On July 20th, 1969, history changed forever.
That was the day humans landed on the moon.
Men From Earth by Buzz Aldrin and Malcolm McConnell tells the tale of how we reached this milestone, all in exquisite detail and massive scientific expertise.
As someone who has always been fascinated with space, spaceflight, and our role in the universe, I have only pecked at learning the entire history of how we got there. Manuals on the Space Shuttle and various satellites, along with a viewing of The Right Stuff, was the majority of the extent of my research.
Men From Earth starts off pretty much at the beginning, with World War Two and theresabouts as the Axis deploy V2 rockets against Britain. These powerful projectiles, created by scientist Werner von Braun, were devastating and very advanced for the time. As the War ended, von Braun managed to get all his people and research over to the Americans in very daring operation, all because he wanted to someday reach into space.
Unfortunately, that dream was put on hold for a long time as the political will and internal governmental infighting relegated them to doing not much. But all this changed, bit by bit, as the dreaded Soviets lobbed themselves into the new Space Race. While President Eisenhower was cautious about entering into this venture, he knew the United States had to. What was not known at the time, but is well documented here and elsewhere, is that the Soviets were barging headlong and almost completely recklessly into outer space.
This crazed rush got the Soviets to score multiple firsts, from a satellite in orbit to an animal in orbit to a man in orbit to a woman in orbit. It seemed like they were doing everything right and the United States everything wrong.
This blur of activity was met by the west very vigorously every step of the way. Many strides were made to catch up and beat them to the ultimate prize, the moon. NASA was formed, President Kennedy made his famous speech, the rockets were more fully developed – long considered by von Braum as the best way to reach the stars, and the future astronauts were chosen and unveiled.
But except for the glory and adoration for these amazing people, which only lasted so long, the reality of the grind of figuring out how to do the supposedly impossible still faced them.
Over the entire decade of the sixties, the slow plodding progress went on. Setbacks happened, including many unfortunate deaths on both sides of the Space Race. Sometimes, the history and people and situations sound too strange and outlandish and scary to be true. But as the extensive notes and index show, it all happened, every great and horrible thing.
As the sixties draw to a close, more things go right than wrong, and soon NASA is a go to launch. The crew for this amazing journey is all set, with Michael Collins selected to stay in lunar orbit, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would set down in the Lunar Module on the moons surface.
They launched for the moon
They traveled towards the moon.
They reached the moon.
They landed on the moon.
They walked on the moon.
And everything changed.
And the world will be as one.
From the first flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903 to landing on our cosmic neighbour in 1969, it had been a tremendous and history smashing journey for all humanity.
And unfortunately, we collectively lost interest rather quickly. More moon missions occurred, each getting more complicated and enterprising in their scope. And one almost ended in disaster.
As time wore on, a space station called Skylab and a joint mission with our now friends the Soviets happened, all leading up to resurgence of our conquest of space with the introduction of the Space Shuttle. It launched in 1981 to much acclaim and great success. And now, after two tragedies over time, the Space Shuttles have been retired.
With probes now journeying through space and leaving our solar system, NASA and other space agencies are looking to maybe heading back to the moon, or, daring to choose to go to Mars.
Being a space junkie, I certainly hope this comes about, someday in my lifetime.
As for the book Men From Earth, it fulfilled my wish to know tons and tons more about the history of this Earth changing event. You can tell early on who wrote what parts, with the bulk of long story and major technical details being covered by Malcolm McConnell. The sections by Buzz Aldrin are the ones dealing with him and his life personally, along with as the story goes along, his professional remembrances of NASA and the actual mission.
Buzz also ends with his feelings on what NASA is doing right and wrong these days, with the end goal being the same, to get us further and further into the cosmos. He spends some time as well talking openly about his issues, including alcoholism and divorce. But his optimism for the future of space is still very apparent.
It is an optimism I wish more of humanity would aspire to.
Because someday I hope to say history changed forever again.
That will be the day humans land on Mars
…is currently reading Sisters by Raina Telgemeier