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Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon Hardcover – May 16, 2017 by Jeffrey Kluger (Author)

Apollo 8 was perhaps the most significant Apollo mission bar the actual moon landing on Apollo 11 and yet there has been little written about it. Apollo 8 was originally meant to be a low earth orbit test of the LEM by Jim McDivitt’s crew however the LEM wasn’t ready for testing. There were rumors flying around that Russia would be launching a circumlunar flight at any point. The Saturn V only had 2 unmanned flights and both had encountered some form of anomalies (whether due to pogo, engines cutting out etc). Trajectories and procedures had not yet been written for a moon shot and so much more. To make a moonshot at this early stage in the space race with all the unknowns was a huge risk. The astronauts themselves put their chance of survival only at somewhere between 33% and 50% and yet they managed to pull it off. I would think most people by now have seen the superb Ron Howard movie, Apollo 13. This movie was written based on the exciting book Lost Moon by Jeffrey Kluger. Well Jeffrey Kluger has picked up his pen again and taken his riveting form of story telling to the Apollo 8 mission. It is a bit of a misnomer to say "The untold story. .." as there is another very good book, Genesis, detailing this flight and NASA has released it’s own mission report books although these are far more technical and not such an easy read. Whereas Lost Moon concentrated more on Jim Lovell’s perspective of the mission, Apollo 8 concentrates more on Frank Bormans’ perspective with the first section of the book concentrating more on his background, how he joined NASA and the events leading up to the Apollo 8 including the tragedy of the Apollo 1 fire and Frank’s role in the investigation. He details the key players involved in the decision for the circumlunar flight (which originally was meant to be a straight shot around the moon, hence part of the logo of the official mission patch, but which later turned into a short lunar orbital mission) and the huge task on their hands to make this last minute change to the launch schedule actually happen. Jeffrey then tells the story of the flight itself from multiple perspectives. Those of the astronauts themselves, mission control, the wives and even the Russians and how totally deflated they were with this mission. Jeffrey has a special knack of boiling down technical details and decisions into an easy to read and thoroughly engrossing narrative. Most people probably don’t know that the most copied and reproduced photograph in the world was taken on Apollo 8, Earthrise. Everybody recognizes this picture immediately. Given the turmoil that was happening in the USA in 1968, Apollo 8 was extremely significant for the country as a whole to put a bright exclamation mark on an otherwise very bad year and in the process humans had now seen the far side of the moon with their own eyes. I have read virtually every book to come out of the Apollo missions (and a whole lot more besides) and whilst Apollo 8 doesn’t rank as my absolute favorite it none-the-less is a very entertaining read and a worthwhile read for everybody, whether you are a space buff or not. Check it out!

Amazon.com Review An Amazon Best Book of May 2017: It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 50 years since NASA’s Apollo program first landed a man on the moon. Since passing decades tend to filter out everything save the highlights, that epic effort has been boiled down to a couple of missions: Apollo 11’s triumphant landing, and the near calamity of Apollo 13, which we might not remember were it not for Tom Hanks and Ron Howard. Lost is all (or most) of the daring preamble, when the United States and the Soviet Union repeatedly swapped positions in the Space Race, recklessly shooting manned aluminum cans – packed with all the computing power of a scientific calculator – into orbit. You won’t have to be a rocket scientist to enjoy Jeffrey Kluger’s Apollo 8 (though it’s pure candy for aficionados). Kluger – who previously documented the Apollo 13 crisis with Commander Jim Lovell, also the pilot aboard Apollo 8 – recounts the first manned mission to orbit the moon, marrying technological and historical perspectives with eyewitness accounts to spin a brisk, thrilling, and informative tale. Kluger writes, “The Saturn V engines had only one speed, which was full speed.” So does this book. –Jon Foro, The Amazon Book Review


Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon Hardcover – May 16, 2017 by Jeffrey Kluger (Author) Review

I really enjoyed reading a mainstream book that focused on this mission, about the prominent people involved and what it took, by both intention and circumstance, to pull it off. It was, in so many ways, the riskiest and gutsiest roll of the dice our space program ever made, and it paid off spectacularly. Perhaps Kluger’s greatest achievement is getting us into the cockpit of the CSM, where Borman, Lovell and Anders live and work for the duration of the flight. While a miracle of aerospace engineering even by today’s standards, the ship featured only one real crew luxury: room to move around, which Mercury and Gemini had virtually none of. Otherwise it was three men, highly trained and compatible as they were, spending nearly a week very much in each other’s space while traveling through space towards a then mind-boggling goal: the Moon. Kluger delivers a convincing sense of what that was like, at least as much as anyone who hadn’t actually made the flight probably can. His long relationship with Lovell was no doubt a primary aspect of this, but he also clearly benefited from being able to talk with Borman and Anders as well. (As of this writing, all three men are still with us. )Where Kluger falters somewhat is in the overall tone he takes with the tale. He focuses on Borman early on, sketching the mission’s commander with fairly deft strokes. The trouble comes when it’s time to face the facts about Apollo 1; once that tragedy enters the picture, a dark, even negative tone takes hold, casting every real and conceivable problem in stark relief while somewhat downplaying all that went right. And a great deal went rightobviouslyeven on the less-than-stellar flight of Apollo 6, giving Kluger’s fretting a tiresome aspect at times. This at least is mitigated somewhat by the facts, that this was only the second manned flight of the CSM, only the third flight of the Saturn V and only its first flight carrying a crew, and not just into Earth orbit but all the way to the ultlimate goal, sans only the actual landing thereon. Hard to imagine a situation more loaded with unknowns and more fraught with the potential for catastrophe. One fact that is of particular interest to me, and has a definite bearing on what went on in the cockpit, is the relationship between Borman and Lovell. They’d flown the epic (one could say epically tedious) 14-day Gemini 7 mission with Borman in command, while Lovell later flew Gemini 12 as commander with Buz Aldrin. Having attained flight commander status, and flown two Geminis to Borman’s one, Lovell was still willing to subordinate himself to Borman for Apollo 8. While there was every reason on Earth to have two men aboard who’d flown together before, and for far longer than anyone else ever had, American or Russian, there was also the tension created by the changes in status. Borman was commander, but Lovell was by no means a rookie this time; each knew the measure of the other, and this comes through without apparent embellishment in Kluger’s narrative. -Read Reviews-

If I could give this book higher than a five-star rating, I would. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all about Apollo 8!Jeffrey Kluger, the author, wrote the Apollo 13 story with Jim Lovell. Their Apollo 13 book was the basis for the Apollo 13 film with Tom Hanks, "Houston, we have a problem. "The Apollo 8 story is centered around Frank Borman, a minor character in the Apollo 13 story. Borman’s story is covered from childhood, his time as an equipment manager for the Academy football team (working with Lombardi), through his time in the Air Force (working under Chuck Yeager), his role in The Next Nine astronaut selection, his odoforous flight in Gemini 7 (14 days in a two-man capsule, flying in their underwear), and on to the Apollo program. What I enjoyed about this book was the writing. This is truly a story being told, and not a technical read. This reads more like an astronaut biography – friendly, approachable, and comprehensible to all. The writer also has an unflinching look at NASA – fallible, but always working tougher and stronger. The research in this book was impeccable. I found myself laughing along with the jokes, stories, and lemons abounding. I highly recommend this book for NASA enthusiasts. If you liked the HBO series, "From the Earth to the Moon" and the Apollo 13 movie, you will love this book too!

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