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Rocket Men
Cover of Rocket Men
Rocket Men
The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The riveting inside story of three heroic astronauts who took on the challenge of mankind’s historic first mission to the Moon, from the bestselling author...
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The riveting inside story of three heroic astronauts who took on the challenge of mankind’s historic first mission to the Moon, from the bestselling author...
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  • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The riveting inside story of three heroic astronauts who took on the challenge of mankind’s historic first mission to the Moon, from the bestselling author of Shadow Divers.

    “Robert Kurson tells the tale of Apollo 8 with novelistic detail and immediacy.”—Andy Weir, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Martian and Artemis


    By August 1968, the American space program was in danger of failing in its two most important objectives: to land a man on the Moon by President Kennedy’s end-of-decade deadline, and to triumph over the Soviets in space. With its back against the wall, NASA made an almost unimaginable leap: It would scrap its usual methodical approach and risk everything on a sudden launch, sending the first men in history to the Moon—in just four months. And it would all happen at Christmas.

    In a year of historic violence and discord—the Tet Offensive, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago—the Apollo 8 mission would be the boldest, riskiest test of America’s greatness under pressure. In this gripping insider account, Robert Kurson puts the focus on the three astronauts and their families: the commander, Frank Borman, a conflicted man on his final mission; idealistic Jim Lovell, who’d dreamed since boyhood of riding a rocket to the Moon; and Bill Anders, a young nuclear engineer and hotshot fighter pilot making his first space flight.

    Drawn from hundreds of hours of one-on-one interviews with the astronauts, their loved ones, NASA personnel, and myriad experts, and filled with vivid and unforgettable detail, Rocket Men is the definitive account of one of America’s finest hours. In this real-life thriller, Kurson reveals the epic dangers involved, and the singular bravery it took, for mankind to leave Earth for the first time—and arrive at a new world.

    Rocket Men is a riveting introduction to the [Apollo 8] flight. . . . Kurson details the mission in crisp, suspenseful scenes. . . . [A] gripping book.”—The New York Times Book Review

Excerpts-

  • From the cover Chapter One

    Do You Want to Go to the Moon?

    August 3, 1968—Four months earlier

    As he sat on a beach in the Caribbean, a quiet engineer named George Low ran his fingers through the sand and wondered whether he should risk everything to win the Space Race and help save the world.

    At forty-one, Low was already a top manager and one of the most important people at NASA, in charge of making sure the Apollo spacecraft was flightworthy.

    Apollo had a single goal, perhaps the greatest and most audacious ever conceived: to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy had committed the United States to achieving this goal by the end of the decade. Never had a more inspiring promise been made to the American people—or one that could be so easily verified.

    Now, Kennedy's end-of-decade deadline was in jeopardy. Design and engineering problems with the lunar module—the spidery landing craft that would move astronauts from their orbiting ship to the lunar surface and back again—threatened to stall the Apollo program and put Kennedy's deadline, just sixteen months away, out of reach. And that led to another problem. Every day that Apollo languished, the Soviet Union moved closer to landing its own crew on the Moon. And that mattered. The nation that landed the first men on the Moon would score the ultimate victory in the years-long Space Race between the two superpowers, one from which the second place finisher might never recover.

    For months, NASA's best minds had worked around the clock to fix the issues with the lunar module, but the temperamental and complex landing craft only fell further and further behind schedule. By summer, many at the space agency had abandoned hope of making a manned lunar landing by the end of the decade.

    And then Low had an idea.

    It had come to him just a few weeks before he'd arrived at this beach, and it was wild, an epiphany, a dream. It was also dangerous, risky beyond anything NASA had ever attempted. But the more Low thought about it, the more he believed it could keep the Apollo program moving and save Kennedy's deadline—and maybe even beat the Soviets to the Moon.

    Low inhaled the fresh, salty air and tried to push space travel out of his thoughts. At home, his mind burned nonstop with ideas, formulae, trajectories. Now he needed a break, and it should have been easy to find one in this tropical paradise. About the only reminder of America was the local newspaper, which told of the Newport Pop Festival in Costa Mesa, California, where more than a hundred thousand music fans were expected, and brought word of potential protests at the coming Democratic National Convention in Chicago. It had been an explosive year already, with assassinations, riots, and violence. A quiet beach was just where a man like Low needed to be.

    But Low could not relax. He walked the beach, looking out over the ocean toward Moscow and the Moon, thinking, imagining, America and the world on fire behind him.

    Five days after Low returned from vacation, a serious man with an oversized head went to work inside a giant assembly plant in Downey, California. His mission: to build a machine from the future that would help make the world safe for democracy.

    Over and over, astronaut Frank Borman opened and closed the hatch on the Apollo command module, a cone-shaped capsule made to fly a three-man crew to the Moon. He'd already certified that the hatch worked, then certified it again, but he would not stop pushing on it, making sure it opened, no matter what.

    Nearby, Borman's two crewmates, Jim Lovell and rookie Bill Anders,...

About the Author-

  • Robert Kurson is the author of the runaway bestseller Shadow Divers, Crashing Through, and Pirate Hunters.

    Ray Porter is the multiple Earphones Award–winning and Audie-nominated narrator of audiobooks, such as The Second Life of Nick Mason. A veteran of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, he has also appeared in ArgoThe RunawaysSons of AnarchyJustifiedAlmost Famous, and many other TV and film productions.

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The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon
Robert Kurson
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