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Apollo: the epic journey to the Moon

21 June 2013

Apollo: the epic journey to the Moon

Apollo: the epic journey to the Moon, 1963–1972, David West Reynolds, 2013, ISBN 978-0-7603-4452-1, 272 pp.

Apollo: the epic journey to the Moon, 1963–1972 by David West Reynolds

Apollo: the epic journey to the Moon, 1963–1972 by David West Reynolds

While reading Apollo a thought would constantly be in the back of my mind, “Why was he not the writer and spokesman for NASA during the Apollo missions?” The Apollo program was the greatest exploration since voyagers first sailed to the horizon into the blue waters of the open oceans. Apollo astronauts did not only go to the Moon – they are also the only humans who have escaped Earth orbit. The incredible nature of the Apollo Program simply cannot be overstated, yet NASA did an incredible job of understatement. Reynolds writes of the program (and the history leading to it) with verve and insight using words we all use but often arranged differently in concise elegant flowing combinations. His writing underscores points and insights in ways that snap the reader into a higher state of awareness making the knowledge deep instead of factoidal.

Apollo: the epic journey to the Moon has the successes but goes much further beyond the simple repetition of facts and occurrences. Reynolds bring technological as well as human context to the reader – this enriches the text to such an extent that the reader feels handsomely rewarded. We learn about chemical milling in the manufacture of the Lunar Lander, of arguments between orbiting astronauts and ground controllers as well as why each lunar landing was more difficult than those previous. Training, manufacturing and mission planning are all intimately described, as well.

Interestingly, and entertainingly, he describes early rocket developers and their influences on Apollo. Who knew that Wan-Hu in 13th Century China began it all? Or that Jules Verne’s fictional Columbiad was partly the reason for the naming of Columbia (the Apollo 11 Command Module)? We also learn of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, a Russian, developed rocketry prior to Robert Goddard and Werner von Braun.

Most illustrating, perhaps, is the telling of how Fritz Lang’s 1929 silent sci-fi film Frau im Mond was prescient in the foreshadowing – with the help of scientist Hermann Oberth, teacher to Werner von Braun – of how NASA would build its spaceships three decades later, as well as the fact that we hear the film’s perpetual influence at every NASA (and likely any space shot) launch countdown.

Reynolds addresses the failures with his deep insight as well as the successes. The Apollo 1 tragedy and the near tragedy of Apollo 13 (possibly the greatest rescue mission ever told) are not glossed over. Full historical context is provided, too, with a full section regarding the Soviet Union’s moon probe program.

Apollo is also rich in imagery as well as illustrations, well over 300 — helping to make Apollo: the epic journey to the Moon, 1963–1972 a coffee table book and not only a reference book — there are:

  • Dramatic photos as well as telling images of emotions
  • Scenic and panoramic photos
  • 3-D illustrations and movie captures
  • A four page fold-out cutaway illustration of the Apollo 11 Saturn V moon rocket by Brian Lemke

The entire Apollo program is addressed comprehensively and objectively but with energy and insight within Apollo: the epic journey to the Moon, 1963–1972. It is more than suitable for those new to this history as those who have studied it thoroughly — especially due to Reynold’s fresh and energetic insight. The back of the book has a good bibliography as well as suggested websites along with a more than adequate index.


As is the publishing business custom, Zenith Press has provided a copy of this book to read for the writing of an objective review — no compensation has been offered, expected or requested.

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