Categories: Book Reviews

Book Review: Missions to the Moon

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The Apollo Moon missions stand as the ultimate in humankind’s ascension beyond Earth. Only a few, favoured individuals explored, frolicked and golfed on the Moon’s surface. But their favour came with the grace of the Apollo program, countless individuals and an extraordinary effort by one nation in a race with another. Rod Pyle in his portfolio book “Missions to the Moon” provides an entertaining resource for anyone wanting to relook at one of “Man’s Greatest Adventure”.

This portfolio book has few pages, only 63. But the wealth of material doesn’t reflect this. Each pair of pages serves as a self-contained chapter and the book’s 27 chapters quickly run through the whole event in chronological order.

Its arrangement comes with no surprises. Half the book is the lead up to the first landing by the crew of Apollo 11. Giving due coverage to the imagination of Jules Verne, the exigencies of war, the impetus of the space race and the preliminary test flights, the book sets the stage. With the use of judiciously chosen photographs, artifact images and copied publications, the book pulls the reader into the emotions and the times. For example, there’s a portrait of a young Jules Verne and an image of one of his books. As well, a copy of the FBI’s 1948 review details von Braun’s possible political background. And, a copy of a 1969 issue of Pravda, in Cyrillic, has a translation describing the Soyuz-4 and 5 flights. These and many more make the book’s overall arrangement simple but effective in learning of and sharing a grand experience.

The second half of the book continues on with a chapter devoted to each Apollo Moon mission and all their glory. The inserts continue to breathe freshness into the book, whether of a quote for the life insurance for the crew of Apollo 11, the flight director’s log for Apollo 13, or of a postcard that plots the traverse accomplished by the crew of Apollo 16. The last chapters nicely conclude the book by reviewing Skylab, the space shuttle and China’s Shenzhou program. The final chapter sums it all up with its dreams of a Moonbase built jointly through the aid of Ares, Soyuz, Ariane and Shenzou programs, all without the impetus of a race.

This book’s key attractions, aside from its subject, are the many stand alone reproductions of period paperwork. These, together with the completeness of the review, make this book a superb teaching resource. The many brief chapters would mesh well with the short attention span of young students. And, as Gene Kranz well says in the foreword, “…my hope is that a new generation of explorers will once again find the leadership, the spirit and the courage to boldly go forward and complete what we started. This book is a meaningful step in that direction”.

Perhaps surprisingly, there’s nothing but paper media. No audio or video material is hiding in any CD. This makes the book a standalone resource but it misses the opportunity of using a powerful, efficient delivery method.

The Apollo Moon program arose from the accumulation of many providential, disparate reasons. The end result was a success perhaps beyond the dreams of many of the early rocketeers. Yet, we did place humans on the Moon and Rod Pyle’s book “Missions to the Moon” allows a reader to glimpse the work, tears and laughter that accompanied the journey.

Mark Mortimer

Mark gets amazed at science. Awed with technology. And bemused by society. For example, people have stepped on the Moon, traveled faster than sound in the Concorde, and taken showers in the A380. All these are examples of the strengths of people's intellect. Yet, all these capabilities haven fallen to the wayside while online poker continually garners greater favour. As a counterbalance, Mark presents book reviews in the hope of nurturing young minds with the belief that mankind is more than shear dumb luck.

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Mark Mortimer

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