Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon

I admit I was space crazy as a girl, and forty-nine years later I am still thrilled when reading about the time 'when dreams came true' and men first went into space.

Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon by Jeffrey Kluger didn't disappoint. Although Apollo 8 doesn't have the inherent drama of the Apollo 13 mission, which Kluger and Lovett wrote about, the narrative is engrossing and riveting. 

NASA badly needed a success after the deaths of astronauts Grissom, White, and Chaffee in 1967 while testing Apollo 1. And so did an America entrenched in a spiraling war, enduring multiple assassinations, and experiencing civic unrest. Getting to the moon by 1970, as President Kennedy had challenged, seemed more unlikely than ever. Apollo 1 and the Saturn V rocket had both failed. The Vietnam war was draining our coffers and the space program was losing support.  NASA had to buckle down and recommit to excellence. 

Gemini 7 astronauts Borman and Lovell were slated to spend fourteen days in space as human 'lab rats'. Then came the idea of sending Gemini 6 up after launching Gemini 7, a joint mission that would allow the spacecraft to approach each other to prove that docking could be possible. 

It was just the huge success NASA, and the country needed. 

As I read about Borman and Lovell and Gemini 6 and 7 I  remembered my scrapbook with clippings and pages of articles.
Bill Mauldin on Apollo 8

I even made my own drawing.
My drawing of Gemini 6 and 7
Next up was Apollo 8, the second manned Apollo mission, which was to orbit the moon in December 1968, paving the way for Apollo 11 and a lunar landing. Anders, Borman, and Lovett had sixteen weeks to prepare. It was a crazy risk. 

It was so interesting to read about the astronaut's life in space: motion sickness, meals, personal needs, illness, accidents, boredom--and the wonder of being the first humans to see Earth wholly suspended in the infinite universe. "This must be what God sees," Borman thought when he saw Earth. 

The amazing astronaut's wives stories are also impressive, accepting the risks of their husband's career and keeping home and children 'normal' in spite of legions of news reporters surrounding their homes.

By the time of Apollo 8 my scrapbook days were over. But that mission had changed how my generation saw the world, spurring a new environmental awareness. Ander's photograph Earthrise was the first to impact Earthling's view of their place in the universe, a lesson we have sadly forgotten. This fragile, amazing planet is our home. 

Earthrise NASA

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Read more about the Apollo program at

Search for more photos from the Apollo programs at

Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon
Jeffrey Kluger
Henry Holt & Co
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
$30 hardcover

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