Saturday, February 15, 2014

In The Shadow Of The Moon

I recently finished reading In The Shadow Of The Moon, by Francis French and Colin Burgess.
While it isn't a newly published book (it came out in 2007), it was a really good read and I thought I say something about it here.

The book wonderfully details the exciting times in the U.S. and Soviet space programs from 1965 to 1969. Project Gemini takes center stage early on. It had been quite a while since I had read much of anything about Gemini and I had forgotten how daring the program was. 

Not only was the space program learning how to do all of the tasks (such as spacewalking, rendezvous, and docking) that were needed for missions to the Moon, but NASA was still learning how to be NASA. All of this was happening a breakneck speed. So much so that the lessons of one mission didn't always get transferred to the next.

The book explores this, with many rich behind-the-scenes interviews with the astronauts and other key figures in the program.

As I was reading I found myself going online to look for images from each of the missions. One excellent source, for especially images from Project Gemini, is March to the Moon. I've posted a few of my favorite Gemini mission photos below. The captions are links to where you can download full resolution versions of the images. In some cases I've rotated or cropped the images.
Ed White makes the first U.S. spacewalk on Gemini IV
Gemini VII photographed from Gemini VI during the historic first space rendezvous
Gemini X's Agena Target Vehicle
Gemini XII's Agena Target Vehicle
Of course Gemini was followed by Apollo. The books coverage of the Apollo 1 tragedy, and losses felt in the Soviet space program, was heart wrenching. In reading I had to occasionally put the book down for a while as, even though I knew a lot about the Apollo 1 fire, it was emotional.

From there, the authors take the readers all the way to the first Moon landing, the triumph of Apollo 11. The missions of Apollos 7, 9, and 10 are often glossed over by many but they were key test flights of the hardware that made the Moon landings possible. The coverage of these missions and the men who flew them was inspirational.

I didn't find any particularly good galleries of Apollo mission imagery--even the ones by NASA itself were pretty poor--so I wont share any Apollo images here.

I highly recommend In The Shadow Of The Moon for anyone interested in the history of the space program.

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