Can you learn anything from books on Apollo program?

What this post is about?

If you are interested in Apollo Moon program and curious what books are worth reading on the subject, probably this post may help you.

So far, I’ve read more than a dozen of books on U.S. Apollo program which were written by people coming from all walks of life. There were flight directors and controllers, engineers, surely, astronauts, historians and journalists. As such, I tend to classify the books on Moon program into four main categories based on the background of the authors.

Books classification 

  • Engineers and scientists
    • Books written by engineers, including flight directors and controllers who took part in the Apollo program. These tend to be more technical and down to earth with lots of details for technically inclined readers
  • Scientists and engineers beyond Apollo
    • Books written by authors with scientific background who were not part of Apollo program
  •  Astronauts
    • Books written by astronauts. These ones range from technical to more emotional ones
  • Historians and journalists
    • Books written by historians and journalists

Examples

  • Engineers and scientists
    • Flight: My Life in Mission Control by Christopher Kraft

    • Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond by Gene Kranz

    • Go, Flight!: The Unsung Heroes of Mission Control, 1965–1992 by Rick HoustonMilt Heflin, et al. 

    • Safely to Earth: The Men and Women Who Brought the Astronauts Home by Jack Clemons

    • Sunburst and Luminary: An Apollo Memoir by Don Eyles

    • Left Brains for the Right Stuff: Computers, Space, and History by Hugh Blair-Smith

  • Scientists and engineers beyond Apollo
    • Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight by David A. Mindell

    • The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation by Frank O’Brien

    • The Apollo Chronicles: Engineering America’s First Moon Missions by Brandon R. Brown

  •  Astronauts
    • Technical 
      • Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race by David Scott and Alexei Leonov
    • Emotional 
      • Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys by Michael Collins 

      • The Last Man on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and America’s Race in Space by Eugene Cernan

  • Historians and journalists
    • Historians
      • A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin

      • First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen

    • Journalists
      • Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon by Jeffrey Kluger

      • Apollo 13 by Jeffrey Kluger

      • Disaster Strikes!: The Most Dangerous Space Missions of All Time by Jeffrey Kluger

 

Personal viewpoint

I personally, liked the most books from first and second category written by engineers and scientists who took an active part in the program and others who were influenced by the Apollo events and became engineers and scientists themselves fascinated with Lunar program. 

What I like about more technical books is the explanation of how certain systems were envisioned and designed. How did they worked in practice and what challenges engineers faced throughout the systems’ life and how they were tackled. 

Why should you care about technical books?

If you are a technically inclined person, reading the technical books on Apollo program may bring you enjoyment of learning how various types of obstacles were solved by people working day to day on the most challenging aspect of then never done before and exciting endeavor. You also may trace the beginnings of the U.S. space program that can be felt to these days in managing International Space Station (ISS), unmanned space vehicles traversing our solar system and beyond and private space companies.

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