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on September 15, 2014
This is a good biography of Neil Armstrong, and is chock-full of fascinating information and insights into this legendary life. James Hansen has definitely done his research, and is to be commended for all the effort he put into researching and writing this tome. However, I felt this book could have been more concise, which is why I gave this book 4 stars rather than 5. Still, this book does justice to Neil Armstrong, correcting the popular misperception that Armstrong was hostile towards the public. He was definitely reticent, and preferred to be private, but he did make public appearances, even if they were not as often as the public or news reporters wished. Another thing that really comes through in this book is that Neil's first love was always flying, and not necessarily exploration.

This is a good book for scholars who wish to study Neil Armstrong's life in depth. For those who wish to have a general overview of Neil's Armstrong's life, I would suggest you look elsewhere for a more concise book.
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on October 28, 2014
I love space travel and any media items about it, be it books, tv shows, etc. I was 15 years old when Neil Armstrong touched down on the moon in July 1969. My whole family was in front of the tv set watching. This is a very detailed book about Neil Armstrong's life, seems like nothing was just glossed over about him. It's also a long book, so you won't get through it in just a couple of nights. When I read biography's about a person I try to pin down their personality and what they must be like in real life. Neil Armstrong was hard for me to do just that. I saw him as a super intelligent person and engineer, as well as test pilot and astronaut. I could also pick up on the tension between him and Buzz Aldrin, never quite sure how either one really felt about each other. You will learn things by reading this book about their touchdown on the moon, like what the moon dust smelled like on their space suits. If you like books about space you'll like this one. At $1.99 I could not go wrong.
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"First Man" is the long awaited authorized biography of Neil Armstrong. The book is a significant work in the body of aerospace history, as Armstrong has consciously lived out of the public eye for most of his life since the Apollo 11 mission. To say the book is detailed is an understatement (did you know that Neil's childhood dog was named "Tippy"?), but James Hansen paints a vivid portrait of the man and his life with exquisite precision. The book is stunning for its depth of information, but is also very readable on a visceral, human level. The net result is a work demonstrating both great academic rigor and the essential character of the first man on the moon.

The book, while keeping Apollo 11 as the center of its arc, does not dwell exclusively on Armstrong's role in the space program. I was pleased to read about his family and personal relationships: understanding these helps the reader to understand who Armstrong is and how he got to be that way. I was found the account of his relationship with his mother, Viola, enlightening, and appreciated the recounting of his role in the Korean war as a very young aviator. Understanding his later successes (and failures) in the greater context of his personal and professional life is one of the true successes of this book. I was, of course, transfixed by the account of the interpersonal relationships between Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins, the three "amiable strangers" of Apollo 11.

Certainly the accounting of Armstrong's test pilot and spaceflight endeavors is of primary interest to anyone likely to read the book, but I was even more impressed than I expected to be by Armstrong's post-Apollo choices. I am especially struck by the parallels between Armstrong and Charles Lindbergh as Armstrong has aged. While still a vital man, Armstrong has willfully chosen to live his life modestly without relying on his fame as the first moonwalker for either ego or income gratification.

This book is by no means a light read, but anyone with an interest in aerospace history should make this book a priority: it is astonishingly well documented, well written, and compellingly told. My earliest childhood memory is watching Armstrong walk on the moon; only now do I really understand and appreciate the "First Man" fully.
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on February 8, 2013
Neil Armstrong may very well be the most famous astronaut to have ever lived, certainly for accomplishing the task of being the first human being to set foot on the Moon.

Armstrong was born and raised in Ohio and, even at a young age, had an interest in airplanes. He even got his pilot's license before his driver's license. He was also interested in engineering and the design of aircraft. After graduating high school, he left for college to Purdue University and also the Navy. In the Navy, he was a naval aviator who served in Korean War.

After completing college, he joined the NACA (later NASA) and became a test pilot flying the latest airplanes and doing various other aeronautical research. Most famously, he flew the experimental X-15 aircraft that took him past the speed of sound and to the edge of space.

He eventually applied to be an astronaut and was selected by NASA in their second group of astronauts in 1962. His first spaceflight came in 1966 on Gemini 8 with Dave Scott. Gemini 8 was the first mission to achieve a docking in space. It also ended up being the first major crisis in space when a faulty thruster caused the spacecraft to spin out of control, but Armstrong kept his cool and brought Gemini 8 back to safety, even though it ultimately meant the mission was cut short not being able to achieve most of its objectives.

Armstrong continued training serving as a back-up on another Gemini flight and an Apollo flight before the rotation and crew selection process had him as the commander of Apollo 11, scheduled to be the first manned Moon landing. Along with Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 flew in 1969. The entire mission is recounted with great detail in the book. Armstrong and Aldrin would conduct the first landing with Armstrong being the first to actually step foot on the lunar surface.

The astronauts returned to Earth to great fanfare and were hailed as American heroes. They toured the United States and the world afterward. For Armstrong, this meant dealing with new fame and publicity. He worked in a mostly bureaucratic position at NASA for a little while, but resigned because he was not satisfied. He also worked as a professor at the University of Cincinnati and afterward served in a variety of corporate positions. He always seemed to be busy which, in part, led to a divorce with his first wife in 1994.

I found this to be an excellent and complete (as much as can be considering it was published years before his death) biography of Neil Armstrong. It is also the only authorized biography written of Armstrong and as such the author had direct contact with Armstrong himself. I would highly recommend this book to those interested in learning more about Neil Armstrong or about the history of the U.S. space program.
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on July 22, 2012
First Man

This is one of my favourite books of all time. I originally read a hardcover edition, and this year I also bought the ebook to coincide with my trip to the Kennedy Space Centre. Many thanks to Prof. Hansen for his excellent research and writing, and to Neil for his co-operation.

As someone who keenly followed the Apollo 8 and Apollo 11 missions as a young boy, I hung on every word and savoured every detail.

Of all the feats attempted by humans, reaching for the moon most captures the imagination.

First Man is an engrossing history of the entire U.S. space program, not just the moon mission. I love Hansen's attention to detail, his unbelievably thorough research and the fact that he always cites sources. For those reasons it's easy to believe what he writes. There may be a little more detail than some would like, but it's more than offset by the author's storytelling ability. For the most part, this history reads like a novel.

But the best part -- by far -- is the profile of Neil Armstrong. Finally a writer was given full access to the first human to walk on the moon. From everything I've read and heard, Neil Armstrong emerges as a wonderful person, a credit to his parents and his country.

At a time when so many public figures are characterized by greed, selfishness and mean spiritedness, James Hansen has given us a believable portrait of a true gentleman who always gives others the benefit of the doubt. Best of all, he never sought to enrich himself from his high-profile role in humanity's most spectacular achievement.

For his personal integrity and his decency as well as his professional achievements, Neil Armstrong is truly an American hero, and so is James Hansen for writing this wonderful biography.
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on December 12, 2012
Disclosure: Having watched with my own eyes as the Mercury, Gemini & Apollo programs unfold before me on television as a youth, I have a special place in my heart for anything related to America's space race.

That said, this is an extremely well-researched, well-written book. I enjoyed every page of it. The author is to be commended for doing such a great job with his research, and he should be proud of the product he produced with this book. I'm very glad to have been able to "get to know Niel Armstrong better" as a result of this book. Also I very much enjoyed learning much, much more detail about the Air Force's flight research program & the Apollo program than I otherwise would have known.

The astronauts themselves are genuine heroes, consummate professionals as well as incredibly intelligent, brave individuals, for which we should all be eternally grateful, but it is also true that everyone involved in the space race in America did an absolutley phenominal job, and they gave America much, much to be proud of not only during their lifetimes, but for all time. This book relates that achievement so that we can all understand in detail the massive amount of work, guts, true grit and personal sacrifice that went into the space race.
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on December 23, 2014
I'm not big on biographies, except for a few big hitters (Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs") as it tends to be difficult for them to hold my attention in an engaging way. This book is the exact opposite. Ever since I started reading I've been enthralled in the life and adventures of Neil Armstrong.

Hansen does an amazing job recounting the life of one of our country's most well known and honorable men. Hansen is hardly scarce on details; it's as if he grew up with and witnessed all of these events first-hand. This book reads somewhat like a novel, in that Hansen sets up his stories and chapters of Neil's life with the ups and downs, each little story containing it's own climax within the over-arching story of Armstrong's life. The book rarely slows down in pace and always leaves you wanting more.

If you're even remotely interested in flight, space, and/or spaceflight, this is a must read book that won't leave you disappointed, but will have you wishing you could shake the hand of the American hero and pioneer that took us to the moon and back.
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on December 19, 2012
I believe that the name Neil Armstrong will endure for a thousand years or more. His foot touched the soil of another celestial body for the first time in known history. What beats that? Writing about this and the complex man himself could not be other than an almost impossible task to complete satisfactorily, not to mention exceptionally. The book is thick, and the details are awesome. And to have the blessing of this complex and splendid individual and that of his family is a testament to the author James Hanson and his treatment of all persons significantly associated with the Armstrong family and the NASA community and so many others closely associated with the simple eternal dream of getting to the moon and back. Wow, we as a human race still can't figure how to get back there even approaching 50 years later. Hanson, and thus I the reader, give great credit not only to Neil Armstrong, but also evenly across the board especially to Buzz Aldrin - the other man who landed on the moon exactly the same time but whose footprint is nevertheless the second to touch the soil - and all who cheered this event in a time when the world was being torn apart by so many other concurrent events brought about by the dark side of humanity.
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on August 17, 2014
I enjoyed this biography of Neil Armstrong ,the first man to walk on the moon.He came across as a fundamentally shy but very decent man.He had the right stuff to cope with going to the moon and coping well with the fame that resulted.James Hansen talked to many ,many poeple involved in Neil's life and gave the readers a very good insight into his character.Neil seemed to be an emotionally repressed individual.This didn't mean that he couldn't have lighter moments,just there was always an emotional distance between Neil and others.Even the crew of Apollo 11,remained ,amiable strangers,to each other.This is acknowledged by them all.His wife in the divorce settlement cited ,emotional distance.This was just one aspect of his character which was more than made up for in other aspects.This book gives a very good window into the enormity of the task NASA was set in getting to the moon in under a decade.If only the NASA of this day had the political backing and focus of that splendid decade ,who knows what it could accomplish..
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on August 11, 2014
Just like Neil the man, this biography seems to give an insider's look at Armstrong's life, yet there are still mysteries, still places where it was obvious that the author was having to work with limited information.

Still, I enjoyed reading it, especially the details concerning the trip to the Moon. It was very interesting to hear all that went on that the general public didn't know about at the time.

I was 9 when we landed on the Moon, so I was watching and listening when this famous astronaut stepped onto the dust of our moon and spoke his famous words. Reading the events and happenings again from the perspective of Neil Armstrong was fun and intriguing.
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