Friday, 17 July 2009

We choose to go to the moon in this decade - JFK

A Man on the Moon - Andrew Chaikin

Before concentrating just on the stunning Apollo 11 mission it is worth thinking about how and why America decided to go to the moon in the first place.

President J F Kennedy gave a bold speech in May 1961 where he said:
I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.
This was astounding for at that point in time America had only managed to launch one man, Alan Shepard, in a 15 minute sub-orbital flight. The Russian's were forging ahead with space technology - Yuri Gagarin had already made the first space flight to orbit the earth and Gherman Titov was preparing to spend over 24 hours in space. Kennedy knew that to regain the US's position as a leader he had to aim... well he had to aim for the moon!

Chaikin's Book A Man on the Moon: Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts is an over view of America's race for the moon. It is a readable book that is not too technical, more of a social history book than a science book. The main highs and lows of American space history from 1961 to 1972 are covered with much focus on how everything came together for the success of Apollo 11 and the successful failure of Apollo 13.

This book has just been reissued to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the moon landings and I feel is the best book around for explaining the whole programme to someone who is interested in finding out a bit more about the space race without it becoming too technical.

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