22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
A much needed book about the Space Race.,
This review is from: In the Shadow of the Moon: A Challenging Journey to Tranquility, 1965-1969 (Outward Odyssey: A People's History of S) (Hardcover)
In the Shadow of the Moon by Francis French and Colin Burgess is the next book in the Outward Odyssey series that started with the April 2007 release of their book Into That Silent Sea. That book has received high ratings not only from those who have read the book but also by those who lived it. Just take a look at the reviews left on this webpage for that book. The authors of these two books gained much of their information from first hand interviews given by the men and women of the early Space Program.
In the Shadow of the Moon picks up the story of the Space Race right where Into That Silent Sea left off (although both can be read as separate, stand alone books) I like that the book has been written in chronological order. At first it might seem strange that the manned Gemini missions of Gemini 3 through Gemini 12 were detailed with out any chapters about the Russian flights but that is how it happened. The Russians flew no missions in the 20 months that the Americans were flying the Gemini Program.
In Shadow of the Moon covers all of the Gemini Missions and the early Apollo Program as well as the Russian flights of the same timeline. The Gemini Program was a great success but only after some close calls and hard work were the Americans ready to move on to Apollo. But did they move too fast?
Before I read this book I thought the best account of the Apollo 1 fire was from Jim Lovell's Lost Moon but I must say that French and Burgess have a more detailed account of the fire. The loss of the Apollo 1 is covered in the chapter titled The Risk Stuff. After detailing the events of that evening French and Burgess let others who were there tell their stories. Those people include Robert Stevenson. Robert was one of the last people to have contact with the Apollo 1 crew. Others that share their accounts of that night include Dee O'Hara, Hank Waddell, Sam Beddingfield, Gerald Griffin, Gene Kranz, Paul Haney, Jack King, Don Gregory, Richard Gordon, and Lola Morrow. Their accounts are one of the most touching parts of this book.
The Russians were not without their own setbacks. Soyuz 1 tragedy was as big of a setback for the Russians as NASA's Apollo 1 fire but new details of the Soyuz 1 flight are brought forth in In The Shadow of the Moon. Many people feel the lessons learned by the Apollo 1 fire saved the lives of other astronauts and in a way Komarov's sacrifice also saved the lives of at least three other Russian cosmonauts. The book also lays to rest some myths of that Soyuz flight.
The flight of Apollo 7 has become known as the flight where the astronauts and Mission Control did not work together as a team but there was much more to that flight. Yes there was some tension between the spaceship and Mission Control but the chapter on Apollo 7 focuses more on how the crew and flight controllers worked together. It also gives a great insight to how the crew felt after being told they had a flight, and then did not have a flight, only to learn they were to fly the first mission after the Apollo 1 fire. Pressure was on this crew to perform and save the Apollo Program. The chapter on Apollo 7 also reveals the life of Donn Eisele. Donn has often been called Mr. Whatshisname but after reading this book you will know who Donn was.
In The Shadow of the Moon also tells the life stories of some of astronauts that passed away before they had the chance to tell their own stories. Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee lost their lives that day. While Betty Grissom and Donald Chaffee wrote books about these men I don't remember reading a book written by a family member of Ed White. This book will help you understand just who Ed White was. And it tells the history of those who would rather not write a book themselves. Those include Jim McDivitt, Bill Anders, and Rusty Schweickart. I especially liked the chapter on Apollo 8. It is mostly written from Bill Ander's perspective. Jim Lovell and Frank Borman have written their own books so it was great to read about the mission from Bill's point of view. Bill also reveals his thoughts on his crew's abilities to fly that mission and some might be surprised by what he had to say about Frank Borman's thoughts on the amount of training Jim Lovell received before being assigned to Apollo 8 as a replacement for Mike Collins. The Apollo 9 chapter is also written from Rusty Schweickart's perspective. There was much more to the Apollo 9 mission than Rusty's bout with space sickness. That chapter also reveals just how much Rusty sacrificed so that NASA could learn more about space sickness.
In the Shadow of the Moon has a great dedication to Dee O'Hara and Walt Cunningham has written a perfect foreword for the book. If you are looking for a book filled with dates and facts and rehashed figures then this book is not for you. This book focuses more on the people who were the space race. This is why I think Walt wrote the perfect foreword. He started out by saying that thirty years ago he was identified as an astronaut and was often asked, "Which one are you". He ends the foreword by making the statement "I hope you enjoy getting to know us as individuals in the pages of this book". That sums up what this book is all about.
I also look forward to reading the next installments in the Outward Odyssey series. The next book will cover the manned lunar missions. You might also look for another book in this series that will be co-written with two Skylab astronauts.