NBC News correspondent Barbree (Moon Shot) has covered space travel for nearly six decades, including every American manned space launch, and here centers on the career of Neil Armstrong (1930–2012), who during the historic Apollo 11 mission became the first man to walk on the Moon. Barbree focuses on Armstrong as a pilot and astronaut, starting with his Korean War service before moving on to his long association with NASA. While he branches out to address some of Armstrong’s personal life, this is primarily a story of the space race, with copious attention given to the events leading up to and including the Moon landing. Barbree draws on conversations, transcripts, and interviews to reconstruct the space age’s most exciting and dramatic moments, fleshing them out with numerous photos and his own experiences. Indeed, he claims an almost worshipful friendship with Armstrong to convey an intimate association with the otherwise taciturn astronaut. Barbree’s feelings and passions are made clear in a scathing indictment of the American space program in the decades following the Moon landing and its failure to capitalize on the opportunity. The concentration on Armstrong’s space-related career makes this less than a definitive biography, but it’s still an eye-opening and entertaining tale of the race to the Moon. Photos. Agent: Elizabeth Kaplan. (July)
Veteran news correspondent Barbree offers an intimate view into the life of Neil Armstong (1930–2012), his friend as well as a national hero and very private person. The author paints a detailed and colorful picture of his subject and an unbiased depiction of the period in which he lived, while also demonstrating reverence for Armstrong as a confidant. The book starts with Armstrong's experience in the Korean War and takes the reader through the ups and downs of the astronaut's life and career, the space program, Armstrong's first steps on the moon, his thoughts on the closing of the lunar exploration program in 2010, and his death in 2012. VERDICT This easy-to-read, compelling, and well-written view of an American hero is recommended for those interested in history, biography, early space programs around the world, and the science of space flight.—Dawn Lowe-Wincentsen, Oregon Inst. of Technology, Portland
A longtime NBC News space correspondent looks back on the aviation career of the first man to set foot on the moon.Given his starring role in one of history’s most magnificent achievements, shouldn’t Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) be a bigger deal? FollowingApollo 11’strailblazing 1969 flight, Armstrong worked a couple of years for NASA, then taught for a few more at the University of Cincinnati. Except for a brief, high-profile role investigating the causes of theChallengerdisaster and an occasional speaking engagement, he assiduously avoided the spotlight, never cashing in on his fame. By the time of his death, he easily passed unrecognized in public. Barbree (“Live From Cape Canaveral”: Covering the Space Race, From Sputnik to Today, 2007, etc.), who covered every American manned space flight and became especially friendly with Armstrong, nevertheless barely pierces the habitual Armstrong reserve. Except for occasional tidbits of personal information—the astronaut’s friendship with John Glenn, the premature death of his daughter, the fire that razed his home—this account focuses primarily on Armstrong the pilot, particularly his coolness in tight spots: ejecting from a shot-up fighter plane in Korea, recovering from a “stuck thruster” in orbitaboardGemini 8, ejecting from the lunar lander training module just before it crashed, and famously guiding theEagleto touchdown in the Sea of Tranquility with fuel running dangerously low. These moments take up the bulk of Barbree’s amiable account. He supplies useful context by examining the origins and development of NASA’s manned flight program, including a good deal of information about astronaut training. The author insists that Armstrong never regarded himself as special and never lobbied to be first on the moon; he saw himself merely as next in line to take what turned out to be “a ‘Lindbergh’ step in flight.”A wholly admiring assessment of Armstrong the aviator and Armstrong the man.