Review of Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon by Jeffrey Kluger
As I write this review, the picture Earth Rise, taken on the Apollo 8 mission, hangs above my desk. I have had the framed picture for years. Now, after reading the excellent account of the flight by author Jeffrey Kluger, I have an even better understanding of all that led up to this very famous image.
If you enjoyed the book and movie Apollo 13, you would enjoy this book. Jeffrey Kluger was the co-author of Lost Moon, which became the movie Apollo 13. There are plenty of similarities between the two stories. Many of the same people from Apollo 13 took part on Apollo 8: Jim Lovell, Ken Mattingly, Chis Craft, Gene Kranz. The story structures are also the same with alternating scenes between the astronauts, mission control, and the astronaut’s families. There is a definite sense of Deja Vu. And while Apollo 8 doesn’t have the life and death struggle that made Apollo 13 so compelling, the author does manage to create enough conflict to keep the story moving.
Apollo 8 is significant because it was the first time in human history that man left the gravitational influence of Earth. The decision to go to the moon, which was a last minute decision prompted by an unmanned Russian flight that circled the moon months earlier, sets the story in motion. Everything the astronauts and flight controllers do on the flight is untested. Will the SPS fire to send the astronauts on their way to the moon? Will it fire again to slow then down enough to enter lunar orbit? And fire a third time to get them headed back to earth? Will they enter the narrow reentry corridor or miss it and skip out into space? These questions and a look back at the Gemini and Mercury flights that preceded this historic flight make for an interesting read.