This year, we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of one of the biggest news stories of the 20th century, the first moon landing on July 20, 1969. Capturing the interest, hearts, and intellect of countless people around the world, the space race, leading up to the first moon landing, was a serious competition between the USA and the USSR, and was generally less dangerous than the other Cold War tensions. The Apollo program was at the heart of our moon strategy, and Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon is remembered by countless global citizens.
Through our series of Apollo celebratory posts, we here at the Geek Family Blogs are covering many aspects of the moon landing, from the build-up to the event itself to its legacy. My post covers a new book by space historian Roger D. Launius entitled Apollo’s Legacy: Perspectives on the Moon Landings.
Apollo’s Legacy covers a number of topics related to the Apollo missions, including the history behind the development of the missions, setbacks encountered along the way, our bold successes, a close look at the astronauts and their wives, how images and photography played a huge part in documenting the missions and scientific observations (allowing Earth-bound scientists and people here at home to explore along with the astronauts), the science included in the missions, applying the lessons we learned through the missions to issues here on Earth, comparing to religion the passion for developing and continuing spaceflight, what is left of Apollo-related artifacts, how we remember the missions today, and even moon landing hoaxers. Though only about 200 pages, the book is pretty text heavy, but it’s a completely accessible and detailed narrative filled with stories from that part of our history and its lasting effects today. It’s a fascinating read! And the back of the book has an extensive notes and bibliography section for those wanting to learn even more.
One of the unique and valuable qualities of this book is that the author has pulled insight from many different groups of people, and from those with different perspectives (thus the subtitle), and it covers positive and negative reactions to the Apollo program; you don’t get a one-sided view of Apollo and the moon landings in this book. Because of that, it has a more realistic feel, more reflective of how things probably were, than many shiny, happy retrospectives. It includes viewpoints such as: the program was a huge piece of technological progress, the program was too expensive, the program spurred scientific advances that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise, and the moon landings never actually happened, despite overwhelming proof to the contrary.
Reading this book is like getting a series of close glimpses into the operations, experiences, and effects of the space race. It even includes a list of the top 10 scientific discoveries made as a result of the Apollo missions, according to lunar scientists in the mid ’90s. Number 4 on that list begins: “The Moon and Earth are genetically related and formed from different proportions of a common reservoir of materials…” This is a really big deal in understanding how our planetary system formed.
This book may not be the most comprehensive resource out there, but if you want to dig deep into the Apollo program and learn about aspects that are just touched upon in broader references, Apollo’s Legacy is a really interesting read. It puts more of a personal face on the Apollo program, which is something that I place a great value on. Names, dates, and statistics can only get you so far.
Popular culture is full of nods to this important anniversary, including this year’s new Apollo 11 documentary, along with gorgeous LEGO sets, including the brand new Lunar Lander and the somewhat recent Saturn V Rocket. Space stuff is always cool, but you will find that it has even more meaning and significance when you learn a fuller context for events. This book can be a helpful part of that.
Apollo’s Legacy: Perspectives on the Moon Landings is available now and is perfect for space race enthusiasts of all generations. If you’re interested in learning more about how people felt and feel about the Apollo program and moon landings, this book is a great option. And if, like me, you were born just a few years too late to see/remember any of the moon landings (I was born in 1973!), you’ll treasure this opportunity to learn about this chapter in history from new perspectives.
About the author: Normally I don’t give a little paragraph about the authors of books I review, but this one deserves a quick note. Roger D. Launius is a former associate director of collections and curatorial affairs at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and he served as chief historian of NASA from 1990 to 2002. He also authored The Smithsonian History of Space Exploration, which I reviewed on GeekDad previously. This guy knows his stuff.
Note: I received a preview copy of the book for review purposes.