Other People's Apollo Books

Many books have been published on the American space program in general, and Apollo in particular. Here are a few personal favorites, for some of which I've posted annotations.

Carrying the Fire (1974) by Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 astronaut who didn't land. I consider Collins the most gifted writer among astronauts, and his stories have an insider's view and a humorous conversational tone addressed to general readers, similar to my goals as an author.

A Man on the Moon (1994) by Andrew Chaikin, a masterful narration of all the significant operational details, of the LM and EVA phases particularly, all laid out to challenge but not actually blow away a general reader. There's not much to carp at in the relationship of astronauts and the computer, just a minor niggle here and there. I greatly appreciate Andrew's compliments on my 2010 DASC paper on the Apollo 11 program alarms.

Journey to the Moon (1996) by Eldon C. Hall, my division chief for most of my career at MIT. This more technical book, focusing on the development of Apollo Guidance Computer hardware, is a great resource including many historically valuable photographs. After it came out, I wrote some fairly detailed annotations to amplify or correct several points; these are posted in Ron Burkey's excellent archive.

Moon Lander: How We Developed the Apollo Lunar Module (2001) by Thomas J. Kelly, chief engineer at Grumman. If Apollo was the Moral Equivalent to War, Grumman must have been the gnarliest of trenches. Understanding the combination of technical and political challenges recounted here is essential to anyone who wants to criticize their role. Like Carrying the Fire, above, the insider's view and approach to general readers are similar to my goals.

Apollo (2004) by Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox, a definitive end-to-end story of the entire Apollo program -- if "definitive" can be applied to any Apollo account less than encyclopedia-size. It's particularly good on Apollo 12's recovery from the lightning strike at launch.

The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation (2010) by Frank O'Brien, a tech journalist I'd met at MAPLD conferences. It turns out to be a much more valuable source for the spacecraft subsystems that the AGC worked with, than for the AGC itself. I wrote up my largest annotation ever -- 50 pages for a 439-page book -- to correct inaccuracies about the computer's hardware and software. Although that was in essence a long letter to Frank, I may post it if people are interested.

I've covered David Mindell's Digital Apollo on the Manned Space History page, and I guess I'd better mention one non-book, the From the Earth to the Moon videos, extremely well done.