A vivid tribute to the scientific insights, technological ingenuity, and sheer brass that put men on the moon in 1969 and brought them back alive.
Brouwer pitches his tale as a triumph over “life-or-death challenges that no humans had faced before” and writes in second person to crank up its immediacy. He puts readers right into the cramped spacecraft with Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins as he chronicles the heady mix of tricky bits and narrowly averted crises that were Apollo 11: “Yes, you are almost out of fuel. You know that the moon has nearly zero atmosphere. You can’t glide. The Eagle is dropping like a piano.” In between dramatic episodes he also trots in a large cast of early and contemporary scientists—from Tycho Brahe (“a true geek”) and Alessandro Volta to Emmy Noether and Katherine Johnson—whose work made the mission possible. And, along with the customary nods to space conditions (“Eight days, three men, one small space, no showers and lots of body gas”) and technological advances like Velcro, he covers several less-common sidelights, such as how the Apollo astronauts got around the problem of affordable life insurance and the canard that the moon landing was a hoax. Generous as it is, the array of small, often murky black-and-white photos and technical drawings doesn’t measure up to the narrative’s vim, but hefty sets of print, web, and video resources at the end will help bring the era and the achievement to life.
Dud pix but a high-flying commemoration nonetheless. (index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)