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Moon Lander: How We Developed the Apollo Lunar Module Hardcover – March 17, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 104 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A highly personalized story . . . of the Apollo Lunar Module, built at Grumman by the author and his team.”—Choice

“It’s surprising that the man most responsible for the spindly Apollo lunar landers, Tom Kelly, hasn’t told his story years before. Lucid and engaging, he tells how his team at Grumman in Bethpage, Long Island, went from paper studies to delivering hardware that would help change history. Beyond historical interest, the book has lessons for anyone involved in a large project at the cutting edge of technology.”—IEEE Spectrum

 “. . . Written in an approachable style, and if you have even a passing interest in space exploration it will grip your interest. It constitutes an important primary source for the history of human exploration . . . This book is a flat-out good read.”—Meteoritics and Planetary Science

About the Author

The recipient of a Grumman Engineering Scholarship upon graduating from high school, Thomas J. Kelly worked for the company for more than forty years, retiring in 1992. Now an aerospace and computer consultant, he lives in Cutchogue, New York.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press (March 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156098998X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560989981
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,226,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John R. Keller on April 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
.... While there are a lot of engineering terms and technical descriptions of hardware, there are no engineering formulae. The author, Thomas J. Kelley, was the chief engineer of the Grumman-built Lunar Module (LM), during its design, development and testing phases and also for part of the early landings on the Moon. The author presents a new and untold story of the development of one the greatest marvels of modern engineering, the first vehicle designed solely for manned space exploration. That is, the human side of the development of this space vehicle.
The first few chapters of the book describe how Grumman developed the proposal that ultimately won the NASA contract to build the LM. The book then moves onto the development of conceptual ideas, the final design, the building, the testing and finally the flying of the LM to the lunar surface. The book concludes with a good summary of each Apollo mission, including the Apollo 13 mission, which used the LM as a lifeboat, and his thoughts about the Apollo program and the beginning of the Space Shuttle program.
I found the opening chapters of the book that were devoted to writing the winning NASA proposal and the subsequent contract negotiations and the development of the LM very interesting. This winning proposal was less than 100 pages!!!!!. Try that today. Through out these and other parts of the book, the author is not afraid to criticized his company, upper management and fellow co-workers and take the blame when he was wrong. While there are many technical details in each of these sections of the book, most of the chapters describe in great detail the project management of the LM.
For me, the most interesting part of this part was the human side of the development of the LM.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a must-read for any serious student of the Apollo program. Kelly presents an honest, readable account of the challenges and frustrations faced by Grumman engineers in designing, fabricating, testing, and flying the first lunar lander. As a manager, Kelly provides insights not only into the engineering problems of building the first flying machine of its kind, but also into the problems of getting the work organized and done.
And Kelly seasons it all with the excitement he felt being part of a great adventure.
This is the story behind one of the best episodes (Spider) of Tom Hanks' "From the Earth to the Moon" and I highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover
Tom Kelly's memoir of the development of the Apollo Lunar Module is a great book. I found it to be surprisingly forthright and honest about the accomplishments and mistakes that the Grumman team made during their first and only foray into manned spacecraft construction. Students of space history and engineers will probably get the most out of this book, which is loaded with technical detail. However, for those who read the book and come away somewhat bewildered from the acronyms and technical detail, Kelly does a very good job of conveying the excitement and enthusiasm for the challenge of landing a man on the moon that swept across America in the 1960's. Kelly also gives us a view of the major players in Apollo like Joe Shea, Chris Kraft, and the astronauts themselves, that is not really seen. Kelly gives us the perspective of an outsider, though an engineer, who meets these people for the first time and what it was like to work with them and what kind of an impression they left upon him.
Overall, if you're a space nut, this is a good book for you, if you're not, be prepared for lots of engineering talk. But don't let that scare you away, Moon Lander is full of goodies about Apollo for everyone.
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Format: Hardcover
I praise Thomas Kelly's "Moon Lander." I found his account of the Lunar Excursion Module's (LEM) birth and development chronicled from: proposal; to acceptance; to design; through arduous testing; and finally to repeatedly successful manned landings on the Moon, to be an engrossing and valuable tale. I recommend this book to anyone (particularly engineers and managers) interested in the complex genesis of such a modern marvel, truly a new thing made to exist on the face of the Earth and beyond. The successful creation and deployment of the LEM under intense NASA, corporate, and human pressures, is a testimony to American engineering where-with-all in the face of the impossible.

The need for such an outlandish vehicle as the Apollo LEM was summoned into life by political need and pronouncement, as relayed by NASA fiat and planning. But we ultimately owe its existence to highly responsible and brilliant engineers like Thomas Kelly, who produced this gem of a spacecraft for lunar exploration - and all this in a time when simply orbiting the Earth was considered fantastic. The mission to "Get a man on the Moon and back again," served to deliver multiple messages. It demonstrated America's prowess to the world, and at home promised a stupendous scientific boon of observations and artifacts which would enable the scrutiny of the creation of our worldly environs, but most importantly, it sent a reverberating message to the world: "We, the Human Race, as a force, can achieve our loftiest dreams, and all it takes is will and imagination!" The "will" part is the theme of this book. (Our imaginations are always there.) It's the "will" stuff that's the hardest stuff. We speak here of money, and more especially, of people.
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