Seymour Simon, author of more than 300 books for young readers and winner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Lifetime Achievement Award, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in Destination: Moon (HarperCollins, May), which examines the science and technology that made it possible.
How did you tackle your research for this project?
I’d read many reports about NASA and the space race over the years, but I intensified my research and read many accounts, including those by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, as well as Tom Wolfe’s excellent story of the first astronauts, The Right Stuff. Liz Nealon, who works on photo research for my books, also did extensive archival research, searching out first-person accounts from periodicals of the time, and scouring NASA’s entire Apollo 11 archive to find familiar and less-known images and information. This book was as much history as science, and that requires a different kind of research and writing.
What are your memories of the 1969 moon landing, and how do you hope Destination: Moon will bring the event to life for kids?
My reaction to the Apollo moon landing was rooted in my early childhood fascination with science fiction and outer space, which colored my delighted and awed response to seeing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon. I want my readers to feel those same sensations of wonder and excitement. This quest to explore our nearest neighbor in space was only the beginning of a quest to explore the planets of our solar system and eventually the stars and even the universe.
What major milestones in space exploration do you anticipate your readers will witness in their lifetimes?
Many of the imminent breakthroughs in our knowledge of what’s out there in space probably will come from the James Webb Space Telescope, which will search for early galaxies formed after the big bang, as well as the formation of stars. We’ll also learn more about the properties of exoplanets—planets outside our solar system—as well as the planets and moons in our own solar system. Other major events to look forward to are future space shots to Mars, close encounters with asteroids, studies of Jupiter’s icy moons, and the possibility of discovering signs of life beyond Earth. Perhaps we may even be able to decode radio signals from distant civilizations orbiting other stars. Who knows what may happen in space exploration in future years and decades?