cover image Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon

Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon

Craig Nelson, . . Viking, $27.95 (404pp) ISBN 978-0-670-02103-1

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. In this extensively researched account of that epic achievement, former publishing executive and prize-winning author Nelson (The First Heroes ) moves seamlessly between Apollo 11 astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, their nervous families and the equally nervous NASA ground crew. Nelson follows Armstrong in nail-biting detail as he tries to find a place to land with less than a minute’s worth of fuel remaining. A large central section of the book digresses to provide some backstory on the feverish American-Soviet game of one-upmanship in the year leading up to the Apollo 11 launch. For instance, Nelson describes Apollo 8 as an almost reckless gamble by NASA to beat the Russians in sending men to orbit the moon The book also describes the sad personal toll the mission took. Collins was best able to deal with the cost of fame yet expressed the anticlimax of life after Apollo 11 : “I seem gripped by earthly ennui.” Space fans and readers who remember that momentous time will find this an exciting read. (June 29)