A wonderful read and return to the days of Project
I don't know how I managed, but I had missed "A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts" by Andrew Chaikin. I search out and read just about every book I can find on Project Apollo. Once it arrived -- and it is a thick, instantly involving book -- I devoured it quickly. Mr. Chaikin has a rare ability to bring the past to life. For me, this is key in a history book in general, but about Apollo, specifically, as my late Dad worked in the aerospace industry on Project Apollo. As a result of growing up as a child of the "space race," I've been fascinated with the subject since the days of meeting the astronauts -- most of the original Mercury Seven, almost all of the Apollo astronauts and many who came before. Mr. Chaikin's writing style is instantly engaging and he brings to life, for the reader, the dangers, thrills, joys, wins and, sadly, the losses associated with finally taking Apollo 11, including Commander Neil Armstrong, Lunar Module Pilot Edwin "Buzz" Armstrong and Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, to the first ever lunar landing ... and bringing them safely back to Earth. Chaikin follows the project from the tragedy of Apollo 1 and the loss of Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee in the pad fire which ultimately, through their sacrifice, made NASA take a long, hard look at their own safety standards and found them lacking. While designated heroes, and rightfully so, their loss was a tragic footnote in Human Space Flight. However, it showed NASA engineers that things HAD to change. As a result, the capsule redesign, mounted on top of the powerful but dangerous Saturn rockets into Earth and Lunar orbit and back home were ultimately successful. Personally, I believe their loss also ultimately contributed to the successful return of the ill-fated Apollo 13, with astronauts Jim Lovell, Fres Haise and Jack Swigert. Sadly, planned missions past Apollo 17 we canceled, and only twelve men, ultimately, walked on the moon. Chaikin managed to interview ALL of the surviving Apollo astronauts, which was no small feat, considering they tend to be loners and, for the most part, try to avoid the spotlight 40+ years later. The book is thoughtful, full of insight, packed with emotion and excitement. Obviously written by a person who, like me, was completely transfixed by the space program, Chaikin never had the chance to work in it himself, but also, like me, never lost his sense of wonder and awe. I consider myself lucky to have been present at various historic space launches, due entirely to my Dad's involvement. Chaikin's book brings back the excitement and literally had my heart beating fast again as his book is a true "page turner." My Dad is but one of a cast of thousands and thousands who worked in the background on Project Apollo, and his name is not in the history books, but I am still overwhelmingly proud of his contributions. I highly recommend "A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts" by Andrew Chaikin. It's a remarkably entertaining, educational and nostalgic read.
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