ROCKET MEN: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon by Robert Kurson (Random House; 2018) tells the story of the historic flight of Apollo 8, which was the first manned flight to the Moon that took place during Christmastime of 1968. As we near the 50th anniversary of this stupendous scientific and engineering feat, this flight has become relegated to a secondary position behind the mission of Apollo 11 which landed the first men on the Moon, but even also behind that of Apollo 13, the ill-fated yet heroic mission immortalized in Ron Howard’s film Apollo 13, featuring Tom Hanks. However, author and historian Kurson does a very admirable job into describing in great detail all aspects of this mission and its crew — demonstrating the extreme risks and bravado it took to launch this mission with most of its aspects never truly tested in real life — but to succeed in a most spectacular fashion.

The book details the lives of backgrounds of the three astronauts — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders — as well as the Cold War race for the Moon and the history of NASA, to lay out a landscape of all of the many facets that went into the planning and execution of what in retrospect may have been the single-most daring scientific experiment ever conducted. Taking place over the Christmas holidays at the end of what history has marked as one of the most fractious and divisive years in American history — 1968 — the Apollo 8 mission not only provided a huge leap in human scientific and technical achievement, but also helped to demonstrate that the United States was still the world-leader in technology and sheer enthusiasm in the can-do world of the 60’s. Any reader interested in history and technology will find this book both engrossing and enlightening. Highly recommended!


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