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70 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Engineering and Project Management Behind the LM
.... While there are a lot of engineering terms and technical descriptions of hardware, there are no engineering formulae. The author, Thomas J. Kelley, was the chief engineer of the Grumman-built Lunar Module (LM), during its design, development and testing phases and also for part of the early landings on the Moon. The author presents a new and untold story of the...
Published on April 25, 2001 by John R. Keller

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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly frank and detailed but disorganized
Thomas J. Kelly is another of the near-legendary figures who has now written about Project Apollo from his viewpoint. Kelly was essentially the lead engineer at Grumman for the development of the lunar module, possibly the most challenging task in the entire program.
Here he provides a frank and technically detailed history of that effort. I was in fact quite...
Published on January 31, 2002 by Kevin W. Parker


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70 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Engineering and Project Management Behind the LM, April 25, 2001
By 
John R. Keller (Houston, TX United States) - See all my reviews
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.... While there are a lot of engineering terms and technical descriptions of hardware, there are no engineering formulae. The author, Thomas J. Kelley, was the chief engineer of the Grumman-built Lunar Module (LM), during its design, development and testing phases and also for part of the early landings on the Moon. The author presents a new and untold story of the development of one the greatest marvels of modern engineering, the first vehicle designed solely for manned space exploration. That is, the human side of the development of this space vehicle.
The first few chapters of the book describe how Grumman developed the proposal that ultimately won the NASA contract to build the LM. The book then moves onto the development of conceptual ideas, the final design, the building, the testing and finally the flying of the LM to the lunar surface. The book concludes with a good summary of each Apollo mission, including the Apollo 13 mission, which used the LM as a lifeboat, and his thoughts about the Apollo program and the beginning of the Space Shuttle program.
I found the opening chapters of the book that were devoted to writing the winning NASA proposal and the subsequent contract negotiations and the development of the LM very interesting. This winning proposal was less than 100 pages!!!!!. Try that today. Through out these and other parts of the book, the author is not afraid to criticized his company, upper management and fellow co-workers and take the blame when he was wrong. While there are many technical details in each of these sections of the book, most of the chapters describe in great detail the project management of the LM.
For me, the most interesting part of this part was the human side of the development of the LM. He describes in detail how he and others felt about what they were doing, if they could really do it and the thrill of actually building the LM. For example, through out the first lunar landing, he always questioning himself, "Did we forget anything?" A feeling that I share ever time NASA launches a Shuttle.
When I finished this book, I had a great understanding of the human side of this massive engineering project, which was (or is) until now an untold story. This book clearly captures the excitement of everyone behind the scenes who worked on the Apollo project. If you have any interest in the space program, even today's projects, this book will give you understanding of those people who developed these wonderful machines.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Apollo Book, June 8, 2001
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Dr. Eric M. Jones (Wodonga, Victoria, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This book is a must-read for any serious student of the Apollo program. Kelly presents an honest, readable account of the challenges and frustrations faced by Grumman engineers in designing, fabricating, testing, and flying the first lunar lander. As a manager, Kelly provides insights not only into the engineering problems of building the first flying machine of its kind, but also into the problems of getting the work organized and done.
And Kelly seasons it all with the excitement he felt being part of a great adventure.
This is the story behind one of the best episodes (Spider) of Tom Hanks' "From the Earth to the Moon" and I highly recommend it.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good, but pretty technical, April 21, 2001
By 
Nicholas Fry (Monrovia, MD USA) - See all my reviews
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Tom Kelly's memoir of the development of the Apollo Lunar Module is a great book. I found it to be surprisingly forthright and honest about the accomplishments and mistakes that the Grumman team made during their first and only foray into manned spacecraft construction. Students of space history and engineers will probably get the most out of this book, which is loaded with technical detail. However, for those who read the book and come away somewhat bewildered from the acronyms and technical detail, Kelly does a very good job of conveying the excitement and enthusiasm for the challenge of landing a man on the moon that swept across America in the 1960's. Kelly also gives us a view of the major players in Apollo like Joe Shea, Chris Kraft, and the astronauts themselves, that is not really seen. Kelly gives us the perspective of an outsider, though an engineer, who meets these people for the first time and what it was like to work with them and what kind of an impression they left upon him.
Overall, if you're a space nut, this is a good book for you, if you're not, be prepared for lots of engineering talk. But don't let that scare you away, Moon Lander is full of goodies about Apollo for everyone.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Praise for Moon Lander, November 1, 2001
By 
I praise Thomas Kelly's "Moon Lander." I found his account of the Lunar Excursion Module's (LEM) birth and development chronicled from: proposal; to acceptance; to design; through arduous testing; and finally to repeatedly successful manned landings on the Moon, to be an engrossing and valuable tale. I recommend this book to anyone (particularly engineers and managers) interested in the complex genesis of such a modern marvel, truly a new thing made to exist on the face of the Earth and beyond. The successful creation and deployment of the LEM under intense NASA, corporate, and human pressures, is a testimony to American engineering where-with-all in the face of the impossible.

The need for such an outlandish vehicle as the Apollo LEM was summoned into life by political need and pronouncement, as relayed by NASA fiat and planning. But we ultimately owe its existence to highly responsible and brilliant engineers like Thomas Kelly, who produced this gem of a spacecraft for lunar exploration - and all this in a time when simply orbiting the Earth was considered fantastic. The mission to "Get a man on the Moon and back again," served to deliver multiple messages. It demonstrated America's prowess to the world, and at home promised a stupendous scientific boon of observations and artifacts which would enable the scrutiny of the creation of our worldly environs, but most importantly, it sent a reverberating message to the world: "We, the Human Race, as a force, can achieve our loftiest dreams, and all it takes is will and imagination!" The "will" part is the theme of this book. (Our imaginations are always there.) It's the "will" stuff that's the hardest stuff. We speak here of money, and more especially, of people. I think that this book teaches the engineer that, really, all it really takes is will and teamwork.

Thomas Kelly writes from authority as an engineer and from his hard learned experiences as an aerospace player operating in a politically charged environment from his home base: Long Island's Grumman Aerospace Corporation of the 1960's. Kelly is nothing but loyal to Grumman. He tells of Grumman's proud (maybe too proud) naval engineering heritage, a reputation once coined by a Navy Admiral in WWII, who, after noting that Grumman planes were still able to fly after being shot full of holes, stated that Grumman's name on an airplane is like "sterling on silver." In this book, Kelly shows how the Grumman heritage of delivering excellence in an environment of austerity both helped and hurt him in developing the LEM.

Kelly tells many stories in the course of this book, all in the dry, sparing, and factual way of an engineer. His crisp, matter-of-fact style may well put the more emotional reader off, but for me, after hearing the facts (which do some time take time to tell) the emotional underpinnings inherent in his tale are felt, and are limited only by one's own imagination. This is not a book with a dramatic soundtrack, but the drama yet rests inside its covers in the accurate retelling. It is a technical account, and fortunately, it is not gored by too much detail. (The acronym glossary is very useful and also, many insights are relegated to footnotes, which I summarily devoured.) Some of the LEM stories Kelly tells are these: the BIG proposal process; dealing with contractors and subcontractors; getting onto schedule despite bewildering requirements (for the Space game - weight and reliability are the demons); listening to his ultimate clients and colleagues, the astronauts; dealing with family separation and lost family time; garnering internal corporate teamwork; learning hard from both demotion and promotion; balancing rapid progress against risk. I wonder how many of our current boom of the imaginative Silicon Valley hot shots, even with their eyes wide open, as were Kelly's, would be able to bear up so well under the pressure. I wonder how they would fare if they had the same ultimate requirements: that the product's failure would not only mean the loss into oblivion of his friends, the astronauts, but also if they felt as deeply as did Kelly and his compatriots, that failure would damage forever the America's self image. The NASA term for this is: "Failure is not an option," which means so much when lives are in your hands.

To be fair, if you are a person who has never dealt with NASA, nor with the aerospace industry, nor with big contracts under government scrutiny, then the first two-thirds of Kelly's account may be a long and hard (but supremely honest) read. But in the last third of this book, when "Flying" becomes the theme, you get the rare opportunity to see a man's dreams realized in an experience which forever changes our world. While Kelly well knows what he accomplished: he fathered a craft to voyage to a new world, he is ever humble and awed by the privilege to contribute to this effort. At the close, he calmly recites, in wondrous appreciation, the unparallel scientific accomplishments of the Apollo manned exploration of the Moon.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very important perspective of the Apolo space program, April 4, 2002
Tom. Kelly is giving us a unique perspective on the dynamics, which existed at the time of the space race.
He successfully and in a self effacing way, places the reader in the midst of the LEM project and makes us understand his foresight in the conceptualization of the LEM in advance of the competition, when orbit rendez vous was not yet an option for NASA. He explains the culture, which existed at the Grumman Corporation, which would be anathema at time with the one at NASA, which in a later time would result in difficulties in future governmental bids with NASA. (N American got other contract despite the failure of Apollo I) He explains very well the gargantuesc task of meeting the strict weight and reliability requirement for such a vehicle The LEM has proven to be successful during every lunar mission and became the escape vehicle in Apollo 13 mission.Mr. Kelly is one of many unsung hero of this remarkable period,
The book is very well written, and documented I strongly recommend.
David M Burke MD
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Engineer's Apollo Story, June 9, 2003
To put it simply: This is a great book telling a great story about a great machine in a great space program. Go buy it and read it. In my view, no aerospace engineering history library is complete without this book, as it contains much still-relevant advice (alas, not always heeded) for modern projects.
I can assure you from my own experience, more than 30 years and the Atlantic ocean away, that Kelly's recounting of Grumman's part of the Apollo program is as close you'll ever get to being an engineer/manager in a large scale aerospace project without actually being there. Kelly's book conveys a hands-on feeling of the decade long strain as well as the day-to-day stress, and in general gives you an inside view of the many ups-and-downs of a leading engineering position in the Apollo program. To achieve all this in a single volume in a balanced manner is nothing short of impressive.
(I should have some idea about this; myself having worked for several years in the aerospace business as a project engineer, in a 10 years+ missile project spanning four cooperating nations, numbers of subcontractors, government research institutes, procurement agencies and supporting military units.)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For those with a serious interest in engineering, April 10, 2004
By 
Paul F. Thompson (Rancho Cucamonga, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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I don't want to repeat much of what the previous reviewers said, as I agree with most of it. There is no question that the content of the book is engaging, detailed, and intereseting.
What I would like to add is that I can only give this book 4 stars because of my significant interest and background in engineering. For my friends and family who love the space program but are more interested in the history and emotion, I always recommend A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew L. Chaikin. This book by Kelly I only recommend to my friends who are scientists and engineers, or perhaps those with a serious technical side to them. This is not so much a book about emotions and drama as it is a description of how real people solved an engineering and management problem. It can be a overly dry and dull for some.
Will you understand this book without a degree in engineering? Yes, it is not the type of book that tries to talk over the head of the reader. Will you want to wade through all the technical details and alphabet soup of acronyms unless you love engineering? I doubt it. I've let a number of non-technical people borrow this book and most returned it without getting past the second chapter. The general response was that it was hard for them to "Get into it".
One thing that I really enjoyed about this book was that it spent a lot of time on the issues of management that are often glossed over at the expense of sticking only to the technical details. There is a lot of time spent on the debate that occured before decisions were made, the outcome of the decisions, and the fallout if the decision turned out to be a bad one. Now there is something few authors (especially managers) would be willing to admit to--a mistake. It is refreshing to see that addressed in such detail.
If anything, I would highly recommend this anyone who is considering engineering as a future career. It does an excellent job of describing the day to day activities that are required in a big engineering project (space program or otherwise). If you read this book and find it exciting and interesting (as I did), then engineering may be for you.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly frank and detailed but disorganized, January 31, 2002
By 
Thomas J. Kelly is another of the near-legendary figures who has now written about Project Apollo from his viewpoint. Kelly was essentially the lead engineer at Grumman for the development of the lunar module, possibly the most challenging task in the entire program.
Here he provides a frank and technically detailed history of that effort. I was in fact quite surprised at how frank it was, pulling no punches as he details Grumman's shortcomings and NASA's sometimes furious criticisms of their work. It's clear that NASA came to think of Grumman personnel as smug, arrogant, and not at all team players. Kelly thinks this attitude was unjustified but understands how it came about.
Other than in those areas, this is not a terribly good book and not even the best one on this particular topic. (Chariots For Apollo - not the official NASA history but the Pellegrino/Stoff book - is the authority on the building of the lunar module.) It's obviously not ghost-written because the quality of the writing is not that good, and it doesn't have the redeeming feature of Gene Kranz's likewise self-written book in being very much from the heart. In particular, it's disorganized to the point of repeating the same information a couple of times in numerous instances.
Still, it does provide a wealth of technical detail and an insider's perspective, but I'd consider it more for the completist than the casual reader.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Epic Journey of Faith, Hope, Trials and Triumph, May 11, 2003
By 
R. Manigault (San Antonio, TX United States) - See all my reviews
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The Lunar Module has always been my favorite of the Apollo spacecrafts. As a federal contractor I am always interested in the constuction of winning proposals. This book satisfied both of those interests. Mr. Kelly takes the reader on a journey in which (s)he encounters myriad emotions, degrees of failure and levels of success. He introduces you to signifigant players whose names will never become household. He meticulously describes the events and characters that made the Apollo's "Eagle" landing a reality. This is a ver important book and should be read my anyone who dares to dream. If you are indeed reading this review, trust me when I say that I am not easily impressed by much. This book impresses me. Buy it. Read it. Study it. You, too, will become impressed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Hardcore Insight, May 24, 2005
By 
Sytelus (WA, United States) - See all my reviews
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I got interested in this book after I watched the DVD series "From Earth To Moon", which I still consider on of the best DVD series ever published about anything. This book represents DVD #2, Part 5 in this series, with much more meat and gore that you could possibly take. The book is written by Thomas Kelly, Chief Engineer of Lunar Module (the thing which landed on Moon) itself. I would highly recommend watching the DVD first before you start on the book so you have perspective and appreciation about what the author is talking about. While the book is written in personal style rather then a dull document, it isn't written like a "murder mystery novel" which makes you to sit through and read it in one pass. It often gets dry with details, sometime without much explanation of technical terms or relevance. Also note that this book represents only a part of Moon mission, i.e., the LM module. The book serves as nice document but might fail to gain your interest unless you were a nerd who dreamed about working for NASA all your life ;). If you weren't this type or don't have a time to read it, check out the DVD set!
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Moon Lander: How We Developed the Apollo Lunar Module (Smithsonian History of Aviation and Spaceflight)
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