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John Houbolt: The Unsung Hero of the Apollo Moon Landings (Purdue Studies in Aeronautics and Astronautics) Kindle Edition
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“The choice of how to get to the moon was critical to meeting President Kennedy’s goal of a lunar landing ‘before this decade is out.’ Bill Causey’s deeply researched and clearly written book depicts how the persistence of one man, NASA engineer John Houbolt, decisively influenced the tortuous and contentious process of making that choice. The book nicely fills a glaring gap in the history of America’s journey to the moon, and reminds us that the lunar journey was far from straightforward.”(John M. Logsdon, Professor Emeritus, Space Policy Institute, The George Washington University)
“John C. Houbolt was another of the ‘hidden figures’ of NASA during the Apollo era. Bucking institutional blinders, Houbolt convinced the leaders of the space agency that lunar orbit rendezvous was the best way to conduct the Apollo program. William Causey’s biography of Houbolt tells the fascinating story of how this lone engineer battled bureaucracy to help America achieve President Kennedy’s vision, ‘before this decade is out,’ of ‘landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.’”(Roger Launius, author of Reaching for the Moon: A Short History of the Space Race)
“Causey’s book joins the list of essential reading for people seeking to understand the forces that made possible the Apollo space program. Causey expertly recalls the venture from the perspective of the people who organized the expeditions, and the sole engineer who convinced the country’s finest spaceflight minds that getting to the moon and back by 1970 required lunar orbit rendezvous. In the process, Causey paints a vivid picture of the inner workings of American government and the making of technical decisions in the mid-twentieth century.”(Howard McCurdy, Professor, American University, Washington, DC) --This text refers to the hardcover edition.
About the Author
William F. Causey has followed the space program since 1961, when he watched in his elementary school gymnasium astronaut as Alan Shepard became the first American in space. Trained as a lawyer who started his legal career on Capitol Hill, Causey later worked at the United States Department of Justice, the American Red Cross, and the District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General. He taught for more than three decades at the Georgetown University Law Center. Causey also served on numerous historical, educational, and literary society boards, including the Board of Trustees of American University, the Board of Directors of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, and the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. Now retired, Causey serves as a docent at the National Air and Space Museum, where he has met and talked with dozens of astronauts, engineers, and managers of America’s space effort. Causey and his wife, Sally, reside in Washington, DC.--This text refers to the hardcover edition.
- File Size : 3564 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 374 pages
- Publication Date : March 15, 2020
- Publisher : Purdue University Press; Illustrated Edition (March 15, 2020)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B082BHG8LJ
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #402,060 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Back in the early 1960's, when NASA was trying to figure out how to send men to land on the moon, John Houbolt was one of the few people who already knew how to do it. The method was called LOR, or Lunar Orbit Rendezvous. There turned out to be several proposed ways to accomplish the goals of President Kennedy, but Houbolt knew LOR was the only method that was likely to work in the required timeframe. He preached LOR to everyone who would listen, and those in power who originally questioned LOR eventually came to realize it was, in fact, the only way.
He was unconventional. He didn't always respect the "chain of command." NASA conducted study after study, created all kinds of working groups and boards and committees, and they all had different ideas and had to be convinced that John was right. But he was persistent and never gave up. He would be a great role model for someone with a bright idea who had trouble getting people to support it.
This unassuming man was nothing short of a hero, and more people should discover what he did. To that end, this book will help. It was a great read and never boring.
Although it's billed as a biography about John Houbolt, it's worth pointing out that although he's an important character in the story, this book is more of a boardroom level account of how LOR was decided upon as the prime Apollo mission mode. It's often forgotten that NASA isn't a single monolithic entity but a number of separate centers bickering amongst themselves and constantly fighting for their piece of the pie. And fight and bicker they do for most of this book; William F. Causey graphically demonstrates just how dysfunctional NASA's manned spaceflight management truly was. Even given a goal, a mandate, and a massively expanded budget, they spent the better part of two years fighting amongst themselves. One gets the impression that we wouldn't have reached the Moon until 1980 if Houbolt hadn't battered some sense into NASA management.
Anyone looking for a biography of John Houbolt might be disappointed. The first couple of chapters explore his early life, education, and career at Langley, but apart from that, he becomes something of a background character. He emerges from the background again about 3/5ths of the way through, finally emerging as the main character by the end. The lack of technical information on the competing Direct Ascent and Earth Orbit Rendezvous modes is somewhat disappointing. While it's a given to us today that both modes were either excessively complex or dangerous (landing a 65-foot tall on a crater-strewn plain while facing away from the Moon? No thanks!), newcomers might be confused WHY Houbolt was so passionate about LOR, or why he faced so much opposition initially.
This isn't a perfect book, nor is it an appropriately titled one. Then again, a book titled "A Managerial History of the Apollo Mode Decision" isn't gonna fly off the shelf like hotcakes, either! Still, it's a story that's been largely neglected, told with a modest amount of popular history flair, but not so much as to deter us serious space buffs. It's also a worthwhile read in light of the seemingly endless internal debate over how America intends to return astronauts to the Moon sometime in the near future. The more things change...