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Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11

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For the 50th anniversary, the epic story of Apollo 11 and the astronauts, flight controllers, and engineers who made it happen, by the author of the bestselling A Terrible Glory and The Blood of Heroes. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon, a moment forever ingrained in history. Perhaps the world's greatest technologic For the 50th anniversary, the epic story of Apollo 11 and the astronauts, flight controllers, and engineers who made it happen, by the author of the bestselling A Terrible Glory and The Blood of Heroes. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon, a moment forever ingrained in history. Perhaps the world's greatest technological achievement-and a triumph of American spirit and ingenuity-the Apollo 11 mission, and the entire Apollo program, was a mammoth undertaking involving more than 410,000 men and women dedicated to putting a man on the Moon and winning the Space Race against the Soviets. Seen through the eyes of the those who lived it, Shoot for the Moon reveals the dangers, the challenges, and the sheer determination that defined not only Apollo 11, but also the Mercury and Gemini missions that made it possible. Both sweeping and intimate, and based on exhaustive research and dozens of fresh interviews, bestselling author James Donovan's Shoot for the Moon is the definitive and thrilling account of one of humankind's most extraordinary feats of exploration.


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For the 50th anniversary, the epic story of Apollo 11 and the astronauts, flight controllers, and engineers who made it happen, by the author of the bestselling A Terrible Glory and The Blood of Heroes. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon, a moment forever ingrained in history. Perhaps the world's greatest technologic For the 50th anniversary, the epic story of Apollo 11 and the astronauts, flight controllers, and engineers who made it happen, by the author of the bestselling A Terrible Glory and The Blood of Heroes. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon, a moment forever ingrained in history. Perhaps the world's greatest technological achievement-and a triumph of American spirit and ingenuity-the Apollo 11 mission, and the entire Apollo program, was a mammoth undertaking involving more than 410,000 men and women dedicated to putting a man on the Moon and winning the Space Race against the Soviets. Seen through the eyes of the those who lived it, Shoot for the Moon reveals the dangers, the challenges, and the sheer determination that defined not only Apollo 11, but also the Mercury and Gemini missions that made it possible. Both sweeping and intimate, and based on exhaustive research and dozens of fresh interviews, bestselling author James Donovan's Shoot for the Moon is the definitive and thrilling account of one of humankind's most extraordinary feats of exploration.

30 review for Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    2.5 Stars. I'm that person who devours any book written about the space program. When I saw this, I had to have it. You would think that a book published for Apollo 11's 50th anniversary with the "Apollo 11" in the title would focus more on that mission. Surprisingly, this book did not. I wouldn't say the part of the book about the space race leading up to Apollo 11 wasn't bad - but it has been done before. I can think of dozens of books written about the space race. I don't really feel that this 2.5 Stars. I'm that person who devours any book written about the space program. When I saw this, I had to have it. You would think that a book published for Apollo 11's 50th anniversary with the "Apollo 11" in the title would focus more on that mission. Surprisingly, this book did not. I wouldn't say the part of the book about the space race leading up to Apollo 11 wasn't bad - but it has been done before. I can think of dozens of books written about the space race. I don't really feel that this book really adds much to the discussion. I thought it odd that a book that was supposed to focus on Apollo 11 doesn’t really start focusing on that mission until page 300. Is it really the extraordinary story of Apollo 11 when it only takes 95-ish pages? There have been multiple books written about single missions, and they’ve been very good (Apollo 8, Apollo 13). I feel the book could have been much better if it hadn't tried to cover everything, and instead focused more on the mission. The author writes well and likes to sprinkle his narrative with unattributed anecdotes. I didn’t mind this so much, until one of them directly contradicted established history. Page 220 recounts a story, apparently taken from an interview with Chuck Friedlander, where he takes Grissom’s parents to Cape Canaveral: “A few months before the Apollo 204 fire, Grissom’s parents had come up from Indiana to visit. Gus asked Chuck Friedlander to give them a tour of Cape Kennedy. . . Friedlander took Gus’s parents up the elevator to level eight and walked them over to the command module.” The gist of this story is that Grissom’s parents visited the capsule high atop Launch Complex 34 a few months before the launch. This would not have happened. The capsule was not installed at LC-34 until January 3, 1967, which is only 24 days before the fire. Hardly a “few months” before the fire. The Apollo 1 capsule arrived at KSC in August of 1966, and spent time in an altitude chamber before arriving at LC-34. I’m not doubting that Grissom’s parents may have toured the Cape with Mr. Friedman, but I suggest that if they did visit the capsule, it would not have been at level 8, on the gantry at LC-34. I’m also quite annoyed with the author for misquoting Grissom’s last few statements before the fire. On page 214, the author lists Grissom as saying "I said, Jesus Christ, if we can't communicate across three miles, how the hell are we going to communicate when we're on the moon." Here is what he really said: "How are we going to get to the moon if we can't talk between 3 buildings? Jesus Christ. I said how are we gonna get to the moon if we can't talk between two or three buildings?" It may not seem like a big difference, but it is different. Transcripts of the audio (or the audio itself) can be found online. I think there was no reason for the author to misquote Grissom here. It may seem close enough, but imagine if we only remembered the close enough version other iconic statements. This may seem like nitpicking, but I’m very touchy about Apollo 1. There was no excuse for this in a situation where the author had some really awesome resources at his disposal while writing this book. In the end, I was disappointed. Finding inaccuracies like these make me suspicious about errors I may not have noticed. I appreciate that the author wanted to write about the space program, but I’ve honestly read this same book a dozen times. It has been done before. Even though Apollo 11 has been covered before, I think that a fresh version for the 50th anniversary would have been great. I don't think this quite fits the bill. I’m not going to discourage anyone from reading the book, but I think there are better examples already out there. But who am I to disagree with Michael Collins?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Byron

    What a thrilling book! Even though I knew the outcome from the beginning, having lived the early space years as a youth, I could not put this book down, making up excuses to drive my car so I could listen to the next chapter. Donovan details the history of the race to the moon, including a lot of material that has come to light in the years since, especially about the Soviet space efforts. He chronicles the selection of the astronauts and the factors that affected the selection of the men and cr What a thrilling book! Even though I knew the outcome from the beginning, having lived the early space years as a youth, I could not put this book down, making up excuses to drive my car so I could listen to the next chapter. Donovan details the history of the race to the moon, including a lot of material that has come to light in the years since, especially about the Soviet space efforts. He chronicles the selection of the astronauts and the factors that affected the selection of the men and crews for the Gemini and Apollo missions. While many of us have been captivated by Tom Hanks as James Lovell in Apollo 13, the near catastrophe, the successful story of Apollo 11 is equally compelling, as the unknowns and dangers involved in the mission were significant. Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were aware of the risks and rated their chances of a successful landing and return at 50-50, not good odds for most of life's ventures. But the story of the moon landing is a story that goes far beyond the astronauts, and Donovan makes us very aware of many of the people who contributed to this achievement, such as the flight controllers, and the various specialist who worked on the myriad of problems that had to be resolved in order to make this flight possible. (One major omission was that he did not mention the ladies from Hidden Figures, so I am curious as to how that should fit into his story.) He also talks extensively by the contributions of Wernher von Braun, the remarkable figure who, after helping Hitler in WWII, became a foundational cornerstone of the space program, achieving a significant level of celebrity during the space years. Of course, the space program began in a pre-60's America, where the modus operandi was white, male, and for the most part, cigarette smoking, corvette driving, and hard-drinking. That is a sad reality, and though I am of the impression that NASA has become more culturally appropriate in the decades since the moon landing, that is an issue for another day. Donovan's tells the stories of the tragedies encountered, not just the Apollo 1 fire that killed Grissom, White and Chafee, but he told me something I did not know, that an astronaut named Clifton Williams, who never flew in space, crashed his test plane not far from where I live in Tallahassee in 1967, before I came to FSU.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    I thought this book is just about Apollo 11. However, this book is more informative. It details the American space program from the very beginning, culminating in Apollo 11 and the moon landing. I learned a lot, like Lyndon Johnson's big role in encouraging the space program's birth. Learned that politics played a very big role too - if not for the Soviet's push for space exploration and subsequent glory, the Americans probably would not even entertain a space program. There's also a lot of scie I thought this book is just about Apollo 11. However, this book is more informative. It details the American space program from the very beginning, culminating in Apollo 11 and the moon landing. I learned a lot, like Lyndon Johnson's big role in encouraging the space program's birth. Learned that politics played a very big role too - if not for the Soviet's push for space exploration and subsequent glory, the Americans probably would not even entertain a space program. There's also a lot of science involved and anecdotes about the astronauts. Definitely a good read if one is interested in history of humanity's quest for space flight.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Porter Broyles

    (Audio book) This was a fun book to listen to. I do not consider myself to be overly knowledgable about the space race, but this was not my first foray into that subject. The book is well written and definitely kept my attention. The first 2/3rds of the book is a general high level overview of the space race from the American perspective. The last 1/3rd of the book was about Apollo 11.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This was informative, entertaining, and well-written.

  6. 4 out of 5

    WendyB

    I enjoyed reading this but had thought most of it would be about Apollo 11 and it really wasn't. I did like the part about the Gemini missions as they often get overlooked in books about the space race.

  7. 4 out of 5

    LAPL Reads

    James Donovan’s Shoot For The Moon is the first book about America’s triumphant moon landing in 1969 that puts the feat in its proper context. Donovan balances a technical analysis of space flight with gripping biographical details about the major players involved in the three NASA programs of the 1960s: Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy gave a speech before Congress exhorting America to send a man to the moon by end of the decade. The date was less than three weeks James Donovan’s Shoot For The Moon is the first book about America’s triumphant moon landing in 1969 that puts the feat in its proper context. Donovan balances a technical analysis of space flight with gripping biographical details about the major players involved in the three NASA programs of the 1960s: Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy gave a speech before Congress exhorting America to send a man to the moon by end of the decade. The date was less than three weeks after Alan B. Shepard became the first American to go into space. Shoot For The Moon extensively documents both the achievements and failures of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo prior to the moon landing. America’s journey into space had its origins in the surrender of German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun to US forces in 1945. At first, the expertise of von Braun and other German rocket scientists was utilized for purely military purposes. After the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik, into orbit in 1957, the US made a serious commitment to space travel with the formation of NASA. In fact in the next decade, the Soviet Union would achieve every space milestone before the United States, with NASA struggling to keep up in the Cold War's “space race.” That America finally surpassed the Soviet Union to reach the moon, is first due to a combination of scientific rigor, political willpower, single mindedness and luck. Perhaps the greatest asset America had in the early years of the space race was the quality of its astronauts. Men who had been military test pilots could avert disaster with their calm command of the spacecraft. None of the 1960s astronauts died in space (though three perished in a training mission for Apollo 1), despite numerous technical failures involving the space flying equipment. Some mechanical issues could be fixed through routine simulations, but others relied on experiential learning, or the development of new technology to resolve problems. As the Apollo program made progress in its ultimate goal of landing men on the moon in 1969, Mercury astronaut Deke Slayton picked Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin, two former test pilots and a former fighter pilot, who had strong scientific backgrounds, to be the personnel for its fateful mission. After some wrangling over who would be the first man to set foot on the moon, Armstrong got the nod over Aldrin on the basis of seniority. There were some significant challenges during Apollo 11-- the Lunar Module barely had enough fuel for the descent onto the lunar surface, and the Module’s alarm system malfunctioned—but the mission went smoothly considering the extraordinary difficulty of the task at hand. The astronauts returned to Earth to a hero’s welcome after a three-week quarantine period. For once, the United States had overtaken the Soviet Union, which later abandoned its lunar ambitions in the space race. Reviewed by David B., Librarian, InfoNow

  8. 5 out of 5

    Curt Evoy

    An enjoyable read documenting the history of manned space flight from the beginning through the Apollo 11 moon landing. The book covers many facets of the successful mission to land man on the moon. The author covers the Astronauts and the support team in Houston who supported their efforts.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Very well written. Fascinating insights. For example did you know that little old ladies knitting were instrumental to putting men on the moon? It was little insights like this that made this such a fascinating read. I definitely recommend.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sal

    Good historic look at the space race, I might even have it on my re-read list. That being said, I still loved First Man a bit more

  11. 5 out of 5

    John

    I'm a sucker for most anything about the 1960's NASA missions, and therefore easily lured in by this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not too technical, and sprinkled with plenty of great anecdotes.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

    I found the astronaut selection process and tensions between mission control and astronauts particularly interesting

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    This detailed and extraordinary book depicts the triumphs and setbacks during the cold war. The book was extremely riveting and kept you entertained until the end. The highly detailed recount of Apollo 11 was the highlight of the book. It opens your eyes to one of the greatest accomplishments that mankind has ever achieved. Overall, this was a very informative and engaging book which I would recommended to anybody with an interest in space or mankind's achievements.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lissa

    I have read several books on the early days of the space travel and I am almost always exited by the history. This is more of an overview of the missions and people leading up to the moon landing. This is well researched and has interesting andecdotes. While not the most riveting of accounts, I still found this a great overview of the beginning of NASA and the early excitement surrounding the space program. I received a digital ARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    J.J.

    Highly recommend the audio version of this one. Even though I knew most of the history, still kept me on the edge of my seat listening to the narrative.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    The moon landing occurred a decade before I was born, so I appreciated learning all the details of the mission and everything involving the American space program that preceded it in this comprehensive book. From the beginning of the Space Race, the ultimate objective was to beat the Russians in space “firsts.” Initially, the Russians dominated, and they were quick to flaunt their successes, but would keep their failures secret from the world for years. The determination and ingenuity of NASA an The moon landing occurred a decade before I was born, so I appreciated learning all the details of the mission and everything involving the American space program that preceded it in this comprehensive book. From the beginning of the Space Race, the ultimate objective was to beat the Russians in space “firsts.” Initially, the Russians dominated, and they were quick to flaunt their successes, but would keep their failures secret from the world for years. The determination and ingenuity of NASA and the brilliant minds involved allowed the USA to surpass its Cold War adversary. The Mercury and Gemini programs were stepping stones for Apollo, and they were significant in their own ways. I had to share one of the funniest anecdotes from one Gemini mission in particular: “Gemini 7 dropped into the Pacific… its two occupants weary, sore, and extremely fragrant – but healthy. Two of the three frogmen who attached the floatation collar to the command module after splashdown vomited when the hatch opened and they got a direct blast of fourteen-day-old air and the men who had lived in it.” I was constantly jotting down fascinating tidbits. I didn’t know Gemini was named after the constellation and the two stars comprising it (Castor and Pollux) because it would have a two-man crew. Mission control shifts were designated a color by its flight director (Gene Kranz as white) and that color would be retired when that flight director left. The “complexity” regarding “orbital mechanics and rendezvous maneuvers” was mind boggling. And I think I have a retro-crush on Mike Collins – he appreciates, wine, literature, and gardening, his favorite cocktail is a martini, and he has “a self-deprecating wit.” Even though I obviously knew Apollo 11 would be successful, reading about it was still suspenseful. Nowadays, we may take for granted all the risks involved, and these guys faced the unknown every time they left the earth’s surface. The entire episode regarding Apollo 1’s fatal fire and the chapters dealing with it were devastating, and those men were still on terra firma. This was a riveting and informative book that detailed all the specifics of the space program without being too technical. Considering how many genius minds were involved in achieving one of mankind’s greatest achievements, I would say this book was incredibly successful in in its accessibility, scope, and ability to evoke awe-inspiring wonder. I received a complimentary copy of this book via Goodreads First Reads.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bob Kuster

    Fifty years later, the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space program remain as interesting as ever. Even though we know how the story ends, James Donovan makes us sweat through some very tense moments.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Williams

    I have previously read numerous books about the space race and Apollo 11. At first, this book appeared to be one of those that rehashed everything that I had learned previously with no new information or insights. However, James Donovan really did his homework and gave key insights to the men of Apollo 11, including the technicians and flight controllers (not just the astronauts), which took me by surprise. Additionally, he put together a seamless narrative from Operation Paperclip through Apoll I have previously read numerous books about the space race and Apollo 11. At first, this book appeared to be one of those that rehashed everything that I had learned previously with no new information or insights. However, James Donovan really did his homework and gave key insights to the men of Apollo 11, including the technicians and flight controllers (not just the astronauts), which took me by surprise. Additionally, he put together a seamless narrative from Operation Paperclip through Apollo 11 focusing on the previous missions and knowledge that led up to the successful moon landing. While he kept his focus mainly on Apollo 11, the fact that he brought so much more into the mix, it really is a well told history of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. Unfortunately, because he stops at Apollo 11, the subsequent moonlanding missions, which were just as important, came across as an after thought in the epilogue. It would have been nice for those crews to not get overlooked in this book like they get overlooked everywhere else. That was the biggest disappointment. Nonetheless, this is a very well done book. If you aren't a space junkie like me, this would be a good starting point to understand the complexities and the context behind the space race. He gets technical enough for you to "get it" without bogging down the text with an overload of acronyms and a treatise on orbital mechanics. This alone makes it one of the better reads of space race material in the marketplace. Job well done.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Hall

    This is clearly a well-researched book, full of fun little facts about NASA, the men behind mission control, and the astronauts, all to celebrate the fact that we are coming up to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. I think a book like this, which covers so much ground, can easily fall into the trap of being too science-heavy and therefore unapproachable or boring by readers who aren't familiar with terminology. However, I think Donovan did an excellent job making this accessible for all r This is clearly a well-researched book, full of fun little facts about NASA, the men behind mission control, and the astronauts, all to celebrate the fact that we are coming up to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. I think a book like this, which covers so much ground, can easily fall into the trap of being too science-heavy and therefore unapproachable or boring by readers who aren't familiar with terminology. However, I think Donovan did an excellent job making this accessible for all readers and keeping the story engaging with a good mix of human anecdotes mixed with science. The best part was hands-down the chapter when Armstrong and Aldrin were landing the LM on the moon. I already knew how the story ended, but I still found myself on the edge of my seat, waiting for something catastrophic to happen. That was truly great writing on Donovan's part. The only problem I had was that I thought there would be more focus on the actual Apollo 11 voyage, but that was actually only the very last portion of the book, which I think the blurb is not very clear about. It's definitely more about the race that led to the moon landing and the initial creation of NASA, as well as the Mercury and Gemini missions. This is more a criticism on the way the book is advertised, rather than the book itself, because those parts were still very interesting. My review is based on an ARC I received from the publisher.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Robert Sparrenberger

    If you wanted to read just one book on the space race through the Apollo 11 moon landing, this is your book. It’s well written with good pace and not too technical to bore some readers. A couple of quick comments in response to some of the reviews. 1. The subtitle does say the space race and Apollo 11. This is not just a book about the Apollo 11 moon landing. It’s everything leading up to that just as it states on the cover. 2. This sort of book has been written before. I’m Sure they are good too If you wanted to read just one book on the space race through the Apollo 11 moon landing, this is your book. It’s well written with good pace and not too technical to bore some readers. A couple of quick comments in response to some of the reviews. 1. The subtitle does say the space race and Apollo 11. This is not just a book about the Apollo 11 moon landing. It’s everything leading up to that just as it states on the cover. 2. This sort of book has been written before. I’m Sure they are good too. Please let me know what they are. 3. There was plenty of space devoted to the moon landing in my opinion. Over 100 pages are devoted to it out of 392 readable pages of text. Wonderful book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ang

    This was good, but I'm not sure it's better than Chaiken's A Man on the Moon or Wolfe's The Right Stuff, honestly. It's not covering new ground, I don't think. A Man on the Moon might still be the definitive book. But I'll read almost anything about the space race, and this fit the bill.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11 by James Donovan is a truly riveting book. I read it out loud to one of my sisters and we were both pretty glued to it. We read it over the space (no pun intended) of about three or four days. We have never really read a book about the race to space and this book was a good introduction to it all. As the title implies, it details the space race between the Russians and Americans to get someone into space, and on the moon Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11 by James Donovan is a truly riveting book. I read it out loud to one of my sisters and we were both pretty glued to it. We read it over the space (no pun intended) of about three or four days. We have never really read a book about the race to space and this book was a good introduction to it all. As the title implies, it details the space race between the Russians and Americans to get someone into space, and on the moon, first and thus doing it as fast as possible. The timeline is a little mixed up, but it works. Generally speaking, the account is heading toward the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. But first, you are going to learn how this all got started. You learn how NASA came into being and the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, and details about the efforts of both the Russians and the Americans just to get out of our planet's atmosphere. It is quite intense at times. The author writes very well, and, as I already mentioned, he really pulled my sister and I into the history. Even the little details and challenges faced were fascinating to learn. I'll give several of them here: For instance, part of the problem faced by the designers of the first space crafts to exit our atmosphere was how to return them to earth safely without them burning up in the descent. Part of what helped them was noticing what type of meteors made it all the way through the earth's atmosphere to the earth, "So when two of Faget's colleagues, Harvey Allen and Alfred Eggers, pointed out that meteors with rounded noses were aerodynamically stable and survived the searing heat of the plunge - they had been studying the concept for years…" And another one: I'd never really considered that they had to use military/battlefield rockets to get into space. It makes sense of course now. And because the astronauts, upon reentry might end up landing anywhere on earth, they had to have survival training in a variety of environments. I'll give one last interesting detail, while on their way to the moon they would put their spaceship into a rotation, essentially, spinning their way to the moon. Why? Because the side facing the sun was too hot and could cause damage to the craft, but the side facing away from the sun was too cold and could also be a hazard, so in order to even it out they would put it into a spin. Along the way, you are introduced to various people who took part in this grand mission to get a man on the moon. Donovan vividly portrays this large mix of individuals with, sometimes vastly, different backgrounds (one of the important men involved was a former SS officer who ended up on some Disney television presentations!), all using their various skills to work together to achieve one goal. All in all, I really liked this book. It really keeps the attention and interest all of the way through.* It really did almost seem as though we'd travelled back in time, as it were, to these historic events. One more note. It is fascinating for me to mull over the thought that, though God stopped people thousands of years ago from building the Tower of Babel, yet in the past hundred years, He has allowed us to go to the Moon. When you learn that the Apollo 8 astronauts were the first to leave earth's orbit and go around the moon, it almost gives me chills to think that, when they looked out of the window and saw the earth looking so small, they were the first humans God allowed to see it from that perspective. Many thanks to the folks at Little Brown and Company for sending me a free advanced review copy of this book. My review did not have to be favorable. - Because I received an advanced copy of the book, some of the content may be different in the final publication *You may want to know that there is some vulgar language and topics, also some swearing) in the book. Most of it was in actual quotations of the people in question. Also there were some awkward historical details. This was all stuff that I didn't care to know of so I just scribbled it out and didn't read those parts out loud. And, I want to note that my liking this book does not mean that I agree with all of the author's political, moral, or scientific perspectives.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Mallette

    See my full review here. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the historic landing of humans on the moon, we are seeing books, films and lots of other attention to that amazing scientific feat. But Apollo 11 happened as the result of all the work before it. None of us accomplishes a damn thing on this earth without the help of others, and this book emphasizes that in spades. Donovan's research is meticulous and exhaustive, examining the science, the politics, and the people behind the entire sp See my full review here. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the historic landing of humans on the moon, we are seeing books, films and lots of other attention to that amazing scientific feat. But Apollo 11 happened as the result of all the work before it. None of us accomplishes a damn thing on this earth without the help of others, and this book emphasizes that in spades. Donovan's research is meticulous and exhaustive, examining the science, the politics, and the people behind the entire space race. In Donovan's skilled hands, the reader experiences the events of 1957-1969 as it must have felt in real time. We learn about the technology but just as importantly, the men (and only the men) who made this happen, from the young computer scientists to the grizzled all-male team in a smoky Mission Control, where ashtrays were emptied at the start of every shift. Despite a complete absence of any of the well-documented female contributions to NASA's space missions, I give the book 4 stars out of 5. The writing is tension-filled and real as we witness the highs and lows, the dangers and the successes. An entire chapter is devoted to the Apollo 1 fire that devastated the public as well as the NASA program. There are three sets of photo pages, both black and white and colour, which offer another view of that historic time. Addenda include endnotes, an extensive bibliography, and an adequate index. My thanks to Little, Brown publishers for the advance reading copy provided digitally through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Donovan provided what I had been waiting for all these years, a comprehensive history of the space race; at least, as much as could be encompassed in a book for the general public. In waiting as he did, much information has been released about the Russian efforts. Truly amazing to me, given how hobbled they were by the political and monetary problems surrounding their program. And with only one man coordinating all! As if we had only von Braun, instead of all the talented technicians and administ Donovan provided what I had been waiting for all these years, a comprehensive history of the space race; at least, as much as could be encompassed in a book for the general public. In waiting as he did, much information has been released about the Russian efforts. Truly amazing to me, given how hobbled they were by the political and monetary problems surrounding their program. And with only one man coordinating all! As if we had only von Braun, instead of all the talented technicians and administrators throughout the entire country. As a child of the space race who grew up at the Cape, these tales bolster those I heard from my dad, who worked for McDonnell-Douglas in Guidance and Control, and who could, to the end of his life, remember the thrust equations for the Missile inertial guidance system. As a fun anecdote, when dad could actually get home for some sleep in a bed just before launch, instead of under his desk, he knew just when to run out front in his pjs to watch the rocket rise above the trees. How? All the dogs in the neighborhood started barking furiously, because they could feel the earth tremors that preceded the actual roar of the rocket. As a closing note, on von Braun. As many of us are when caught up in worldwide cataclysm, nobody is anything but human; we can be heroes one moment and fail the next. Sometimes we actually have choices and sometimes not. The man did the best he could, got fooled by the Nazis as did so many millions of others, and struggled free as soon as he could, and saved those he could along with himself. He was a product of his age, tried to escape it, and to an extent did. I was glad to read his entire story.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Dick

    I love reading books and watching documentaries on the early years of NASA (Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs). When I saw that Michael Collins (command module pilot of Apollo 11) said that this was the best book written on Apollo, it told me that I would not be wasting my time reading this book. I was correct. Overall, this is a well-written and balanced book. Even with having considerable amount of knowledge on this period, there was still an abundance of items that I learned. If you are a NA I love reading books and watching documentaries on the early years of NASA (Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs). When I saw that Michael Collins (command module pilot of Apollo 11) said that this was the best book written on Apollo, it told me that I would not be wasting my time reading this book. I was correct. Overall, this is a well-written and balanced book. Even with having considerable amount of knowledge on this period, there was still an abundance of items that I learned. If you are a NASA nerd, reading this will not be redundancy. Donovan covers multiple facets: Von Braun and his group of rocket scientists from WWII Germany, the astronauts, the NASA administrators and politics surrounding the programs, the guys in Mission Control, the engineering behind the spacecrafts and even a brief history of the Soviet space program layered throughout. Even in covering these facets, the pace of the book is not too fast or choppy. The only potential warning I would give is that there is science and engineering explanation throughout the book. They are basic explanations and do not dive into any advanced level though. I believe it adds to the story and helps the reader understand what NASA was up against in being tasked to land a man on the moon. If you are reading for just a story of people and places, you may not find that part enjoyable. For anyone wanting to read about the first 15 years of NASA, THIS would be the book I would recommend.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eric Sullenberger

    This book is a descently thorough review of the early manned space program up through the Apollo 11 mission. It is a little scant on details post-moonwalk/EVA. This book also does an OK job of spotlighting people other than the astronauts themselves. Usually, when a new player is introduced background is given and then that person is included from there on. The major exception to this, which was a little odd (and might be disorienting for anyone not familiar with Apollo history), was of individu This book is a descently thorough review of the early manned space program up through the Apollo 11 mission. It is a little scant on details post-moonwalk/EVA. This book also does an OK job of spotlighting people other than the astronauts themselves. Usually, when a new player is introduced background is given and then that person is included from there on. The major exception to this, which was a little odd (and might be disorienting for anyone not familiar with Apollo history), was of individuals in Mission Control- especially Steve Bales; their stories were disjointed. As these individuals were introduced the background given on them was naturally flashback in nature and separate from the main chronology, but there were a few times where the story deviated from a chronological account that made less sense. There were a few minor mistakes [the number of planned orbits for John Glenn's Mercury flight stands out] and places where one perspective here disagreed with some perspectives told elsewhere. I don't think I agree with the blurb from Michael Collins that this is the best I've read, in fact I think Collins's own autobiography possibly holds that distinction, but it is a good overview and definitely one (if not the top of my list) of the books I would recommend to someone unfamiliar with the history of the Space Race.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I learned as I read this book that I pretty much knew nothing about the space race or NASA or the flight to the moon. I was nominally familiar with a few small bits and pieces of it --Sputnik started it all, von Braun was the guy that built rockets, JFK gave a speech with a deadline, and Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon on July 20th, 1969--but that was about it. So not only did I learn a lot from this book, but I liked how it provided the context and the process for getting to the moon. I also I learned as I read this book that I pretty much knew nothing about the space race or NASA or the flight to the moon. I was nominally familiar with a few small bits and pieces of it --Sputnik started it all, von Braun was the guy that built rockets, JFK gave a speech with a deadline, and Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon on July 20th, 1969--but that was about it. So not only did I learn a lot from this book, but I liked how it provided the context and the process for getting to the moon. I also really liked how after explaining each step of the progressing missions from Mercury through Gemini to Apollo, the author summarized what the engineers and astronauts at NASA learned and how it helped them move on to the next task. Unexpectedly, the part about the actual Apollo 11 mission to the moon was less interesting to me than the rest of the book. It seemed like more of a checklist (they did this and then they did that...) and less like the narrative of the first 3/4 of the book. I kind of wish I had read this before I saw the documentary Apollo 11 because then I would have understood more of what I saw. Though having already seen the documentary I probably picked up on more in the book than I would have otherwise.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Patrick DiJusto

    Let's face it, you know what it's like with me and books about the Apollo space program. I love them all, and I'm also super critical of them all. That's just the way it is. This Book is no different. Clearly written to capitalize on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, this book takes a look at the entire American Space Program from before the beginning to just after the Apollo 11 crew return to Earth safely. Clearly, it was written for people who didn't know much about the Apollo Let's face it, you know what it's like with me and books about the Apollo space program. I love them all, and I'm also super critical of them all. That's just the way it is. This Book is no different. Clearly written to capitalize on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, this book takes a look at the entire American Space Program from before the beginning to just after the Apollo 11 crew return to Earth safely. Clearly, it was written for people who didn't know much about the Apollo program before this year, and want to catch up on what all the excitement was about. But of course, try as they might, no writer about the space program can't escape my scrutiny. The book is loaded with tiny little insignificant errors, most of which me nothing, but which nonetheless drive me up the wall because after all, they're WRONG. But really, that's my problem, not yours. Whatever tiny errors exist in the book don't detract from the books relevance; you're still going to learn a lot of valuable information about the Golden Age of the US Space Program.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Having grown up in the Sixties, I was an eager follower of any and all coverage of the space race, and since then I have read every book I could find to relive those days. So I was delighted when I was selected as one of the winners of this giveaway. This book is an excellent overview of the U. S. manned space program from Mercury through Apollo 11. For those just starting to learn about this amazing effort, it is a great starting point. Sadly, as time goes on, there are fewer and fewer of us who Having grown up in the Sixties, I was an eager follower of any and all coverage of the space race, and since then I have read every book I could find to relive those days. So I was delighted when I was selected as one of the winners of this giveaway. This book is an excellent overview of the U. S. manned space program from Mercury through Apollo 11. For those just starting to learn about this amazing effort, it is a great starting point. Sadly, as time goes on, there are fewer and fewer of us who remember those times, but Mr. Donovans' book will be a great starting point to introduce future generations to this amazing adventure. While I did not expect to see anything new to me in the book, there were several occasions where I stopped and thought "I didn't know that". The book was also a good introduction to many of the key people who help bring this about, including many mission planners, designers, flight controllers, project managers, NASA executives and politicians, and of course the astronauts. I would highly recommend it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    What were the dangers and challenges of the Apollo 11 mission? Were they different from those of the Mercury and Gemini missions that defined America’s first steps away from their home planet? Combining in-depth research with new interviews, the author offers an overview of the American space program, including the historic Apollo 11 mission to the moon. A wide selection of well-chosen photographs accompanies the narrative; extensive notes and bibliographic information follow the text. Although What were the dangers and challenges of the Apollo 11 mission? Were they different from those of the Mercury and Gemini missions that defined America’s first steps away from their home planet? Combining in-depth research with new interviews, the author offers an overview of the American space program, including the historic Apollo 11 mission to the moon. A wide selection of well-chosen photographs accompanies the narrative; extensive notes and bibliographic information follow the text. Although eminently readable and notably enthusiastic, similar narratives have included most of the information related here. Unfortunately, several inconsistencies and errors both with quotations and with recounting of events, while seemingly insignificant in the overall picture of the space program, are certain to be a stumbling block for readers who grew up reading about the space program in the daily newspaper and watching Walter Cronkite’s space reports on the evening news. Recommended.

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