on June 21, 2010
An enchanting work, Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Moon, is the perfect read on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. More than an autobiographical snapshot in the life of an aerospace engineer, Sara Howard's work is a balled; a love song. From beginning to end, this story is bound together by the author's unqualified love of the Apollo space program in which she participated as a technician extraordinaire.
As the author describes her work at NASA it is presented in the simple and engaging style that somehow seems unusual for a mathematician. Likewise, Howard's emotional relationship with her work in the space program, her relationship with her colleagues, and the Apollo program itself seem somehow out of sync with what one would expect from an accomplished aerospace engineer and protégé of Werner Von Braun. The reader cannot help but be caught up in Howard's excitement, her wonder and her joy in being part of the one of the greatest projects to date in the history of space exploration.
An easy read, the entire book can be read in a single afternoon, leaving the reader wanting more. For those interested in the human side of the experience of being one of the 400,000 dedicated people that participated in landing on the moon and returning again, this book is a joy to read. In the end the reader cannot help but salute Sara Howard's experience, her relationship to it, and her ability to share it in such an appealing way. If one word can be used to describe Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Moon it would be - delightful.
"Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Moon" contains a series of vignettes by Sara Howard, one of the two female engineers who worked on the Saturn V, the rocket that sent men to the moon.
One of the fascinating aspects of the memoir is that it does not read like a feminist tract, though one would think that a woman engineer in the man's world of the Apollo program would certainly count as a feminist icon. There is not a hint of any discrimination or even slight suffered by Howard because of her gender. That may be because the Apollo program was the ultimate meritocracy. One could either do the job assigned or not. Boy or girl, it seems not to have mattered, at least among the engineers.
One thing that does shine through in the memoir is Howard's fierce, protective pride in the Apollo program and her small but crucial part in it. Most people still remember the astronauts who walked on the moon. Many even can name a flight controller or two. Very few indeed remember any of the other 400 thousand plus people who toiled long hours in the 1960s to make that one small step happen.
Even after Apollo, Howard did some remarkable things, like fly private planes in an era where female pilots were a curiosity, even a generation after Amelia Earhart. She also helped to build the Trident missile submarine, one of the weapons platforms that kept the peace during the latter days of the Cold War.
It is a custom, and a good one, to, when seeing someone in uniform, to thank them for their service, to buy him or her a drink perhaps. It might be a good idea to expand that custom to include anyone who ever worked on Apollo, especially the anonymous, largely unappreciated worker bees whose efforts all too often got them a pink slip as the country lost interest in lunar voyages.
Apollo was a thing of wonder, something that proves that the history of humankind from the time the first hunter gatherers built towns to this very moment, has a purpose more than just survival. Apollo helped to win the Cold War, by proving the superiority of freedom over tyranny. More than that, it provided beauty and even transcendence. It was a message to God, that said, "The universe that you brought into being is wonderful and we thank you for it."
So, Sarah Howard, thank you for your service. It was a great and glorious thing.
on July 3, 2010
Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Moon is the fascinating account of a little noticed, yet essential part of the American space program. Told from the perspective of one of the "peons in the pits", Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Moon reveals an inspiring, never-before-seen side of the program. Having been a member of the team that built the Saturn V rockets used during the Apollo Program, Ms. Howard is an authoritative source on the greatest technological marvel in history.
Yet, this book is far more than a scintillating primer on the components that make space travel possible; it is a tribute to the 400,000 individuals who, together, made history by putting Americans on the moon. Without their expertise and hard work it could not have happened.
Thank you, Ms. Howard for sharing your remarkable story. This is truly "American history at its finest"!
on August 9, 2010
I read Sara Howard's book, 'Something Funny Happened on the way to the Moon' because of the title. It was seriously funny, as the curious title told me it should be. I was seriously surprised and learned valuable history lessons of the formative years of space travel and NASA, and the events that led to the first moon walk in 1969. I laughed with Sara's account of the the fact the Russians were the first to send a rocket into orbit, on my second birthday, October 4th, 1957. I remember looking into the heavens for it.
Her father wasn't real happy, and only made great minds think harder and be more determined to push the envelope into outer space further with safe and sound results. Sara Howard, a woman, and grown in the midst of changes with the 1960's, had the same fun the hippies were getting into, but she kept her feet on the ground and helped put the first human on the moon, literally. No doubt inspired by seeing her father launch his own rockets over six thousand feet up into the atmosphere. One of her dad's rocket was designed with the aide of Dr. Werner Von Braun. That name alone gave me the depth and seriousness of her book, written in an easy reading style with a flow that will take you to the last page at light speed for the interesting history lesson alone. No Hollywood movie script with a hyped up and distracting dialog for the suspenseful successful, hit movie ending, all landing in the lap of a few characters.
Instances as this and who made it possible for a human to travel as far as the moon, were entertaining. But, learning of the ones who actually had the ideas and made the design for a blueprint of a space ship that worked, and then not getting the recognition for it, was a feeling of disappointment I could understand. Those who assembled it safely together, and the myriad of people on space patrol at Cape Kennedy and Houston, seemed to me as a factory job and a live report compared to the 400,00 people who brilliantly made the blueprints to make it possible for others to jump with joy with success. Sara and her colleagues applauded to success with all the others. But, few knew to applaud Sara and her hip co-horts behind the scenes. Some, as myself, got caught in the culture changes of the 1960's, and had some fun while hopefully being productive some day soon, after a while, find a job, and hopefully a life beyond a lifestyle. It's a mind blowing stage of events that makes a rocket fly, float, and then come back to earth safely, or launch a satellite into space, safely to stay. Sara will take you there and back, laughing, feeling, enlightened, and glad you read her book.
on August 2, 2010
I saw Sara speak at the United States Naval Academy in November of 2008.
What a speech it was! The Midshipmen and women were standing and screaming.
Sara is unique and one of the very few women who worked as an engineer on the Saturn V. Many of the things of which she spoke are in her book. She literally
brought the house down.
Many of the instructors became her friends. She is invited back as a "special
guest" in 2011. I can't say enough about this remarkable woman.
Her enthusiasm is so contageous that we came down with her "flu".
We all read her book. It is a wonderful and fun account of a great chapter
in our history. She started out watching her dad launch rockets with some
very funny endings. After she graduated from Louisiana State University with
an Honors Degree in Math and Astronomy, she went to New Orleans to apply for
a job working on Apollo with Boeing.
Not only does she tell the funny things that happened, she writes of the
Range Safety Officer and the need to destroy a rocket which upset her immensely. Her work was such a joy and you will read it in her book. Also contained in her book is a wonderful chapter of Naval History about the
Naval Recovery ships for our Apollo Astronauts.
To the delight of the Naval Academy she told the Mids that she worked
on the Trident Nuclear Missile Submarine. Sara is our kind of gal!
There are aerospace engineers at the Naval Academy and they told Sara that
she is considered a "National Treasure". She will be cherished by us forever.
on July 17, 2010
Growing up with the manned Space Program from the Redstone with Cdr. Alan Shepherd all the way to the Moon, I've been a witness to a proud time in our country's history. The scope of the project, the technological limitations, and the knowledge that such a huge , powerful, and complex machine that was built using old fashioned engineering student's wooden slide rules and computers with the power of a cell phone is startling.
It's startling until you begin to look a little deeper, no, a lot deeper. That's where Sara Howard takes us in her fantastic book. In spite of all the 400,000 peopdle who worked in the Apollo program, all that boiled down into simple and single minded dedication and absolute devotion to what they were doing. None of that dedication came from some jazzy slogan or charismatic leader, it came from within each of those 400,000 people. And to top it all off, who says dedication has to be boring and dull? I recommend this book highly and my hat off to Sara Howard for telling this story.
on July 17, 2010
Ms. Howard's enthusiasm and dedication to her work spill over in this wonderful book! She not only gives us a unique look at our space program and its inner workings but so much more. Her book was so inspiring that I had to find out more about its author, so I contacted her and found out that she graduated from Louisiana State University with an Honors Degree in Math and Astronomy, that she is a pilot and a sailor, and that she is the founder and first president of the Shreveport Astronomical Society which is still active today. As one of the first female aerospace engineers to work on the Apollo Space Program, she has so much to share with us and with our kids, and I hope she can visit schools all over the country and share her message with students that American is a great country and that there is no limit to what they can achieve. This is actually her second book. Her first book was written for kids and is titled The Biggest Explosions in the Universe, so now I guess I'll have to check that one out, too!
on November 1, 2011
I thought Sara Howard's book, "Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Moon," was excellent. Growing up the daughter of a space pioneer, one of the "peons in the pits," I heard lots of harrowing accounts and funny stories through the years from my Dad. I was delighted when I happened upon Sara's book, and even more excited to read the memories of one of the only women aerospace engineers who took part in this important time in our history. Thank you, Sara, for sharing your memories with us - of Apollo, of this magnificent time for our country and the world, and for making us laugh along the way. ~ D'Lanie Blaze, Worker Advocate and Founder, TheAeroSpace.org ~ In Honor of Santa Susana Field Laboratory Employees
on June 25, 2010
Something Happened on the Way to the Moon is both an interesting autobiographical look at the life of a female NASA engineer working on the Saturn V project, and a commentary on the importance of all those who work behind the scenes to make our world work.
Sara Howard takes us back in time to share personal insights about what it was REALLY like to work for NASA in the 60's. Everything from the styles people wore, to the interpersonal relationships of those working in the office. Howard also makes some important points that apply to anyone who works with others, namely, that it takes a lot of people to make a project work whether it's a new business or launching shuttle ad that we should appreciate those who may not get much credit but are essential the success of our businesses, workplaces and lives.
This book is an interesting read for any space enthusiast or anyone who is interested in learning from a very bright women who has achieved a lot.
Author of Live Life from the Heart: 52 Weeks to a Life of Passion and Purpose
Live Life from the Heart
on July 12, 2010
It IS important to know not only that there were 400,000 (500,000?) people involved in our "race to space" but also that there were a few adventurous women engineers that took part in it--Sara Howard being one of the few. This book is more than just a series of anecdotes that describe Sara's part in American history. It tells how her heart was, and is, tied to the Apollo missions and our country. Sara's descriptions present vivid pictures in a person's mind--no video needed. Her 'voice' is genuine. While reading, I imagined being seated at a table having afternoon tea and conversation with her. "Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Moon" is educational, enlightening, and amusing--all wrapped up in one nice little package.