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Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon Paperback – April 27, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. In this extensively researched account of that epic achievement, former publishing executive and prize-winning author Nelson (The First Heroes) moves seamlessly between Apollo 11 astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, their nervous families and the equally nervous NASA ground crew. Nelson follows Armstrong in nail-biting detail as he tries to find a place to land with less than a minuteÖs worth of fuel remaining. A large central section of the book digresses to provide some backstory on the feverish American-Soviet game of one-upmanship in the year leading up to the Apollo 11 launch. For instance, Nelson describes Apollo 8 as an almost reckless gamble by NASA to beat the Russians in sending men to orbit the moon The book also describes the sad personal toll the mission took. Collins was best able to deal with the cost of fame yet expressed the anticlimax of life after Apollo 11: I seem gripped by earthly ennui. Space fans and readers who remember that momentous time will find this an exciting read. (June 29)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Using interviews, NASA oral histories, and declassified CIA material, Nelson has produced a magnificent, very readable account of the steps that led to the success of Apollo 11. In the 40 years since the first moon landing and the 52 years since Sputnik was launched, it isn’t always remembered now what an experiment the Apollo program was, nor that the space race was as much a military as a scientific campaign. The space program was launched using the knowledge of rockets available at the end of World War II and former Third Reich scientists working in both American and Soviet programs. When it came to sending men into orbit and beyond, routines and equipment had to be invented and tested in minute increments. Nelson’s descriptions take us back, showing the assorted teams and how they worked together. We meet the astronauts and find out why they were eager to take on this mission, and we also meet the hypercareful technicians, without whom neither men nor craft would have left the ground. Nelson shows, too, how the technology and the politics of the times interrelated. Leslie Fish, songwriter, summed it up perfectly, “To all the unknown heroes, sing out to every shore / What makes one step a giant leap is all the steps before.” Nelson brightly illuminates those steps. --Frieda Murray --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
There are some good things about this book. It is an entertaining read. It provides context to events that is helpful. It also includes stories I hadn't heard before, which is refreshing. The problem is the book is full of errors, some showing a basic lack of understanding of the subject matter. It gets so bad I'm left wondering what in the book I can actually trust.
If you are new to the subject and want a good book to read, I recommend either Chris Kraft's or Gene Cernan's books.
I'll give it two stars since it is an enjoyable read.
Here is some errors I can think of off the top of my head. (I didn't want to put them in my main review.) It's not a complete list:
* Stating Gene Cernan was commander of Apollo 15, instead of 17
* A completely wrong description of what Max-Q is
* Confusing escape velocity and orbital speed.
* Calling the landing radar PGNS (which makes sense, since it is pronounced PINGS, but wrong)
* Stating that Armstrong used the Abort Guidance System to land, since he had to maneuver around some boulders. It wasn't.
That's just a few, and you may ask what the big deal with them is. The problem is that they are so pervasive it destroys the credibility of the author.
That begs the question: What basis does this sloppy approach give me for believing that anything else, including the non-technical, presented in this work as fact is accurately portrayed?
I agree that there are engaging passages, and sometimes an interesting and unusual slant on events, but if you want an engaging, ACCURATE account of Apollo 11, read Mike Collin's "Carrying the Fire" (he really is the most literate of the moon voyagers, and the most dryly humorous) , or for the project as a whole through the eyes of the astronauts, Andrew Chaikin's superb "A Man on the Moon". "Rocket Men" is for me an interesting approach that needs a major overhaul to become a decent book.