A MAN ON THE MOON: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin
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A MAN ON THE MOON: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts

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For the 25th anniversary of the first moon landing, a winning and detailed account of the Apollo astronauts, a dozen of whom were the first human beings to walk on the face of the moon. The strength of the book lies in Chaikin's exhaustive research, including interviews with all 24 Apollo astronauts. Chaikin, an editor of Sky and Telescope, draws on the wealth of material from NASA's files -- including recently declassified transcripts from the on-board voice recorders, which give candid glimpses of the astronauts' thoughts not intended for outside ears (not even Mission Control's). As a result, the reader gets an indepth portrait of the program, which the book sets clearly in its time, with glimpses at the Vietnam War and social unrest at home that were eventually to overshadow its brilliant accomplishments. Even readers who followed the moon program at the time will find surprises (Buzz Aldrin's celebrating communion after the first lunar lander touched down) as well as nostalgic reminders of how much fun it was (Alan Shepard's smuggling along golf balls and a club head to try a few swings in lunar gravity). Chaikin effectively recaptures much of the emotion of Apollo: not only the macho fighter-jock exhilaration of flying higher and farther than anyone in history, but the worldwide tension when an explosion forced Apollo 13 to return prematurely to Earth; the frustration of astronauts bumped from the moon crews by illness or other twists of fate; the almost metaphysical calm of looking back at Earth from a quarter million miles away. And while the author's main focus is rightly on the astronauts themselves, the supporting cast, from politicians to engineers -- and especially wives and families -- gets its fair share of the spotlight. Essential reading for anyone interested in the history of space flight: well written, full of fascinating characters and facts, and above all worthy of its subject.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
ISBN: 014311235X
Page count: 688pp
Publisher: Viking