A Man on the Moon

A Man On The Moon by Andrew Chaikin retells the story of Apollo through his interviews with each of the astronauts and dozens of engineers and support staff. This book put my childhood fascination in historical context and illuminated many of the less visible aspects of the program: the immense amount of planning, the scientific achievements of the later missions, and the years of individual preparation required. It gave me an insight into the daily lives of the astronauts as they helped design and test the spacecraft. It reads pretty quickly although I found myself constantly derailed as I searched out additional source material. I would highly recommend this book to every space junkie.

The book helped me appreciate the scale of surface features on the moon. Craters less than 6 miles across are classified as “small”! The surface itself does not experience erosion like on Earth, but rather is constantly pelted with micrometeorites (<2mm diameter)–there is no atmosphere to burn up these space particles. One side effect is everything is very sharp. Dust on the moon is highly abrasive and quickly damages spacecraft and equipment.

Apollo 15 landed at the base of the Appenine Mountains. Using the lunar rover (photo), the astronauts climbed over 500 ft up the side of a 16,000 ft tall mountain–taller than any mountain in the continental US. Apollo 17 set the record for most distance covered (12.5 miles).


Detail of surface features. (Higher resolution available on Wikipedia.)