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

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

by Craig Nelson, Richard McGonagle (Other)

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Unabridged CDs—18 hours, 14 CDs

A richly detailed and dramatic account of one of the greatest achievements of humankind.


Unabridged CDs—18 hours, 14 CDs

A richly detailed and dramatic account of one of the greatest achievements of humankind.

Editorial Reviews

"One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." Neil Armstrong's historic words stretched across hundreds of front pages worldwide in July 1969. The success of Apollo 11's lunar mission galvanized world attention as even wars and assassinations had not. Craig Nelson's Rocket Men utilizes a wealth of primary materials including 23,000 pages of NASA oral histories and recently declassified CIA documents to tell the full story of a 20th-century pilgrimage that changed our relationship with the universe.
Thomas Mallon
Among Nelson's achievements is the restoration of a certain grandeur to the moon itself…
—The New York Times
Joel Achenbach
…captures the drama and chaos of July 1969 and the almost unbearable tension of the moon landing…Nelson describes the landing so vividly that the engrossed reader isn't sure that Armstrong and crewmate Buzz Aldrin are going to make it.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, historian Nelson offers a compelling account of the Apollo 11 mission, creating such an authentic retelling that listeners will find themselves sweating the outcome right until the very moment that Neil Armstrong sets foot on the lunar surface. Richard McGonagle delivers a rich and layered performance as he navigates through the mix of interviews, anecdotes and declassified documents and renders the central figures as endearing and heroic as they were in their heyday. A fascinating and compulsive listening experience. A Viking hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 20). (June)
Library Journal

July marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. This exhaustively researched history by a history writer (The First Heros) reveals many little-known details about the mission and its astronauts. For example, a recurring problem for NASA was the strong, human-generated odors that permeated its space capsules. The book is also a collective biography of the mission's three astronauts—Neal Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins—and describes how the intensive press coverage affected their families. The mission changed their lives forever, but, later, the fame brought on problems like alcoholism and divorce. Nelson also devotes major sections to a discussion of the history of rocketry, human space flight, and the Space Race. He closes with a poignant, forward-looking analysis of human space exploration and Apollo 11's place in history. VERDICT Sure to appeal to serious space history fans. [See Prepub Alert, LJ3/15/09; out this month from Harmony is Aldrin's Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon.—Ed.]—Jeffrey Beall, Univ. of Colorado Lib., Denver

—Jeffrey Beall
Kirkus Reviews
A thorough recounting-as full in human terms as in scientific and technical detail-of NASA's first manned Moon landing. Ever since that day, Jul. 16, 1969, when the Apollo 11 mission put its lunar module on the surface of the Moon and astronaut Neil Armstrong took the last long step down its ladder, critics have argued the purpose and strategic value of that incredibly daunting, expensive and risky project. In the capable hands of Nelson (Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations, 2006, etc.), however, those arguments simply give way to inspirational history. The event seems strangely remote, something brief and shining-or, as the author quotes one NASA executive, "almost a kind of blip." The author's real achievement is the vivid re-creation of the atmosphere within the program, complete with unsolvable problems, oscillating team morale and serious career envy. For example, astronaut Buzz Aldrin was initially slotted to step first to the surface, but mission commander Armstrong exercised the privilege of rank. The result, the author calculates, negatively affected Aldrin for years afterward. (For more detailed information, see Aldrin's upcoming Magnificent Desolation, 2009.) Nelson also offers lucid insights into the gilded bureaucracy of the space program-NASA's tech-speak often served to isolate the press and public from the complexity of longer odds and much higher risks than outsiders suspected. Nelson capably decodes it as the tale unfolds. He quotes astronaut Michael Collins, who stayed in lunar orbit: "To me, the marvel is that it all worked like clockwork. I almost said, ‘magic.' There might be a little magic mixed up in the back of that big clocksomewhere. Because everything worked as it was supposed to, nobody messed up, and even I didn't make mistakes."The definitive account of a watershed in American history.

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Edition description:
Unabridged, 14 CDs
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 5.80(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Craig Nelson is the author of four previous books, including The First Heroes and Let's Get Lost. His writings have appeared in Salon, The New England Review, Blender, Genre, and a host of other publications. He was an editor at HarperCollins, Hyperion, and Random House for almost twenty years and has been profiled by Variety, Interview, Manhattan, Inc., and Time Out.

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