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50 years after Apollo 11, new books offer fresh perspectives

an image showing several Apollo 11 anniversary books

READ ALL ABOUT IT  Books commemorating the Apollo 11 anniversary offer varied takes on the space race and the mission to the moon.

Astronomy lovers are not the only ones excited about the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Publishers are also taking note, serving up a pile of books to mark the occasion.

Are you looking for a general overview of the birth of the U.S. space program? Would you rather geek out on the technical details of the Apollo missions? How about flipping through a collection of photographs from the era? Science News staff took a look at the offerings and picked out a few favorites to help you decide. There’s something for everyone in the list below.

For history aficionados

cover of

Shoot for the Moon

James Donovan

Little, Brown and Co., $30

This retelling of the space race begins with the launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik satellite in 1957 and culminates in the historic Apollo 11 mission 12 years later. The book offers insights into the personalities of the astronauts, engineers and others who made the U.S. space program a success.

For detail-obsessed NASA fans

cover of

One Giant Leap

Charles Fishman

Simon & Schuster, $29.99

Getting to the moon demanded a million hours of work for each hour spent in space, this book argues. Accordingly, the story focuses on the engineers, coders, project managers and others who toiled to get the Apollo program off the ground.

For anyone who ever dreamed of being an astronaut

cover of

Picturing Apollo 11

J.L. Pickering and John Bisney

Univ. of Florida, $45

Packed with hundreds of photos, some published for the first time, this coffee-table book reads like a photo album of the Apollo 11 mission. The images focus on candid moments from astronaut training, as well as the excitement of liftoff, the historic landing and the return home of the three men. 

For readers ready for a sober view of Apollo

cover of

Apollo’s Legacy

Roger D. Launius

Smithsonian Books, $27.95

A space historian takes the Apollo program off its pedestal to examine it from multiple angles: as a cog in the Cold War political machine, an engineering endeavor riddled with as many failures as feats of glory and an iconic cultural moment. The book explores both positive and negative viewpoints on the U.S. moonshot project from scientists, politicians, the media and the public during the space race and beyond.

For fans of graphic novels

cover of

Moonbound

Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

Hill and Wang, $35

Colorful and detailed, the comic-style illustrations in this book of graphic nonfiction bring the moon landing to life. Much of the astronauts’ dialog is based on real recordings, making the book feel particularly authentic.

For self-improvement buffs

cover of

Moonshot

Richard Wiseman

TarcherPerigee, $26

A psychologist takes practical lessons from the Apollo era and suggests ways to apply them to everyday problems, from changing careers to raising a family.

For space enthusiasts

cover of

The Apollo Missions

David Baker

Arcturus Publishing Limited, $19.99

A former NASA engineer uses photographs, illustrations, blueprints and other documents to guide readers through a concise history of the space race and the Apollo program, from the beginnings of rocket science to the successful return home of the Apollo 11 crew.

For history wonks with a soft spot for psychology

cover of

The Mission of a Lifetime

Basil Hero

Grand Central Publishing, $22

The Apollo astronauts rarely gave personal interviews. But now that they’re getting older, the astronauts are starting to get introspective. This book distills conversations with the 12 lunar voyagers still alive into general wisdom on conquering fear and appreciating life.

For photography lovers

Cover of

Hasselblad & the Moon Landing

Deborah Ireland

Ammonite Press, $14.95

This slim book offers an offbeat take on the mission to the moon, telling the story of the Apollo program through the development of the Hasselblad cameras that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin used to document their time on the lunar surface.


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