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Rocket Men

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Rocket Men
The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon
By Craig Nelson
Penguin, (2010)
ISBN: 978-0143117162

Reviewed by Herbert White - July 21, 2011

I can vividly remember sitting glued in front of my television as I watched Apollo 11 rocketed off toward the moon. The day was July 16, 1969, and Craig Nelson's new book, Rocket Men wonderfully captures the sense of suspense, wonderment, and the pure thrill that this launch gave to millions of viewers, and those lucky enough to watch the launch in person. While many had, by this time, become inured to the rocket launches, this was an entirely new event, we sending men to the moon with the goal of getting out of their space vehicle and actually walking on the surface of the moon! Consequently, the nation held its breath as the rocket seemed to inch upwards off the launch platform, and we bit our knuckles wondering if the brave men of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins, would survive their unprecedented journey.

In Rocket Men, Nelson provides a chronological narrative that begins on May 20, 1969, when the rocket that was to take the Apollo astronauts to the moon, began its five-mile journey from NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building to the lunch pad. Rocket Men concludes with an overview of the long term repercussions of the Apollo 11 mission, and what it has meant for the cause of space exploration and how it influenced the development of the Space Station and Space Shuttle projects, and what space may hold for us in the future. Nelson also details what happened to the three astronauts after all the hoopla died down - a history that I was unfamiliar with. Like many, my interest was in the mission. Once they were no longer part of the space program, I lost interest in the astronauts. This was, and is, inexcusable, and Nelson has aptly, though unintentionally chastised me, and the space program in general, for so callously discarding and disregarding, once they were not longer needed, the valiant men and women who made the space program a reality.

If you were around when Apollo 11 launched, this book will bring back many found memories, and hopefully rekindle your interested in space exploration if it has waned. For those too young to have witnessed the launch, this book will provide you with a unique glimpse into a pivotal moment in human history, and provide you a taste of what it was like to live through this momentous event - both as a spectator and as a participant.

Rocket Men is a fascinating book to read, and I highly recommend it to anyone interesting in reading a true-life, epic adventure story. The only drawback to this otherwise excellent book is that it does contain several technical and historical errors. While this book is obviously the result of a great deal of research, Nelson is neither a scientist nor historian, he is primarily an editor and literary agent, and he should have taken the extra step of having his book reviewed by relevant specialist in the field he was writing about. Most general readers will not notice these errors, but it is something to keep in mind that this book is not 100% accurate. However, because these errors do exist, this book should not be used as a textbook or supplemental reading in an academic setting. However, if you are reading for pure enjoyment, you will find this book hard to put down - I sure did!

Other books by Craig Nelson include:
Related Reviews:

Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries that Ignited the Space Age, by Matthew Brzezinski.
A riveting account of the early days of the Space Age, and its long term impact on the world.

Sputnik: The Shock of the Century, by Paul Dickson.
This is not only a riveting account of the launch of Sputnik and its aftermath, but it is also fascinating account of the development of rocket technologies, and the space race 'waged' between the Soviet Union and the United States.

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