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Sometime this summer, an astronaut sitting in the Apollo 11 command module will look out the window and follow with his eyes the firefly shape of the first craft to land, 69 miles below, on the moon. What will happen when its occupants reach luna firma is described in this book, most of which has appeared before in The New Yorker. According to Mr. Cooper, there will be a scheduled-in moment for a whoop of joy; then straight to work on geological expeditions and experiments, with tools and objectives which he details. Hopefully, the findings will shed some light on such issues as the origins of moon craters and the slim possibility of microscopic life in the lunar subsurface. This account is drawn from extensive interviews with astronauts, engineers, and selenologists (moon geologists), as well as the author's observations of preparations for the flight. Unlike most space reporters, who are content to churn out NASA-generated froth, Cooper maintains a calm objectivity, noting with mild irony some of the darker sides of the moon landing: the general lack of any well-argued rationale (""because it is THERE"") for manned space flight; and the rather scary matter of ""back-contamination"" (i.e. whether the ship might bring back lunar germs to deliver swift death to all earthmen). It's certainly not for those tuned into the highly charged tones of Frank McGee at Mission Control but for many it will be a fascinating preview with its own thoughtful excitement. Reader response to its initial appearance has already substantiated it and it may well take off.

Pub Date: June 13th, 1969
Publisher: Dial