on December 18, 1999
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!
on December 18, 1999
I was 2 years old when Neil Armstrong placed the first boot print on the lunar surface, and after watching Apollo 13, I became curious as to what exactly it was that got us to the moon in the first place. In 6 months time I read "Lost Moon" by Jim Lovell, "Last Man on the Moon" by Gene Cernan, "The Race", "Schirra's Space" and "Deke!".
A Man on The Moon was the last book I read, and I can speak from firsthand experience when I say that if I would have read it up first, I would have had no need to read the others. That is NOT to say that all of the other books are not good, quality reads (with maybe the exception being Schirra's book), because they certainly are, but Andy Chaikin left absolutely nothing to the imagination and almost no stone unturned when he penned this exciting and informative book.
Even though I was just a toddler when our exploration of the lunar surface began, thanks to Andy Chaikin, I don't feel that I missed a single thing.
on June 13, 2000
If you liked the HBO series "From The Earth To The Moon", you must read this book. Such a detailed account of the astronauts and the missions does not exist else where. Each mission is described separately, in great prose. A must buy for all serious space readers.
on August 2, 1999
Whether you are old enough to personally recollect the days of Apollo or if you were "born too late", the illustrated edition of Andrew Chaikin's, A MAN ON THE MOON is an essential book to own. Chaikin's uncanny ability to put you behind the eyes of the participants in humanity's greatest adventure, coupled with a collection of beautiful photos and illustrations, make this illustrated edition more like a "ticket to the moon" than any other work yet produced on the topic of spaceflight.
The historical accuracy of the author's narrative makes this an essential reference shelf item as well. Chaikin interviewed all of the Apollo moonwalkers and all of the key figures alive at the time of it's writing. The recollections and interesting details relayed by Chaikin are not to be found in any other work. Chaikin has turned his collection of interviews and research items into a dramatic and bold story as interesting and arresting as any work of fiction ever produced. It is no mystery why Tom Hanks was so inspired by Chaikin's writing, that he set out to produce HBO's FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, the most expensive and elaborate mini-series production to date.
This book goes way above and beyond what you would normally think of as a "good read". I find it quite easy to pick up these volumes and randomly start reading from any of it's pages. Chaikin also reveals the more human side of the very special people who took us to the moon and made President John F. Kennedy's dreams of lunar conquest come true. reading this book will help you understand what made people like Alan Shepard tick or why Neil Armstrong is often misunderstood by the press and his collegues.
A MAN ON THE MOON should be on the bookshelf of everyone who claims a sense of adventure, curiosity, or history.
on June 4, 2000
The 3 volume boxed set of "A Man on the Moon" is perhaps the best book on the Apollo program ever published. Not only does it have the complete text of the original "a Man on the Moon", which was a great description of what it was like to fly on the Apollo missions, though lacking in both technical details and Apollo development history, but it is graced with hundreds of beautiful photos and a number of sidebars describing aspects of the moon program. Even if you have the original hardbound or paperback edition, buy this....its worth every penny and then some. I've spent many hours just leafing through it (I read the original years ago). If you or someone you know has the slightest interest in the moon landings, this is the book!
on July 18, 2012
I've read a fair number of books on the glory days of NASA's manned space program, from Mercury through Gemini and Apollo, and though this book focuses mostly on the moon landing missions (as should be obvious from the title), when asked which single volume is best for the general, non-technical reader to get a comprehensive, readable history of the space program, I'd recommend this one. The author chose to tell the story AS a story, from the viewpoint of the astronauts involved. People want to read about people, not about machines; they want to get the human side of the story, and that's what this book sets out to tell and it succeeds. At the same time the author presents enough of the more technical aspects of the story in a simple enough fashion for the non-technical reader to get a decent grounding in these aspects.
Like most books written about the Apollo program, even those written by the astronauts and the engineers and technicians and program managers, the book ends on the sad note that the manned exploration of deep space was abandoned at the end of Apollo, almost 40 years ago, and that except for the occasional grandiose plan that never got past the stage of blueprints, there has never been serious consideration of a return to manned exploration of space outside the orbit of Earth.
I was eight years old at the time of Apollo 11, and my memory of the space program goes back only to Apollo 7. I remember, as a kid, being completely riveted by the moon missions, watching every second I could of them on TV, even as the general population lost interest in them, sending away to NASA for their PR kits on each mission (you'd get neat color photos of the crew, stickers of the mission patches, press bulletins, etc.) and clipping and saving moon stories from the newspapers, while speculating with like-minded friends on the future of space exploration (I remember that we couldn't wait until 1981, when we were supposed to be landing on Mars!), only to see our enthusiasm fizzle as NASA was steered into the endless boondoggle of the Shuttle program.
I've since come to regretfully realize that the Moon landing was something of a dead end. This was proven by the unmanned deep space probes of the late 70s and the 80s, when we sent Voyager-2 out scouting the outer planets of the solar system, Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, and their satellites, and confirmed that there wasn't a single other world in our solar system that made a viable destination for a manned space mission. The distances were too great to be reached by any existing technology--even to reach Jupiter would force astronauts to live in a space ship for over 4 years and the space ship itself to carry food, air and other consumables for that same length of time--a complete impossibility even now, decades after the successful moon landings. Then, if the aim is to find another world that could be inhabited and colonized by humans, we'd have to search outside the solar system, in which case, again because of distances, such worlds, if they exist, and if we could find them, could not be reached in the lifetime of any human being, which meant that those astronauts would have to be sent out with no expectation that they would return alive, that they'd have to breed in space and that their offspring would live their entire lives in their space ships, breed again, for generations, for, possibly, thousands of years, in the forlorn hope that we could find such a planet. To even reach another solar system might take the same span of time that, on Earth, stretches from the building of the pyramids to the present day, and even then there's no way of knowing that a habitable planet would exist in that solar system.
No, after the moon, there's no place left to go. We could land on Mars, I guess, but there is no chance of that happening in the lifetime of anyone now living because the will to spend the enormous amount of money it would take to do it does not exist anywhere on the Earth. We could also return to the moon, but even in 1972 people were so bored with moon landings that they'd complain when re-runs of "I Love Lucy" were pre-empted for telecasts from Apollo. The question is, even with these limited missions, who is going to pay for them? Even the scientific community is split, many (it seems to me most) scientist believing that unmanned robot probes are more worthwhile than manned missions. If even scientists doubt the value of humans in space, how can we expect the average citizen to support "Man in Space"?
We have to finally admit that Apollo was the result of a specific set of political circumstances that can never be repeated or recreated. We went to the moon because we wanted to beat the Russians. That is all it was about. All the science and technology that came from the moon program were collateral benefits. We had to beat the Russians. I'm not scoffing at this as a goal. It was important. It was the single most important victory of the cold war. We succeeded in reaching the moon. The Russians tried and failed. They knew how difficult this was, and, if you read the reminiscences of the Russian scientists and technicians and military managers, their respect for American "know how" and ingenuity grew because of our success, to the point that when Reagan announced the so-called "Star Wars" program in the 80s, while the wise guys in the West scoffed at Reagan, the Russians believed we could succeed. Why? Because we managed to land on the moon! In their attempts to keep up with us in our developing Star Wars program, they bankrupted the Soviet Union. The success of Apollo and the prestige this success lent to US science, technology and industry was one of the main factors in the collapse of the USSR.
The irony is that while during the Moon missions, pundits spoke of how "500 years from now, everything else about our civilization will be forgotten, but the one thing we'll be remembered for is landing on the Moon", now, only 40 years later, many people don't believe we did. They think it was a hoax! Sometimes we hear the suggestion that we should go back to the moon just to prove we were actually there once before, to prove it to the hoax theorists, but who's going to spend that kind of money to convince a cult of knuckle-dragging imbeciles whose noisy opinions are of little importance to anyone living in the world of reality? No, let's accept Apollo for what it was--a successful bid for international political prestige during a period of conflict which, because of the existence of thermonuclear weapons, couldn't be settled by war. It was a program established to fulfill national goals that no longer exist. And a return to lunar exploration, or a manned mission to Mars, will never take place until it is once again a matter of equal importance to the survival of a political system involved in a deadly rivalry, a struggle for survival, against an implacably hostile political enemy. It's hard to imagine such a circumstance arising today, but it may in the future.
on January 8, 2000
and each time I can't put it down. This is THE BEST book about the Apollo missions. I'm not sure how he did it but Andrew managed to get inside the heads of the moon explorers. Everytime I read it I feel like I'm going to the moon. If we want to inspire the next generation to continue space exploration then we should make this book part of the curriculum. No one who reads this book puts it down without believing that hard work, imagination and determination can overcome any obstacles. This book is a "must read" for EVERYONE.
on November 27, 2003
My review is of the sumptuous three-volume slipcased Time-Life edition of Chaikin's original work. On the jacket of these volumes that describe the amount of work that went into them, the editors wrote concerning the photographs: "The result, published here, is hundreds of compelling, often lyrical images assembled into a collection that may well never be equaled."
After enjoying hours of reading Chaikin's text and viewing the wonderful photographs compliled to complement it, I would have to agree that this will remain the definitive history of the Apollo program. It certainly would mean most to those who were old enough to witness the first landing on the Moon, as I was.
On July 20, 1969, I was in the lobby of the Seaview Hotel in Ocean City, New Jersey with other guests watching the most momentous event of the 20th century unfold. Our eyes were riveted to a television set and we were watching Neil Armstrong leave the lunar module and work his way down the ladder to the surface of the Moon. No one could say a word; we could only watch in wonder as Armstrong placed his boot on the lunar surface and spoke those immortal words.
This three volume set was published 1999 by Time-Life on the 30th anniversary of that first lunar landing. Chaikin's original book was published five years before; the entire text is included and the Time-Life editors compiled hundreds of the best photos from their own vast collection as well as those from NASA and other sources to complement the text. The result was too big for one or even two volumes, so it was published in three volumes and slipcased. What a treasure this set is!
After an appropriate introduction covering the Mercury and Gemini programs that were necessary stepping stones to reaching the Moon, the books cover each Apollo mission, including the diastrous Apollo 1 pad fire. Each manned mission to the Moon is covered--from Apollo 8 to Apollo 17--in engaging text and memorable photographs. However, much of what was done on Earth in preparation for reaching the Moon is also covered, the training as well as the engineering, written in an understandable style.
This multi-volume set is out of print but can be found through online auctions and used booksellers for a very reasonable price. When you find it, buy two sets--one for yourself and one for a friend would can appreciate it as much as you. We probably will never see another opportunity to go to the Moon in our lifetime. This multi-volume set is the best published record that we actually went there and is a wonderful tribute to the countless dedicated men and women who worked to make it happen.
on February 22, 2002
Andrew Chaikin's "A Man on the Moon" is an authoritative and inspiring portrait of the Apollo program's human side. While other accounts focus tightly on technical or scientific detail, where most astronaut biographies offer only the perspective of a single individual, this book reaches for the big picture, the grand historical and spiritual implications of the manned lunar landings.
Amidst the cultural earthquakes of the 60's, the Vietnam War and the din of protest, the author claims, we have never fully come to grips with the fact that Man has walked on another world, that we became a people without limits. Chaikin sets out to recount the story of the lunar voyages that the astronauts never wrote, and to bridge the gap between the high-tech realm of spaceflight and everyday experience. Based on extensive interviews with all surviving moon voyagers, "A Man on the Moon" is an important historical document as much as it is a great read.
Setting the tone, a short prologue mixes Kennedy's famous "before this decade is out" challenge with the story of how Pete Conrad, naval test pilot at Miramar and future moonwalker, learned of his selection as an astronaut in 1962. Throughout the book, Chaikin strives to blend the historical and the human dimensions of the space program. Where some of the lesser astronaut biographies stay on the surface and resort to "fighter jock" clichés, he succeeds at capturing the full spirit and emotional depth, be it the tragic Apollo 1 fire and subsequent recovery, the pompous triumph of Apollos 8 and 11, the drama and narrow escape of Apollo 13.
Every landing mission is assigned its own chapter and unique tone. The close comradeship of the Apollo 12 crew, "Sailors on the Ocean of Storms". The personal exorcism that Apollo 14 was to Commander Al Shepard, who had been grounded for many years. The glorious journey of scientific exploration undertaken by Apollo 15, first of the longer lunar rover missions. Naturally, some flights and astronauts receive more attention than others; but while Apollo 7, 9 and 10 are passed over quickly in comparison, even they or the Mercury and Gemini programs are treated more thoroughly than in some lesser accounts. On the whole, "A Man on the Moon" offers excellent detail for such an all-encompassing work. Hundreds of superbly chosen photographs and diagrams, biographical astronaut information and a thoughtful epilogue round out the book. The writing is rich and captivating throughout.
While there is better technical or scientific information to be found in other, more specialised works, Chaikin's book was intended to portray the man inside the space suit, to make us feel what they felt. At that it succeeds as brilliantly as the written word possibly can, without ever over-simplifying or fictionalising the story of this great adventure. Therein lies the achievement of "A Man on the Moon". As a guide for the casually interested reader, or an introduction for the budding specialist, this is the definite book on the Apollo program.
on February 13, 2014
One cannot overstate the importance of Andrew Chaikin's book on the Apollo program. Many years in the making, Chaikin took the time to track down and interview nearly all of the 24 astronauts who flew to the moon during project Apollo (I believe the only person he missed was Jack Swiegert, Apollo 13's command module pilot, who passed away in 1982 before writing this book). On top of the astronauts themselves, Chaikin spent time interviewing individuals who didn't fly these missions, but who were equally important to its success.
The book is largely written chronologically, beginning with the tragedy of Apollo 1. Background information on projects Mercury and Gemini aren't required to enjoy this book, and when required, Chaikin does a marvelous job of bringing forward events prior to Apollo to move the book along smoothly. Each manned mission is covered in about as much detail as possible, with the exceptions of maybe Apollo 7 (which never went to the moon, but was a test of the command/service modules in earth orbit), or Apollo 9 (an earth orbit test of the CSM and lunar modules). References are drawn to these two missions where necessary, but they do not receive the in-depth treatment each of the others receives. What stood out to me, which I never knew before reading this book, was the number of mechanical difficulties encountered along the way, and how many times the mission commander would be ready to abort before a solution was reached. Chaikin aptly illustrates the sheer resolve, intelligence, and fast thinking of the crew and ground crews during each mission when things went awry. So the book presents the reader with actual life or death cliffhangers or obstacles to a successful mission, and it makes for excellent reading.
I was also impressed with Chaikin's ability to explain how things in space, in orbit, in a rocket engine, in a volcano, or on the moon (ad infinitum) actually WORK. He doesn't overwhelm the reader with technical jargon (there are other books for that), and he illustrates difficult concepts with archetypes that most readers can relate to. One example comes to mind in how he described Buzz Aldrin's doctoral dissertation on orbital rendezvous techniques, and how this allowed Buzz to discuss "counter-intuitive maneuvers" to the other astronauts. Chaikin is a master of explaining things so anyone can understand.
Another strength of this book is shown in Chaikin's ability to glean the thoughts and feelings of the astronauts and to write those down both accurately and intimately. With each turn of the page, I felt I knew the astronauts like one of their peers. I could feel Frank Borman's intense aversion to take risks the first time circling the moon, Armstrong's technical expertise and grace under pressure in looking for an adequate landing spot, Pete Conrad's virtual "kid in a candy store" excitement en route to the moon, Jim Lovell's dismay when his mission was lost, Al Shepard's tears of joy as he stepped off the LM, Dave Scott's excitement in commanding the first J-mission, John Young's remorse at snapping the ALSEP power cable, Jack Schmitt's struggles to be the first scientist to fly to the moon (and Joe Engle's resentment as a result), and Gene Cernan's prophetic final words as the last moonwalker (for the time being). In a word, Chaikin takes you along for each mission, and you will feel as if you are right there working alongside the astronauts.
This book was much better than I ever expected. I found myself racing home from work each day to read it, and despite its massive size (over 500 pages), it felt like a quick, engaging read. Chaikin has done a wonderful service to the history of NASA and the Apollo missions. If I had to choose an authoritative, quintessential text on lunar exploration, this is book is where it all starts, and where it all ends.