Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon, 1963-1972. By David West Reynolds. Minneapolis, Minn.: Zenith Press, 2013. Maps. Diagrams. Illustrations. Photographs. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 272. $40.00 ISBN: 978-0-7603-4452-1
It was a joy to review this book. Well written and researched with stunning photographs (both number and quality), it is more than a coffee-table book. It covers its subject comprehensively in a very engaging format. Reynolds aims at the average reader, avoiding excessively technical jargon, and takes the time to explain concepts in sufficient depth to ensure understanding. The result is not only a better understanding of Apollo itself but also, more importantly, a sense of wonder at the awesome technical achievement that was man's landing on the Moon. I reviewed another book on our space program, Into the Silent Sea, which gave a human face to the quest for space; but this book really brought home the challenges and amazing accomplishments of this country in safely landing a man on the Moon.
The book is arranged chronologically starting well before the modern era with the people who first fired man's imagination about the Moon: men like Galileo, who began to lift the veil of mystery from the Moon, and Jules Verne, who wrote of travelling to our nearest neighbor but did so with a basis of reason and logic. Reynolds then discusses development of thought in space travel and rocketry and the pioneers who set the stage for the Apollo team's achievements: the Surveyor unmanned lunar probes, Mercury, Gemini, and Soviet space programs all receive attention, as they impacted Apollo development. This section is well written and, despite its brevity (the first sixty pages), sets the stage for the later narrative.
The meat of the book covers the Apollo program including the personalities, technical challenges, and science involved in space travel and lunar exploration. Reynolds is at his best as he describes the challenges facing the nation as we tried to figure out how to accomplish this gargantuan task. His narrative conveys the sense...