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Customer Review

90 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best One Volume Book on Apollo, December 18, 1999
This review is from: A Man on the Moon (Paperback)
I've read this book numerous times since the first hardcover edition in 1994, and I never fail to learn something new. While there on many books on Apollo that a serious enthusiast should read, this is easily the SINGLE best book yet written. If you only ever read one book about the moon landings, then this should be it.

Chaikin is the only person to ever interview all 12 moonwalkers and get their personal feelings about everything from individual astronaut selection, crew selection, training, peer relations and best of all -- orbiting and walking on the moon. This is not a technical or scientific history, but an account of how the astronauts FELT about their entire Apollo experiences. You can easily "walk in their shoes" and "see through their eyes" with this book.

He writes in a way all persons can understand and simplifies the engineering and scientific aspects so you can understand what the astronauts were dealing with. Not only does he avoid getting bogged down in technical speak, but actually makes the technical parts fascinating to learn!

Although the moonwalkers are the primary focus of the book, Chaikin wrote a well-rounded history that encapsulates the entire Apollo story rather well. He didn't just interview moonwalkers, but also astronauts who stayed in orbit but still had valuable experiences to share. And Chaikin didn't stop there. Working as a brilliant historian should, he also spoke to the often neglected "ground people": i.e. family members, flight controllers, geologists, managers and administrators.

If you want a good summary of Project Apollo, I'd recommend four books:
"To A Rocky Moon: A Geologist's History of Lunar Exploration" - by Don Wilhems. This is the science side of the story, and quite fascinating!

"Apollo" - by Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox. An amazing book that discusses the often neglected side of Apollo -- the ground crew and Mission Control -- as well as other important support people. Your knowledge of spaceflight is incomplete without it.

"Full Moon" by Michael Light. A beautiful coffee table book with pictures that take your mind to the moon. With this you can almost see what the astronauts did!

And lastly, and most important of all, this book. . ."A Man on the Moon." It will almost make you feel like you were the fourth crewman.
The four together will give you the best sense of what happened at that fascinating time in history!
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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 15, 2009 1:24:04 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 15, 2009 1:27:31 AM PDT
There is no need for anyone else to rate this book or make any comments about it - Concerned Consumer DD hits this nail straight on the head: "A Man on the Moon" is the best single volume on the Apollo Moon Landings. I would suggest one more recommendation to add to the three on this list: "Apollo", by Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox, tells the very exciting story of the people who were challenged by President Kennedy's proposal to the nation; the engineers, scientists and managers who were charged with figuring out how we were going to do this in less than 8 1/2 years. Remember, at that point we had sent a man on a mere 15 minute flight on top of a rocket - not even into orbit - and thought that was a great achievement. Somehow they were being asked to send three men on an 8-day round trip to the moon by the end of the decade, and many of them thought Kennedy had lost his marbles. This accomplishment could not be done today, and in 'Apollo' you understand how it was done then.

Posted on Nov 3, 2009 3:53:12 PM PST
Ciao Gurkha says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2010 2:14:03 PM PDT
Definitely one more vote for Murray & Cox's Apollo: The race to the moon, ranking up there with Chaikin's book. I read Apollo again every five or six years and it still delights.

Posted on Apr 10, 2010 8:43:51 PM PDT
Another vote for "Apollo" as a great book to read along with this one. Different perspective, and the two books complement each other. I also have to put in a plug for "For All Mankind", which uses a viewpoint much like the one presented by Chaiken. "For All Mankind" is also a great film, now available on Netflix.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 12, 2010 9:54:29 AM PDT
Whoa there--not so fast on For All Mankind.

The Al Reinart film is indeed well done.

But the companion book by Harry Hurt with the same title is an embarassing error-riddled mess of a book that ranks up there in the pantheon of bad space books, a list that includes last summer's Rocket Men by Craig Nelson.

At least Hurt's For All Mankind is largely forgotten now two decades after its publication, but Nelson's Rocket Men is doing a disservice to the historical record because it received undeserved rave reviews in the mainstream press--a disgrace and the book's presence on many library shelves for years to come will work to perpetuate the errors and the mis-understanding of Apollo that he packs into his narrative.

Even worse, it's my understanding that a paperback edition is scheduled for release soon It will be interesting to see if any of the many errors of fact will be corrected in this edition.

But the errors that arise from his lack of understanding will be harder to fix. One example: Nelson states that the Saturn V's F-1 engines produced a thrust that was "four times the speed of sound." That statement flat out makes no sense at all. How do you fix writting like that? It will be interesting to see the paperback edition.

Thomas J. Frieling

Posted on Dec 4, 2012 2:13:06 PM PST
Demetria says:
This post has certainly peeked my interest! I'm always curious as to how the astronauts "felt" and what they "experienced."
I just ordered "First Men on the Moon," but I'll probably add this one as well!

Posted on May 4, 2013 3:33:40 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 4, 2013 3:35:12 PM PDT
Solipso says:
Excellent review!

You're right about Chaikin's avoidance of technicalities. David J. Shayler's GEMINI: STEPS TO THE MOON is an example in the opposite direction. I had no trouble finishing Chaikin's book, but I gave up on Shayler's after fifty pages.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2015 1:54:18 PM PST
Could not be done today? Why?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2015 2:07:59 PM PST
How'd they all take a crap up there on the moon?

Posted on Dec 18, 2015 2:09:57 PM PST
No man ever walked on the moon. Get a grip, and get over it for God's sake.
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