On July 20, 1969, the world stood still to watch 38-year-old American astronaut Neil A. Armstrong become the first person ever to step on the surface of another heavenly body. Upon his return to Earth, Armstrong was celebrated for his monumental achievement. He was also--as NASA historian Hansen reveals in this authorized biography--misunderstood. ...
On July 20, 1969, the world stood still to watch 38-year-old American astronaut Neil A. Armstrong become the first person ever to step on the surface of another heavenly body. Upon his return to Earth, Armstrong was celebrated for his monumental achievement. He was also--as NASA historian Hansen reveals in this authorized biography--misunderstood. Armstrong's accomplishments as an engineer, a test pilot, and an astronaut have long been a matter of record, but Hansen's access to private documents and unpublished sources and his interviews with more than 125 subjects (including more than fifty hours with Armstrong himself) yield the first in-depth analysis of this elusive, reluctant hero. Hansen recreates Armstrong's flying career, from his combat missions over North Korea to his transatmospheric flights in the rocket-powered X-15 to the first-ever docking in space. For a pilot who cared more about flying to the Moon than he did about walking on it, Hansen asserts, Armstrong's storied vocation exacted a dear personal toll, paid in kind by his wife and children.--From publisher description.
This book can almost be considered a technical manual with an occasional sentence thrown in to give it some story value. It really came through for me because I'm pretty much interested in ONLY the technical aspects. Neil was a man of very few words, whose sole interest was in performing his duty with ZERO interest in being famous - and thus, a story from his mouth can't be expected to be colorful - but in a masterpiece of understatement, his simple and direct explanations put you right in the pilot's seat during the second-by-second coverage of the final approach.
Some interesting facts come out; for instance they didn't even have time to look out at the new world until they went through a complete rehearsal of the takeoff procedure, etc. Nice book.
Jan 6, 2011
Good book, but nothing new
First Man is a typical book on the subject of the Apollo moon landings. It's especially good at presenting the unique challenges of the first moon landing.
The only reason to read this book is to get a little understanding into the life and mind of the first moonwalker. Unfortunately, Armstrong did not reveal as much as I would have liked. He has always been good at keeping his thoughts to himself and this book seems to leave more questions than it resolves. For instance, Hansen spent an entire chapter on the life of Armstrong's daughter, Karen, who I'd never heard about. Later in the book, he goes on for page after page discussing whether or not Armstrong took a souvenior of hers with him to the moon. That question is not answered in the book, so why even bring it up?
There are a lot of good things in this book, but it feels incomplete to me.
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