Review: A Man On the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts

A Man On the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo AstronautsA Man On the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book that was used by Ron Howard, et al to make the Apollo 13 movie!

I got this book as part of a space-themed Humble Audiobook Bundle. As I was choosing the next audiobook I’d listen to whenever I ran out of podcast, I decided to go for non-fiction book. And so I started my journey through a couple decades of NASA history. Once things get going (ie the men are on their way to the moon), Chaikin does an excellent job of switching POVs throughout the mission to give us some insight into each man’s thoughts, challenges, and even prank ideas. Since hacks/hackers originate with the MIT train team and the Stanford/Caltech student pranks, it’s no surprise that NASA missions had the same kinds of Easter Eggs one finds in video games (especially in the more wild-west era of video game development before everything became AAA multi-million dollar games in the late 90s; of course with the re-emergence of indie games you’re seeing them again). As examples, there were jokes embedded in their instruction manuals, various parts of the spaceships, or in coded messages back and forth with NASA HQ.

As someone born a generation too late, with the much less exciting Hubble, Spacelab, MIR, etc in my lifetime, Chaikin did a great job of both putting me into the mindset of America at the time and humanizing the astronauts. (Like the best historians do for the Founding Fathers we always learn about from a distance in school). If you’re interested in NASA history, I think it’s harder to find a better recommendation than this book.

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