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Rocket Men

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon

Robert Kurson
Random House
384 pp.
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The year was 1968. Protests against the Vietnam war filled the streets of America, and the United States and the Soviet Union were racing to the moon. In 1969, men would walk on its surface. However, before we could accomplish this feat, we needed to be sure that they could get there and return safely.

Focusing on the Apollo 8 mission—the first manned mission to orbit the moon—in Rocket Men, Robert Kurson vividly transports the reader into the minds of the people involved, especially the astronauts and their wives, as they prepared for and underwent this perilous mission. The possibility of death is a recurring theme. Kurson repeatedly reminds the reader of the fatal fire that claimed the lives of the Apollo 1 astronauts and the experimental nature of space travel. Yet, fear was not at the forefront for Frank Borman, Bill Anders, and Jim Lovell. Instead, the book emphasizes how these brave men were willing to sacrifice everything for their country.

This story, about a little recalled but major move forward into space, will captivate readers of all ages, but as a full-length chapter book with few illustrations or pictures, older readers will have an easier time with this book. Kurson’s evocative writing places the Apollo 8 mission into historical perspective and allows us to vicariously experience the launch of the Saturn V rocket and the awe felt by the first men to leave low Earth orbit.

About the author

The reviewer is a senior editor at Science.