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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

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“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 that 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: 9781665098663
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/06/2021
Sales rank: 982,446
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 5.70(h) x (d)

About the Author

Earl Swift has been a reporter for the Virginian-Pilot in for more than two decades. He is the award-winning author of Where They Lay and Journey on the James. A former Fulbright Fellow, he is currently a resident fellow at the University of Virginia’s Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

Adam Verner is a stage, film, television, and voice actor and an Earphones Award–winning audiobook narrator. He holds a BS in theater arts from Bradley University and an MFA from Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

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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