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First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong Paperback – October 3, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 203 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"To understand Armstrong on his own terms is to see a large truth of our time.... A compelling and nuanced portrait of the astronaut." -- James Tobin, Chicago Tribune

"A lot of us have been waiting for a long time for a book like this one, and it was well worth the wait. . . . Will likely stand as the definitive biography of Neil Armstrong." -- Tom D. Crouch, senior curator, Aeronautics, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

"A fine authorized biography brimming with groundbreaking research, fresh anecdotes and fair-minded analysis. . . . Hansen should be commended for decoding the enigmatic Armstrong; a space hero short on words but sky-high on Midwestern integrity." -- Douglas Brinkley, The New York Times Book Review

"Historian James Hansen relates in intricate detail the tragedy, mishaps, and successes of the first man on the moon. He expertly combines the saga of Armstrong with the historical background of America's introduction to the Age of Space and corrects some of the myths surrounding Neil's journey from novice aviator to commanding the first lunar landing. An excellent book to arouse the memories of armchair astronauts. --Captain James A. Lovell, commander, Apollo 13

"If you think you know everything about Neil Armstrong and America's historic mission. . . First Man contributes a host of fascinating new insights into the nature of the spacefaring enterprise itself. A book for all time." -- Walter Cronkite

From AudioFile

Neil Armstrong will always be remembered for being the first man to step on the moon, a milestone that played a role in everything he did afterward. Through most of this biography, which follows Armstrong from his youth to that historic lunar landing, Boyd Gaines reads with detachment, letting the facts of Armstrong's life speak for themselves--and those facts speak beautifully. When Gaines reaches the point when Armstrong takes those first steps, his voice fills with an awe and emotion that seems to flow naturally. The actual voices of astronauts from historic speeches and messages are used here to enhance the drama. J.A.S. © AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (October 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743257510
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743257510
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (203 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,552,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Robert Pearlman on October 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In a powerful bit of foreshadowing, the moment that made Neil Armstrong famous came at a time when his face was blocked by a reflective visor and no clear photographs of him were taken.

In fact, the only visual records of his becoming the first human to walk on the Moon are a low quality black and white television transmission and a 16 milimeter color film taken from afar and above.

Much the same could be said to describe the view Neil Armstrong has allowed the public into his life since that day in July 1969.

Mislabeled as a recluse by the general public and press, Armstrong didn't retract from the world; rather, he followed his moonwalk with a relatively quick return to normal life instead of the role as a celebrity many had expected and some of his peers had embraced.

After more than 35 years of avoiding public introspection, it may have also been assumed that Armstrong was as happy living out his rest of his time on earth with just as little fanfare. It's that very reason why "First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong" by James Hansen is so remarkable.

Armstrong didn't just authorize a biography being written, as if not caring how it ultimately read, rather he opened his entire life to Hansen, from the 50 hours of interviews he took part in, to encouraging his friends, family and colleagues to cooperate.

The result is a book that not only explains the "first" in its title - as other books about the Apollo program have done before - but also the "man" that was behind the visor, a first in its own right.

Hansen uses the unprecendented access he had gained to offer a comprehensive account of Armstrong's journey from his youth to naval aviator, research pilot to astronaut to ultimately an icon and family man.
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Format: Hardcover
I've never bought for an instant that Neil Armstrong was a recluse. I guess that compared to the celebrity driven world we live in today many are hardpressed to understand why Armstong didn't cash in on his celebrity....didn't sell his soul for a few minutes of fame.

Reading First Man, The Life of Neil A. Armstrong is a refreshing glimpse into the life of one of the most significant individuals of the 20th Century. I'm amazed at how indifferent we all became over not only spaceflight, but manned flights to the moon and then landing and getting back alive. James Hansen has brought it all back.

Wonderfully written with generous doses of Armstongism's, First Man is a terrific review and expose of the 20th century. More importantly, we are given a wonderful tour of the life and times of Neil Armstrong. From his birth to what he's doing today......its all here. You appreciate what a cool customer Armstrong really was as you sit in Apollo 11 with him waiting for the engines to kick in.

Hansen not only gives us a well written story about Armstrong, he does it in a professional manner. Copious endnotes, bibliographies, lists of interviews, email messages....its all here. The documentation is refreshing especially the way so many biographies are put together today.

I'm impressed and I highly recommend this biography to any space enthusiast.
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Format: Hardcover
Hansen has penned an epic look at the life of Neil Armstrong and the early history of unmanned and manned flights to the moon. His look is both telescopic and microscopic. Telescopic in the grandeur of its scope, moving from 500 years ago in Armstrong's ancestral Scotland to Armstrong's life today, and everything in between. Microscopic in the detail of its scope, examining every cell of Armstrong's life from his mother's character, to his boyhood fascination with engineering, to his early training, to his relationship, to his inner thoughts and feelings.

Weighing in at a hefty 784 pages, "First Man" is a heavyweight edition to the growing historical biographies about manned space flight. Armstrong, notoriously private, opens his life to Hansen leading to many surprising revelations, especially the details of the Gemini 8 emergency which reads like a Ronnie Howard Apollo 13 script.

"The Life of Neil A. Armstrong" dips equally into his career and his character. At times the mind-boggling vocational details are over-presented, slowing down an otherwise gripping historical narrative. Counterintuitively, the most compelling narratives occur on earth, not in the heavens. Hansen's account of the death of Karen Armstrong, Neil's daughter, personalizes the engineer into the father. His account of Armstrong's divorce from Janet personalizes the engineer into the human being.

Reading "First Man" feels like having the visor lifted from Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit. We glimpse the man behind the mission, and the mission of the man.

Reviewer: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of "Soul Physicians," "Spiritual Friends," and "Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction."
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Somewhere in my reading, I remember someone who said that there is only one name from the 20th Century that is guaranteed to be remembered 1,000 years from now; the name of the first man to step foot on another planet, Neil Armstrong.

I was alive when Apollo 11 landed and Armstrong made his historic step but, at 11 months old, far from old enough to remember the event. Despite that, though, the events of July 20, 1969 are so much a part of historical memory that it seems like we were all there. There's always been one mystery, though, and that's been the man who actually stepped off the Eagle and onto lunar soil for the first time. Now, the mystery is, at least somewhat, solved thanks to the publication of an fascinating biography of the First Man On The Moon, titled, appropriately enough, First Man.

James Hansen, who was given extraordinary access to Armstrong himself as well as his family and personal records, tells a story that stretches from Armstrong's boyhood in Ohio, to Korea, to his years as a test pilot, all of which were mere training for his ultimate destiny. In addition to a mass (though not overwhelmingly so) of technical data about everything from the X-15 flights that Armstrong flew at Edwards AFB to the Gemini and Apollo programs, Hansen paints, as best he can, a portrait of an intensely private man who was thrust, willingly or otherwise, into an intense spotlight comparable to that of his boyhood hero Charles Lindbergh.

Like Lindbergh, Armstrong was and is, it seems, the reluctant hero. Hansen consistently quotes him as giving equal credit for the achievements of Apollo 11 to his crew mates and the men on the ground and in the factories who built the Apollo program from the ground up.
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