Across the Airless Wilds: The Lunar Rover and the Triumph of the Final Moon Landings

Across the Airless Wilds: The Lunar Rover and the Triumph of the Final Moon Landings

by Earl Swift

Hardcover

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Overview

“Earl Swift lays out this great unsung saga with verve and magisterial sweep." —Hampton Sides

In this "brilliantly observed" (Newsweek) rediscovery of the final Apollo moon landings, the acclaimed author of Chesapeake Requiem reveals why these extraordinary yet overshadowed missions—distinguished by the use of the revolutionary lunar roving vehicle—deserve to be celebrated as the pinnacle of human adventure and exploration.

8:36 P.M. EST, December 12, 1972: Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt braked to a stop alongside Nansen Crater, keenly aware that they were far, far from home. They had flown nearly a quarter-million miles to the man in the moon’s left eye, landed at its edge, and then driven five miles in to this desolate, boulder-strewn landscape. As they gathered samples, they strode at the outermost edge of mankind’s travels. This place, this moment, marked the extreme of exploration for a species born to wander. 

A few feet away sat the machine that made the achievement possible: an electric go-cart that folded like a business letter, weighed less than eighty pounds in the moon’s reduced gravity, and muscled its way up mountains, around craters, and over undulating plains on America’s last three ventures to the lunar surface. 

In the decades since, the exploits of the astronauts on those final expeditions have dimmed in the shadow cast by the first moon landing. But Apollo 11 was but a prelude to what came later: while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin trod a sliver of flat lunar desert smaller than a football field, Apollos 15, 16, and 17 each commanded a mountainous area the size of Manhattan. All told, their crews traveled fifty-six miles, and brought deep science and a far more swashbuckling style of exploration to the moon. And they triumphed for one very American reason: they drove.

In this fast-moving history of the rover and the adventures it ignited, Earl Swift puts the reader alongside the men who dreamed of driving on the moon and designed and built the vehicle, troubleshot its flaws, and drove it on the moon’s surface. Finally shining a deserved spotlight on these overlooked characters and the missions they created, Across the Airless Wilds is a celebration of human genius, perseverance, and daring.



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062986535
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/06/2021
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 21,426
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 6.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Journalist Earl Swift has written five books, including The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways (2011). Since 2012 he has been a residential fellow of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities at the University of Virginia.

Table of Contents

Part 1 The Difference It Made 1

Part 2 Nation of Immigrants 19

Part 3 Principal Considerations 61

Part 4 "We Must Do This!" 119

Part 5 A Painfully Trying Task 173

Part 6 Across the Airless Wilds 227

Part 7 Tire Tracks 291

Acknowledgments 307

Notes 313

Index 359

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