Next summer will be the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. I was 14 that summer, and was glued to the TV listening to Walter Cronkite describe what had happened, and what was about to happen.
It was a staggering scientific and engineering accomplishment. There is now an excellent children’s/young adult book that captures the excitement of that historic July day from forty years ago.
The subtitle of the book accurately sums up the focus of the text: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon.
The book opens, not with shots of the astronauts on the moon, but rather with pictures of hundreds of people gathered to watch the grainy black & white TV pictures beamed back live from the moon. There is a shot of several dozen workers at Grumman (who built the Lunar Lander) crowded around a TV. There is a shot of thousands of New Yorkers gathered in Central Park watching an outdoor TV screen. There is a crowd in Milan, Italy watching a TV on the sidewalk of a café – and there are the anxious faces of the team at mission control watching the coverage as well.
After a brief background on Kennedy’s announcement of the goal, the book begins a detailed account of the landing attempt and the six challenges (most unexpected) faced by the crew. The first challenge was an overloaded computer began failing and sounding alarms. The second challenge was that the landing area was littered with boulders and Armstrong had to fly the Lander past it to a safer spot. But there was very little margin in the fuel supply. In simulations, he had always landed with over 2 minutes reserve left. On the real landing attempt, the flight controllers called out the 120 second warning, then the 60 second warning, then the 30 second warning. Armstrong finally got the Lander down with only 18 seconds of fuel left in reserve. I won’t give away the other problems, but suffice it to say , that there was a lot of fancy footwork going on in Mission Control that was not reported at the time!
This is a great book for any kids who have an interest in the space program and the history of Apollo. The 80 pages are laid out with full page photography on every page – and a very engaging text.
– Rob Shearer
Publisher, Greenleaf Press