as I read this that my wife checked the print copy out from the local library and finished it as well this weekend.
First, you should understand that this book is not an exhaustive treatise on the American space program. It pays brief attention to the Mercury program, even less so to Gemini, but it focuses heavily on the Apollo portion, particularly Apollo You go into the lives of these astronauts and their families.
You agonize with NASA officials about budgetary decisions that can make all the difference in whether men come home alive or never come home at all.
Did you know, for example, that President Nixon had, prior to the Apollo 11 flight, written a speech announcing to the American people that the two men of the lunar module were forever stranded and would die on the moon?
He did indeed, and there is a brief excerpt from that speech in this book. You will read with some wistful sadness of the fact that so few pictures of Armstrong were actually taken while on the moon.
In short, this is a beautiful story breathtakingly told. Where there is a need for scientific explanations, they are presented in wonderfully plain language that will in no way leave you confused or uninterested.
How does all this impact the children of these astronauts? Nelson takes you skillfully through the early days of the space program when the Russians were succeeding time after time, leaving American shaken and wondering whether a dictatorship was indeed better than a democracy in terms of providing the talent and resources necessary to go into space.
So acrimonious was the space race at one point that the Russians sent an unmanned rocket up at the same time as Apollo 11 was journeying to the moon.
Of course, history points out that just the opposite was true. This book, as no other has for me, points out with stark clarity that the space race may have been a massive factor in the prevention of nuclear war between the two super powers during the height of the cold war.
The author postulates that had the two nations not sought to achieve astronautical supremacy, they might have poured even more of their energies into achieving nuclear supremacy, which could have ended badly for everyone concerned.
He belatedly understood why NASA officials had initially begged him not to enter the facility at that point. To the degree that it can, this book even puts a human face on the more than , contract employees who made the moon landing possible.
Ironically enough, it seems to be Michael Collins whose life was the least marred by the Apollo 11 experience.
His access to the astronauts and even to once-classified documents paid off handsomely in this book. In short, if you were too young to have meaningful memories of Apollo 11, this book will give you an accurate feel for what it was like to experience.
If you remember it vividly, you will find in these pages not merely a reaffirmation of your memories but scores and scores of additional reasons to be impressed by the endeavor and thrilled that you lived during that time.
Aug 14, Grant rated it really liked it. It's always hard for a professional engineer to read a history of the technology they are involved with.
When the usually non-technical author messes up on a technical detail, it's worse than fingernails on a blackboard However, Craig Nelson does a very good job of seeing past much of the hype and propaganda to tell some of the tales of the Moon Program, often in personal detail from the mouths of those having done the work.
The book really grabs my interest when it talks with people I know It's always hard for a professional engineer to read a history of the technology they are involved with.
The book really grabs my interest when it talks with people I know personally in the industry. It makes me want to call them up and say, "Did the author get this right?
The book is readable, factual and thorough. It drags through some points, buy my sense of time is probably warped by the foreknowledge of what is to come.
I would recommend this book for non-technical people that vaguely remember the Apollo days, but have lost the details int he fog of time.
I would also recommend that they share it with their kids to make sure the current generation that were not alive in July, understand some of the "real" history that came before them.
Jan 20, Donna rated it really liked it Shelves: The author, Craig Nelson, did a fantastic job with this book. He assembled so many intimate jokes, stories, conversations, and underlying emotions of the first astronauts to walk on the moon.
It was nice to have that view and not just a whole bunch of historical facts. But there were also plenty of facts that felt like an inside track to the whole space race.
I liked the part of this book that dealt with Apollo Once they had rocketed off toward the moon, the book then detoured to WWII and to The author, Craig Nelson, did a fantastic job with this book.
Unfortunately, I didn't care much for that part. It was a little too political and "sciency" for me. I wanted the story of Buzz and Neil.
So I kind of skimmed the middle until we were back to the original story. It was fascinating to read about these amazing men and this monumental time in world history.
Apr 13, Patrick Sprunger rated it liked it Shelves: Rocket Men is a study in missed opportunity. The author, snared in the spell of his subject, failed to see what he really had: A good book about the Cold War arms race.
At the center of this book is a close study of the rocket and missile science essential to Cold War policy on both sides of the iron curtain, most notably how the space race served as a demilitarized proxy for testing communist versus capitalist preeminence.
Nelson explains the Cuban Missile Crisis and quiet agreement to foreg Rocket Men is a study in missed opportunity.
Nelson explains the Cuban Missile Crisis and quiet agreement to forego development of anti-satellite weapons as well as any other author of recent memory.
More importantly, he delivers it in an accessible style that casual readers will "fly" to if you'll pardon the pun.
However, acts 1 and 3 deal almost exclusively with Apollo 11 and the engineering triumphs of the summer of The author went to great lengths to collect comprehensive oral accounts, and captured something of the culture of NASA in the 60s through unadorned preservation of the idioms and manner of speaking of those close to the action.
But a little bit goes a long way. Nelson is too dependent on long quotations; rather than flavor the narrative in a positive way, they bog it down. Nelson also relies heavily on figures and technical information.
This alone isn't a problem, except the author appears to lack academic discipline. Agencies are sometimes referred to by their acronyms before they are referred to by their proper names.
Also, the alphabet soup of acronyms is a little heavy - a courteous writer should try to limit his dependence on them when writing to a casual audience.
The biggest problem of all is the haphazard way Mr. Nelson has structured the narrative. Arranging the composition in three acts isn't bad, but the acts are both out of chronological order and redundant.
I cannot see how acts 1 and 3 which deal essentially with the Apollo 11 mission itself perform different functions within the manuscript. They feel like heavy bookends, buttressing the middle act with unnecessary ornament.
Rocket Men is not completely without enjoyment. It's full of trivia and the author uses some of the quirkiest metaphors I've ever seen applied to a technical subject comparing the Eagle lunar module to a bacteriophagic virus, landing on a foreign body and discharging its human genetic material will forever "infect" my memory.
And, of course, act 2 concerning the Cold War arms race is a thrill. Reading Rocket Men is a little like being atop a Saturn V at launch: It lurches, is erratic and utterly beyond one's control.
It's a bumpy ride, but one that may ultimately be worth the discomfort. Mar 09, Barney rated it liked it. I am a sucker for books about the Space Race.
I picked this up when I finally broke down and bought "A Game of Thrones". I saw this book with the picture of Buzz Aldrin next to the U. Oh well, would that it were worth it.
Don't get me wrong, it is not a bad book. Craig Nelson wrote a very well received biography of Thomas Paine, and his writing is crisp and detailed.
What this one lacked was really anything new that one I am a sucker for books about the Space Race. What this one lacked was really anything new that one could not get out of any of the other 75, books about the Apollo program.
I made the mistake of actually thinking it was solely about Apollo The info on Von Braun, whose record of service with the Nazis has been classified and then expunged, is quite well done.
But again, there is little here that is new. Besides some excellent quotes from Alan Sheperd concerning JFK actually using the term "Space Cadet" with its original connotation and a couple of anecdotes about the years after the mission, a reader should check out "Moon Shot" by Deke Slayton and Shepard.
For those like me who constantly bitch that the US put men on the moon 42 years ago and that we are now a country whose own citizens think can do nothing right, Nelson does offer some hope.
He does point out that it took roughly 60 years to get from the Wright Bros to reliable jet travel. Of course, space travel is much more difficult than jet travel.
It also took roughly years between Columbus "discovered" a continent with millions of people on it and the founding of Plymouth colony.
We could do more; the question as always is are we willing to pay for it? In the s, it was "Hot damn! We can't afford stuff like space flight!
I'll cut three departments from the Federal government: Commerce, the EPA and that one what deals with school lunches.
Reagan is wrong with these people? I found this an absorbing read of the seemingly miraculous feat of America's race to be the first to put a man on the moon.
This history is informative, entertaining, and thrilling. With a plethora of first hand reminiscing and reflective commentary by those intimately engaged with NASA's Apollo missions the reader gets a good lead-up narrative to and through the greatest voyage in human history.
It is the story of a cold war and its accompanying space race with the Soviets that begins at the e I found this an absorbing read of the seemingly miraculous feat of America's race to be the first to put a man on the moon.
It is the story of a cold war and its accompanying space race with the Soviets that begins at the end of World War II with the U. Then on through the Mercury and Gemini programs and all the challenges confronted by the engineers, astronauts, their families, and the four hundred thousand people generally unknown that made it all possible.
A very satisfactory read that I highly recommend. Sep 24, Noelle rated it it was amazing. This book to me is the "bible" of the space race.
Lots of new details but presented in a manner that will still hold the interest of the everyday non rocket scientist reader..
Oct 16, Nathan rated it really liked it. A very interesting history of the background of the first men to walk on the moon.
The book was a bit plodding at first because it has so much detail, but it moved faster as the book went on.
A few interesting facts from the book: A minute feature film version, created by editing the serial footage together, was released on July 25, ; it was one of 14 feature films Republic made from their serials.
Instead of New York City being reduced to rubble by a deluge, as in the serial, those events are dismissed as just the "dream of a mad man" and did not really happen.
A similar change was made in the feature version of Drums of Fu Manchu. The last original Republic serial release was King of the Carnival in Cline describes this serial as "one of Republic's last cliff-hangers with any originality to it.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Theatrical release insert poster. Vulcan" 13min 20s "Wave of Disaster" 13min 20s Source: In Search of Ammunition"; "5.
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