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The untold story of the historic voyage to the moon that closed out one of our darkest years with a nearly unimaginable triumph
In August 1968, NASA made a bold decision: in just sixteen weeks, the United States would launch humankind’s first flight to the moon. Only the year before, three astronauts had burned to death in their spacecraft, and since then the Apollo program had suffered one setback after another. Meanwhile, the Russians were winning the space race, the Cold War was getting hotter by the month, and President Kennedy’s promise to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade seemed sure to be broken. But when Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders were summoned to a secret meeting and told of the dangerous mission, they instantly signed on.
Written with all the color and verve of the best narrative non-fiction, Apollo 8 takes us from Mission Control to the astronaut’s homes, from the test labs to the launch pad. The race to prepare an untested rocket for an unprecedented journey paves the way for the hair-raising trip to the moon. Then, on Christmas Eve, a nation that has suffered a horrendous year of assassinations and war is heartened by an inspiring message from the trio of astronauts in lunar orbit. And when the mission is over—after the first view of the far side of the moon, the first earth-rise, and the first re-entry through the earth’s atmosphere following a flight to deep space—the impossible dream of walking on the moon suddenly seems within reach.
The full story of Apollo 8 has never been told, and only Jeffrey Kluger—Jim Lovell’s co-author on their bestselling book about Apollo 13—can do it justice. Here is the tale of a mission that was both a calculated risk and a wild crapshoot, a stirring account of how three American heroes forever changed our view of the home planet.
In spare yet vivid prose, Kluger (with Jim Lovell, coauthor of Apollo 13), senior writer at Time, captures the nostalgia and excitement of a space-drunk nation in this gripping account of the first lunar mission. Beginning years before the 1968 launch, the story revolves around Apollo 8 s crew: Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders. Slated for Apollo 9, they were switched to the first moonshot in an ambitious bid to meet President Kennedy s timetable. Kluger sets the crew s personal histories amid the space race, NASA s early days, and the Gemini 7 program, in which Borman and Lovell orbited Earth in their underwear, eating lots of fruitcake packaged like unholy sausage links. Kluger s extensive research and relatable analogies show how the levers of the great American moon machine were being thrown. Launching a mass of foil origami takes a village, and such major players as Chris Kraft as well as the crew s families are brilliantly sketched. Readers will relish Kluger s multisensory prose, and the whole gamut of space flight comes alive in the details. Moreover, extensive interviews lend authenticity to the dialogue and character sketches. Kluger s laudable storytelling novelistically conveys the charged politics of the era while revealing difficult technical concepts.