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Apollo: Race to the Moon Paperback – May, 1990

5 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Paperback, May, 1990
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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Touchstone Books (May 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067170625X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671706258
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,133,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Perhaps the best general account of the lunar program, this history uses interviews and documents to reconstruct the stories of the people who participated in Apollo. Although published in 1989 and long out of print, "Apollo: The Race to the Moon" still stands out as the best popular book on the subject ever to appear.

Neither a warmed over account of the astronauts and their adventures on the Moon nor a large-format illustrated history--both of which are in abundance--this book seeks to understand the larger contact of Apollo by focusing on the massive technical and scientific infrastructure that made the trips to the Moon possible. Taking as its central characters not the astronauts but the managers and engineers who ran the program, this book by famed author and political lightning rod Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox is based extensively on interviews with the remaining actors of the endeavor. The authors spent considerable time talking to NASA officials, both active and retired, at the Johnson Space Center, the Marshall Space Flight Center, and the Kennedy Space Centers, as well as high level officials in Washington. In this book Murray and Cox reconstruct a non-scholarly account of Apollo that examines operational details of the program that have gone undiscussed in astronaut-centric works.

By taking this approach Murray and Cox shift the history of Apollo to its most appropriate place. They recognize that the feat, as impressive as it was and as heroic as the astronauts truly were, was essentially an accomplishment of systems management.
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Amazon is now selling the 2004 edition (which no longer has the subtitle "The Race to the Moon"). Search on "Apollo" for title and "Murray" or "Cox" for author.
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This book is built around the very human stories of the engineers (not the astronauts; who cares about those damn astronauts?) who built a machine that took men to the moon and back. It's truly amazing, when you think about it. In less than eight years, they built a great big machine that took people to the surface of the moon and back. It's not often you get to see engineers portrayed as heros, but that's exactly what this book is all about. The authors, Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox, have a real flair for digging into the details that make the stories and the people come to life, underscoring this is how it really happened. All engineers should read this book; it's immensely entertaining, but it's also a real sourcebook of stories about how to get extraordinarily complex engineering projects done on time and on budget. Caldwell Johnson, one of the lead designers of the Apollo vehicle, sums it up well with a terrific engineering viewpoint: "After a while, you really become appalled that you've gotten yourself involved in the thing. At first, it's an academic exercise. And then the first thing you know, there's people building these things, and they are really getting ready to do it, and you start thinking: Have I made a real bad judgment somewhere, and the damn thing is just not going to work at all?" Highly recommended.
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There are also audio files, and lots of extra pictures not included in the book at their website, where you can also buy the book.

You can get more information at [...]
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It is a crying shame that this wonderful book appears to be VERY out of print. It answers all the questions any technologically curious person would have about the design of the systems, the testing, how mission control worked, what all those acronyms really mean, the geeky geniuses and tough managers that made the program succeed. it covers the surprising numbers of "glitches" that made every mission more dramatic than news reports led viewers to believe.
Could it be that author Murray followed up this gem with the controversial The Bell Curve, and the publishing establishment is reluctant to see him prosper? Or is there a less nefarious explanation?
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This is the best book I have ever read on the Apollo program. Written from the unique perspective of the engineering effort of Apollo, it offers a wonderful view into what it's like to have such a lofty, seemingly unattainable challenge laid before you and then accomplish it. As another reviewer mentions, this is a great book for ideas about how to manage large engineering projects. I ocassionally reread the book when I want to revive and reinvigorate my thinking on these types of issues.
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A comprehensive look at the whole of the Apollo program is given in "Apollo: the Race to the Moon". As well as the flights and the astronauts, this book also looks at the technology involved - the crawler and its special roadway, the exacting requirements for the lauchpad ("Stage Zero") to stand a Saturn launch, the problems in developing the F1 engines that powered the Saturn first stage, the power and magnificence or a Saturn launch.
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Forget the astronauts: they are barely mentioned in this terrific book. They did not get us to the moon, but merely went along for the ride. It was the engineers who did it, and this is their story.

Apollo was the result of a rare combination of events that will probably never be repeated. It was not just the political environment that made it happen, but the unusual combination of circumstances that brought together a talented team of scientists and engineers at just the right time in history. Consider how just as Apollo needed a huge team of aerospace engineers to materialize from nowhere, a Canadian company had a major fighter jet contract cancelled, thus freeing hundreds of the best people on Earth to work on getting us to the moon. Consider also, that just the right technology came into being as the race to the moon needed it, much of it from an obscure government agency called the N.A.C.A., that had quietly been doing aerospace research since WWI in the quaint land-that-time-forgot of Tidewater, Virginia. Consider the personalities that should have been as famous as the astronauts themselves, but weren't. Not just von Braun, but Max Faget, master designer of spacecraft, and his trusty sidekick Caldwell Johnson. John Houbolt, the "voice crying in the wilderness" for lunar Orbit rendezvous. Consider the team at Rocketdyne, which spent years trying to get the most powerful single piece of machinery ever built aside from nuclear weapons, the mighty F-1 engine, to behave it self while it gulped three tons of fuel and oxidizer per second. Consider intense leaders like Joe Shea, who saved the program after the Apollo 1 fire, but paid for it with his sanity.
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