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An exhaustive overview of NASA's Apollo program, relying heavily--and successfully--on the voices of the 24 astronauts who went to the moon. Hurt (Texas Rich, 1981) folds the many Apollo voyages into a single archetypal lunar journey. A flood of colorful trivia emerges: the astronauts eat steak at every meal for weeks before a flight; they hang upside down like bats from the capsule rafters at lift-off; they suffer badly from flatulence during weightlessness; they like to play Sinatra's ""Everyone's Going to the Moon"" in mid-course. Hurt captures the multilayered tones of each flight, which veer from incomprehensible robo-speak (""DELTA T-O, burn time 557, ten values on the angles, BGX minus. 1"") to boyish pranks (sneaking souvenirs on board to make a fast buck) to the spiritual revelations that rocked a few of the crew. The astronauts themselves remain ciphers--this is largely a study of events, not men--although Armstrong's blandness is confirmed, as is Aldrich's intensity. Notable, too, is the dearth of memorable quotes by these argonauts of space, a lack of literary imagination exemplified not only by Armstrong booting his historic line, but by the last words ever spoken on the moon: ""Okay, let's get this mother out of here."" Hurt also tosses in his assessment of the benefits of space research as part of a restrained plug for continued exploration. But the meat here lies in the lunar voyage itself, an irresistible mix of danger, courage, tedium, and spectacle, evoked with unprecedented detail by those who were there.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1988
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown