Now a major film starring Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy and Kyle Chandler, directed by Oscar-winner Damien Chazelle, First Man by James Hansen offers the only authorized glimpse into the life of America’s most famous astronaut, Neil Armstrong – the man whose “one small step” changed history.
In First Man, Hansen explores the life of Neil Armstrong. Based on over 50 hours of interviews with the intensely private Armstrong, who also gave Hansen exclusive access to private documents and family sources, this “magnificent panorama of the second half of the American twentieth century” (Publishers Weekly, Starred Review) is an unparalleled biography of an American icon.
When Apollo 11 touched down on the moon’s surface in 1969, the first man on the moon became a legend. Hansen vividly recreates Armstrong's career in flying, from his seventy-eight combat missions as a naval aviator flying over North Korea to his formative transatmospheric flights in the rocket-powered X-15 to his piloting Gemini VIII to the first-ever docking in space. For a pilot who cared more about flying to the Moon than he did about walking on it, Hansen asserts, Armstrong's storied vocation exacted a dear personal toll, paid in kind by his wife and children. In the years since the Moon landing, rumors swirled around Armstrong concerning his dreams of space travel, his religious beliefs, and his private life.
This book reveals the man behind the myth. In a penetrating exploration of American hero worship, Hansen addresses the complex legacy of the First Man, as an astronaut and as an individual. In First Man, the personal, technological, epic, and iconic blend to form the portrait of a great but reluctant hero who will forever be known as history's most famous space traveler.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
James R. Hansen spent more than 50 hours interviewing Neil Armstrong for this authorised biography—Armstrong himself even helped proofread the final manuscript! The result is an exquisitely detailed chronicle of the events that led up to Armstrong’s iconic 1969 moon landing, as well as its aftermath. Like his outspoken capsule-mate Buzz Aldrin, Armstrong took the opportunity to dispel popular falsehoods about the moon landings; he also shared the truth of what he was thinking and experiencing while on the lunar surface. And readers looking for just a hint of outer-space scandal will relish the astronaut’s behind-the-scenes anecdotes.
On July 20, 1969, a quiet, determined man from Wapakoneta, Ohio, stepped out of his fragile spacecraft and into history. Neil Armstrong engineer, naval aviator, test pilot, astronaut and devoted family man became the first man to walk on the moon. In this powerful, unrelenting biography of a man of no particularly spectacular talent yet who stands as a living testimony to everyday grit and determination, former NASA historian Hansen has achieved something quite remarkable. Like a rich pointillist painting, he has created a magnificent panorama of the second half of the American 20th century by assembling a multitude of luminescent moments in one man's life. From Armstrong's birth to a middle-class family in Ohio to the mind-boggling fame of the Apollo 11 triumph, and later his service on the commission investigating the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster, Hansen details it all. He writes of the number of rounds of 20-millimeter ammunition loosed by Armstrong's fighter squadron in Korea in October 1951 (49,299), his heart rate on liftoff in Gemini VII (146 beats per minute) and the price of a signed Armstrong letter at auction ($2,500). Rather than overwhelming, this accumulation of details gives flesh and-blood reality to a man who is more icon than human. With the recent renewal of interest in manned space travel, this book is a must for astronaut buffs and history readers alike. 24 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.