A Man on the Moon, written by Andrew Chaikin, is the definitive recounting of the amazing journey the United Sates took From the Earth to the Moon.** I was given this book for my birthday by a good buddy. I’m very happy to have gotten it. I could not put it down.
Chaikin takes you on a trip through history beginning with the famous speech by John F. Kennedy where he commits the nation to ‘put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth before the decade is out,’ and ending with the final Apollo mission, Apollo 17. The book is a vivid recounting of each major mission in the apollo program. But Chaikin doesn’t just focus on the missions, but on the people who flew them, and the people who organized them. You get to learn about the kind of people the astronauts were, what their past was like, and how they delt with their trips to the moon.
What’s amazing is how Chaikin wrote this book. He interviewed 23 of the 24 men who were lucky enough to travel to and from the moon. Apparently each interview was hours upon hours. Chaikin used these interviews, along with many other texts/references to bring us back to humanity’s giant leap: how we did it, why we did it, what it was like, and how we’ve delt with it since.
In reading this book, it honestly felt like I was right there, back in the 60’s glued to a television screen as Armstrong took his first steps, as Lovell commanded Apollo 13 through its trials, as Conrad bounced around merrily, and as Scott dropped the Feather and the Hammer. This may have been because Chaikin wrote it much like a story, he includes dialogue, from the real missions. It’s as if you’re listening to the transmissions as you read.
This book inspired the HBO series ‘From the Earth to the Moon,’ produced by Tom Hanks. As Hanks was researching for his role as Jim Lovell in the film Apollo 13, he read Chaikin’s book. After completeing Apollo 13, Hanks moved forward with telling the rest of the Apollo story, basing the series almost entirely on this book.
I can’t say enough good things about it. I was completely hooked on reading it, and learned so much about a space age I never knew. Highly recommend reading.
Now I’m off to watch the HBO series!
** From the Earth to the Moon: the title of one of Jules Verne’s books, as well as the title of the HBO miniseries produced by Tom Hanks, based on the book of which this blog post is about.