Archive for the ‘Apollo’ Category

Two Sides of the Moon, David Scott & Alexei Leonov

June 2, 2012

It must have sounded like a neat idea when they pitched it to the publisher: a NASA astronaut and a Soviet cosmonaut, both of whom were involved in the Space Race, each telling their own side of the story. Except there isn’t that much linking David Scott and Alexei Leonov. They met several times, and even became friends. But Scott was in the third group of NASA astronauts, flew once in Gemini and twice in Apollo; but Leonov was in the first group of cosmonauts, a close personal friend of Yuri Gagarin, and flew once in Voskhod and once in Soyuz/ASTP.

True, Scott made it to the Moon, and Leonov was made commander of the USSR’s failed attempt to put a man on the Moon. But Leonov also commanded the Soviet half of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. The US side was commanded by Thomas Stafford (see here). Scott was involved only as a liaison with the Russians – in fact, that’s how he came to know Leonov. Even then, the sections of Two Sides of the Moon recounting that first visit from either viewpoint read like two reports on two entirely different trips.

If there’s a fault to Two Sides of the Moon, it’s that: the book reads like two autobiographies published together without any real connection between the two. Which is not to say that those individual accounts are not interesting. Scott’s is perhaps lighter on technical detail than the autobiographies of some of his peers, and Leonov’s does display a tendency to repeatedly stress his importance within the Soviet cosmonaut corps. Both quickly cover the lives of their subjects prior to joining their respective space programmes. Only Leonov seems to remark on the differences between how the programmes were run, and several times remarks on his surprise at learning that the NASA astronauts were not as rigorously managed in terms of diet and exercise as the cosmonauts were. Leonov’s account also makes it clear that the Soviet space programme was much cruder than that of the US – indeed, facilities at Baikonur were initially extremely basic, and those involved spent as little time there as they possibly could.

Scott recounts the details of his Gemini 8 mission, the one in which he and Neil Armstrong nearly came a cropper due to a faulty RCS vernier. He focuses more, understandably, on Apollo 15, the mission he commanded which landed on Mare Imbrium and explored the region around it, including Rima Hadley and the foothills of the Apennines. These are among the most interesting sections of the book.

By comparison, Leonov appeared to be involved in more failed missions than successful ones. In fact, he flew only twice – though one of his flights, admittedly, did make him the first person to walk in space. He was set to command Soyuz 11, but was pulled off after one his crew was diagnosed with suspected tuberculosis. The backup crew of Vladislav Volkov, Georgi Dobrovolski and Viktor Patsayev died on ther return from Salyut 1 when a release valve opened prematurely and evacuated the descent module’s atmosphere. Leonov was then put in command of the Zond programme to put a cosmonaut on the Moon, and blames the lack of courage of Vasiliy Mishin, Sergei Korolev‘s successor as head of the Soviet space programme, for its failure. Mishin repeatedlt insisted on unmanned tests, when a manned test could have put a Russian in lunar orbit before Apollo 8. And perhaps even put Leonov on the lunar surface before Apollo 11.

It’s clear that Two Sides of the Moon was written as the reminiscences of Scott and Leonov – their central position in their respective narratives indicates as much. But where their memories might have failed or misled them, you would have thought the ghost writer (Christine Toomey) would have fact-checked. And yet errors have slipped in. Perhaps the most egregious is Scott’s claim that Neil Armstrong’s motto was, “If you can’t be good, be colourful”. He even tells an anecdote about it. Except that motto was Pete Conrad‘s, as even a cursory search on the Internet will reveal.

If Scott and Leonov are not the obvious choices to have their stories put together, at least both tell interesting tales. The fact that those stories don’t seem to fit together particularly well seems almost incidental. Two Sides of the Moon is certainly a readable book, and a faster read than many other books on the Space Race. There are better astronaut autobiographies than Scott’s – Michael Collin’s Carrying the Fire (see here) and Thomas Stafford’s We Have Capture (see here) are two examples – but Two Sides of the Moon is also by and about Alexei Leonov, and his story lifts Two Sides of the Moon above many other such books on the Space Race.

Two Sides of the Moon, David Scott and Alexei Leonov (2004, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-7342-3162-7, 390pp + acknowledgements, glossary, bibliography and index)

Apollo Spacecraft News Reference (Lunar Module)

December 2, 2011

This is the companion volume to Apollo Spacecraft News Reference (NAA Command/Service Module) (see here). The two books were produced in the 1960s for the use of journalists and correspondents. The originals are much sought after by collectors, but in 2006 Apogee Books published facsimile editions, available only from their web site.

This book covers the Grumman Lunar Module, and details every aspect of its operation and use. It is copiously illustrated, with artists’ renderings and diagrams. There is, for example, a map of the instrument panels in the Lunar Module, with a description outlining the function of each section of the numerous instrumental panels. Different sections of the reference explain the workings of environmental controls, main propulsion, reaction control, communications, instrumentation, guidance, navigation and control, and the Portable Life Support System, among other topics. Also included is a brief history of the LM, plus a copious glossary.

Like the Apollo Spacecraft News Reference (NAA Command/Service Module), this is a highly-detailed book, far more so than I would have expected was needed by the press, even the aviation or scientific press. Having said that, it provides a fascinating insight into the spacecraft and is a valuable reference on it. Recommended.

Apollo Spacecraft News Reference (NAA Command/Service Module) (2005, Apogee Books, ISBN 1-894959-35-3, 306 pp + index)

Apollo 18

September 15, 2011

Some time last year, previously classified footage of a lunar mission was anonymously uploaded to a web site, This footage was allegedly recovered from a secret US mission to the Moon in December 1974, Apollo 18. But the astronauts never made it back to Earth, and so everything about the mission was buried even deeper. Until now.

Or, at least, so we are supposed to believe. The web site was actually viral marketing for the movie Apollo 18, which appeared in cinemas this summer. According to text at the beginning of the film, the movie is edited from the footage uploaded to the web site. In other words, everything that appears on the screen was shot by the cameras the astronauts took with them.

It’s all fictional, of course. Every one of the Saturn Vs built are accounted for – and when something costs that much money and requires that much expertise – the rockets are still claimed to be the most complex engineering projects ever undertaken – they don’t go “missing”. According to the story of the film, Apollo 18 was a secret Department of Defense mission, sent to place some early warning ICBM detectors on the lunar surface. Except it’s hard to understand how effective such devices would be on the Moon. But that doesn’t matter, because there is another secret purpose to the equipment.

The details of the mission, including a mission patch, are set up quickly,mostly through interviews with the “astronauts”: Commander Nathan Walker, CMP John Grey and LMP Benjamin Anderson. They name their CSM Freedom and LM Liberty (echoing the spacecraft of Mercury astronauts Alan B Shepard and (sort of) Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom). Everything goes according to plan until shortly after the LM has made touchdown, and the two astronauts are on their first EVA. They discover bootprints. Yet no Apollo mission has ever visited this area of the Moon. They follow the bootprints and find a Soviet LK lander. After searching the area, they discover the cosmonaut’s body in a deep crater nearby. Also in the crater are… creatures. Rocks which turn into hostile crab-like creatures…

I went to watch Apollo 18 at the cinema because I wanted to see how accurately the movie depicted an Apollo mission. I was not especially interested in the plot – and certainly not in a story of Moon creatures attacking astronauts. The presence of a LK lander was, however, an unexpected bonus. And… in terms of accuracy, Apollo 18 makes a pretty good fist of it. The hardware all appears to be correct – even the Soviet lander. The film-makers clearly had trouble emulating micro-gravity and the Moon’s one-sixth gravity, and in some places it doesn’t appear especially convincing. But they intercut footage from the real Apollo missions, which helps improve the verisimilitude – even if the cutting between black-and-white and colour footage does begin to annoy after a while.

Having said that, every foot of film in Apollo 18 is supposed to have been shot by cameras in situ. In one or two places, the film-makers slip up and frame shots that could not have come from them. And, it has to be asked, if the mission never returned to Earth, how was the footage recovered? Some of it is from television cameras, but other footage looks to have been shot on 16mm.

There was some vagueness in the tasks performed by the three astronauts during their trip to the Moon and the LM’s descent. I was waiting for LMP Anderson to begin reading out height and fuel, but he did this only briefly. And then the LM landed. But mostly the dialogue was convincing. Except… It’s unlikely an astronaut in 1974 would have known details of the abandoned Soviet lunar programme. That one had existed, perhaps; but not that the lunar lander was called the LK.

Apollo 18‘s story felt somewhat lopsided. Very little happens for the first two-thirds, as the mission approaches the Moon and then the LM makes its landing. But then the the story begins to pick up when Walker and Anderson discover the LK and the dead cosmonaut. It’s a shame it then devolve into a silly monster movie.To be fair, the moon-rock creatures are quite effective, and a real sense of paranoia develops in the LM between the two astronauts after the first attack.

I will probably buy the DVD for the collection, but the film is not really worth paying the inflated price of a cinema ticket to see.

Apollo 18, dir. Gonzalo López-Gallego (2011, Dimension Films, length 86 minutes)

Packing for Mars, Mary Roach

July 15, 2011

Having heard several approving reviews of Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars, subtitled “The Curious Science of Life in the Void”, I had expected to like the book. The subject matter – a look at the “less publicised” elements of space travel – also sounded as though it would appeal. Of course, I have been there before: reading a popular, and populist, book on the Space Race and finding it a poor read. That book was Moon Shot by Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton – see here.

I soon found myself thinking the same of Packing for Mars.

The “curious science” alluded to in the title is, basically, all those delicate subjects NASA and the like are reluctant to discuss openly: fear, sex, urination and defecation, vomiting, food, etc. Packing for Mars discusses its topics with a combination of cited documents and anecdotes (though it’s careful to label and attribute the latter). Unfortunately, some of the facts are just wrong. The first Briton in space was Helen Sharman not “Helen Sherman” (p 47). The “world’s first rocket” was not built by the Nazis (p 87) – as any half-decent book on rocketry will confirm. And as for this: “‘When technical perfection of the steam engine made the development of railways possible, scientists were afraid that the velocity of the trains would exert harmful effects upon the human passengers.’ The quote comes from an aviation medicine text published in 1943. (Locomotives at that time could not exceed fifteen miles per hour.)” (p 94). At first pass, that reads as though trains could not exceed 15 mph in 1943. Which is complete rubbish – the world speed record for steam trains, 125.88 mph, was set by Mallard in 1938. I believe Roach actually means that when railways were first built, the trains were limited to 15 mph. But even that is not true – the first successful railway line in the world was the Stockton and Darlington Railway, which opened in 1825. In 1829, Stephenson’s Rocket set a speed record of 29 mph.

Perhaps that’s being too picky – although I see little point in a non-fiction work that gets its facts wrong. True, Roach does seem less concerned with background facts than she does in presenting amusing stories relating to the book’s topics. There are, for example, several passages quoted from astronauts’ autobiographies and the Apollo transcripts, describing incidents such as floating turds in the Apollo CM, leaking or ill-fitted urine-collection condoms during Gemini missions, or astronauts having trouble keeping down the contents of their stomachs.

None of which is to say that Packing for Mars is an entirely uninteresting read. There is perhaps a somewhat negative tone, since the book focuses chiefly on failures and embarrassments. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make the astronauts and scientists appear more human, it actually feels as if the book is trivialising their achievements. Admittedly, Packing for Mars is, as suggested by its title, chiefly concerned with the difficulties associated with a mission to Mars, and the incidents it reports are used as illustrations in support of that thesis. Unfortunately, those difficulties as presented appear unsurmountable, which only further cheapens any existing achievements in space and space-related activities.

It doesn’t help that the entire book is written in a style which attempts to make a joke of everything. It is possible to talk about toilets and faeces without giggles, though Roach seems incapable of doing so. Sadly, the humour in Packing for Mars is mostly sophomoric, especially in the footnotes. This has the side-effect of giving the prose a patronising tone, and this works against Roach’s arguments. (A tendency to explain things the reader should all ready know, also adds to the patronising tone.)

Perhaps it’s just me, perhaps I’m not the right audience for a populist science book on this topic. I find the jocular tone and the breezy style of such books annoying. It undermines their authority – and, as a reader, I want to be certain that what I am reading is factual. I want to learn something new, not something incorrect or inaccurate. I need to be confident the author is an expert in the topic under discussion – even if that expertise is only the product of research or interviews. Otherwise, it might as well be fiction.

Packing for Mars could have been so much more – a serious study of the hurdles facing a crew travelling to Mars, for example. Instead, it’s an overly flippant commentary on some of the factors affecting such a mission. Disappointing.

Packing for Mars, Mary Roach (2010, WW Norton & Company, ISBN 978-0-393-06847-4, 318pp + acknowledgments, time line and bibliography)

Voices from the Moon, Andrew Chaikin

March 6, 2011

“In the last few years I’ve been dazzled by NASA’s beautiful new high-resolution scans of the photographs [the Apollo astronauts] took during their missions … Seeing their explorations in unprecedented detail, I found myself wanting to hear their words, to bring these images fully to life. This was the inspiration for Voices from the Moon.”

So writes Andrew Chaikin in the introduction to this book. And from the inspiration to the finished product, Voices from the Moon is exactly what Chaikin set out to do, is exactly what he describes. It is 198 pages of photographs from the Apollo programme, accompanied by excerpts from the interviews Chaikin had with the astronauts while researching his book, A Man on the Moon. It is the Apollo astronauts in their own words.

Voices from the Moon is organised into twelve thematic chapters: Before, Preparing, Outward Bound, Another World, Landing, On the Surface, Solo, Homeward, Apollo 13, Aftermath, Remembering, and The Spirit of Apollo. The quotes Chaikin has chosen, from the hours of interviews he had collected, were picked especially to go with the accompanying images. They are the astronauts at their most honest, most awestruck, and sometimes not even their most articulate. The photographs are gorgeous, crisp and clear high-quality reproductions.

This is not a book which sheds new light on the Apollo programme, or some aspect of it. It is a book which celebrates the astronauts and their achievement, and those who assisted them. It’s a coffee-table book, but it’s a fine one to have in your collection.

Voices from the Moon, Andrew Chaikin with Victoria Kohl (2009, Viking Studio, ISBN 978-0-670-02078-2, 198pp)

Red Moon

February 5, 2011

Perhaps one day someone will fictionalise one of the greatest “what ifs” of the Space Race – the Soviet attempt to land a cosmonaut on the Moon. Until then, marvel at this excellent infographic from

Source All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

Lunar Module Orientation Guide

August 30, 2010

The Lunar Module Orientation Guide & Compartment Familiarization is a facsimile reprint of NASA training materials for the Apollo Lunar Module packaged and published by Apogee Books. It comprises two documents.

The first is the course materials for the “Lunar Module Cockpit Simulation Trainer” course and “LM Crew Compartment Familiarization Phase 1A” subcourse, dated 1 August 1968, consisting of ten pages of text and twenty-five full-page schematics and diagrams of the various LM control panels and consoles. There is also a fold-out colour diagram of the LM control panels.

The second document is the “Orientation Study Guide Lunar Module”, dated January 1969, and comprising eight chapters of forty-three pages of diagrams and schematics. The chapters cover areas such as, for example, Descent Propulsion Schematic, Water Management Section Schematic, AC Power Distribution, LM Ascent Profile, and Lunar Surface Communications. A ninth chapter is titled “Highlights of Lunar Module Utilization – Lunar Landing Mission”, and provides a four-page profile of a typical lunar mission.

Lunar Module Orientation Guide & Compartment Familiarization is available as part of a web site exclusive offer with the Saturn V – Apollo Lunar Orbital Rendezvous Planning Guide, and a pair of DVDs about Apollo 11. These two books are likely to appeal only to those who are interested in the technological aspects of the Apollo programme and its spacecraft. While true, they are still fascinating historical documents, and extremely useful for research. Apogee are doing an excellent job reprinting facsimiles of Apollo documents, and I’m happy they are doing so.

Lunar Module Orientation Guide & Compartment Familiarization, edited and compiled by Robert Godwin (2009, Apogee Books, ISBN 978-1-926592-11-4, 82pp approx.)

Magnificent Desolation (2005)

June 20, 2010

There seems to be a small industry involved in recycling NASA footage of the Apollo lunar landings on cheap DVDs. You’ve probably seen them in the documentary section of your local DVD shop. They all look very similar, and they seem to all use the same footage. But there are a handful of documentaries available on DVD which use original, or previously unseen, NASA footage, and attempt more than a dry retelling of the Apollo programme. Magnificent Desolation, an IMAX film, directed by Mark Cowen and released in 2005, is one such documentary. It is presented, and was co-written, by Tom Hanks, an ardent space enthusiast.

Magnificent Desolation begins with some potted science and history, and because of this feels somewhat like a television science programme from the Open University or its US equivalent. However, the film then re-enacts the Apollo 15 using computer-generated imagery and special effects. Apollo 15 landed on the plain at the foot of the lunar Apennine Mountains on the Sea of Rains, between the 15,000 feet-high Mons Hadley and 1,000 feet-deep Hadley Rille. It’s certainly more spectacular scenery than that of the other Apollo landing sites – relatively speaking, of course – which may be why the film-makers chose it.

The CGI gives a much better indication of the scale of landscape features than the photographs or footage taken by the astronauts. Perspective was apparently hard to judge on the Moon – indeed, in Apollo 15’s photos, Mons Hadley, half the size of Mount Everest, resembles a low hill. Magnificent Desolation illustrates the point by superimposing the 300 feet-high Statue of Liberty inside Hadley Rille.

Magnificent Desolation also makes a point of showing how dangerous the Apollo missions were. Considering the sheer technical difficulty of the programme – launch three men and assorted equipment into orbit, carry them 250,000 miles to the Moon, land two of them, bring them back up from the lunar surface, return to Earth and re-enter the atmosphere at speeds approaching Mach 30 – it’s astonishing that Apollo 13 was the only disaster. And even then, Lovell, Swigert and Haise made it back home in one piece. There was so much that could have gone wrong… with no way to effect a timely rescue. Magnificent Desolation imagines one such scenario – the two astronauts crash the LRV in a crater, damaging the PLSS of one, and the two must walk back several kilometres to the LM on shared air. Strangely, while the two actors are clearly re-enacting Apollo 15 (except for the LRV crash, of course), their characters are not named Dave Scott or Jim Irwin – one addresses the other as Hank.

Throughout Magnificent Desolation, the voices of the Apollo astronauts describe elements of the lunar landings. Except it isn’t the astronauts, but actors playing them. And there’s some well-known Hollywood talent reading out the astronauts’ words: Morgan Freeman, John Travolta, Scott Glenn, Matthew McConaughey, Paul Newman, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise…

Magnificent Desolation has not been released in the UK, but is readily available as a Region 1 DVD. While it may feel at times like an educational programme, it does get across how remarkable an achievement the Apollo lunar landings were. It also, of the documentaries I’ve seen, gives the best presentation of the lunar landscape, albeit using CGI. It belongs in the DVD collection of any self-respecting Apollo enthusiast.

Magnificent Desolation, directed by Mark Cowen (2005, HBO Home Video, Region 1 DVD, length 40 mins)

Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon, David West Reynolds

March 26, 2010

The Apollo lunar landings are, one would have thought, the perfect subject for a big copiously-illustrated coffee-table book. After all, it was a unique achievement, many people alive today still remember it vividly, and NASA documented it thoroughly – taking thousands of photographs, thousands of feet of film, and writing millions of words. Yet there are few such books available. Piers Bizony’s One Giant Leap – Apollo 11 Forty Years On is one (see here), but it was published only last year as part of the fortieth celebration of the first lunar landing. Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon by David West Reynolds is another. It was first published in 2002.

Like most books of its type, Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon opens with a couple of chapters introducing rocketry and the various pioneers of the field – Tsiolkovsky, Oberth, Goddard… But, of course, it is Wernher von Braun who comes to dominate post-war rocketry, and Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon also includes a section on his Collier’s articles from 1952 to 1954, with artwork. The book then moves swiftly through Mercury and Gemini, and onto the Apollo programme. The Soviet achievements are mentioned, but only inasmuch as they reflected on the US space programme.

Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon is especially good on Apollo 11, Apollo 15 and Apollo 17. However, the author is unusually dismissive of Apollo 14, describing the mission as the lowest point of the programme. Each mission’s section is accompanied by diagrams and photographs, including diagrams of the geology of the Moon as discovered by each mission. There are also brief sections on Advanced Apollo and Skylab, but the Shuttle is mentioned only in passing.

However, it’s in the last section of the final chapter that Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon stumbles and falls. Putting twelve men on the Moon was an astonishing achievement. It was certainly motivated by politics – although whether chiefly to boost Kennedy’s flagging popularity or beat the Russians after the embarrassments of Sputnik and Gagarin is debatable. But it was only during the fact that it may have been characterised, by some of the more jingoistic commentators, as an undertaking intended “to demonstrate the superior ability of the superior system, capitalism versus communism”. Nor did “the battle prove out the more capable system”. Now, in the twenty-first century, forty years after Apollo 11, the Russian Soyuz is still happily lofting cosmonauts into orbit, while the Space Shuttle has suffered two catastrophic accidents and is due to be retired this year. Given that Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon was published in 2002, the author must have been aware of this.

It is also disingenuous to claim that Apollo beat the Soviets to the Moon due to “free enterprise”. The Apollo programme was a government-run and -funded programme, which fed work and money to huge numbers of companies. James Webb intended it as such. The Republicans killed the Apollo programme in part because they saw it as socialist.

Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon starts well, and contains much interesting information. The photographs are well chosen, and the diagrams are excellent. But the conclusions the author draws in the final chapter are neither accurate nor useful, and that spoiled the book for me.

Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon, David West Reynolds (2002, Tehabi Books, ISBN 0-15-100964-3, 260pp + bibliography and index)

One Giant Leap: Apollo 11 Forty Years On, Piers Bizony

March 15, 2010

Last year was the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. You would have thought an achievement so important would have resulted in more of a celebration than actually took place (I did my bit). Neil Armstrong was the first human being to set foot on another world. The fact that no one has been back since the last Apollo mission in 1972 – thirty-eight years ago – only makes the achievement more astonishing.

However, a number of authors and publishers were happy to celebrate Apollo 11’s anniversary. I listed the books on the subject that were published last year on this blog here. One Giant Leap: Apollo 11 Forty Years On by Piers Bizony is one of those books. It is a large and copiously-illustrated coffee-table book intended to be, according to Bizony’s introduction, “a celebration of Apollo 11”. It also “gathers together more images of Apollo 11 than any mass-market publication has attempted before”.

However, One Giant Leap is not simply a collection of photographs. In five chapters, Bizony comments on the Apollo programme, making some excellent points as he does so. Forty years after the Wright brothers’ first flight, airliners were carrying people all over the world. Forty years after the transistor was invented, computers were embedded in everything from hand-held games to cars; and we had the Web too. Forty years after Apollo… and astronauts and cosmonauts are still strapped to the tops of cylinders full of highly explosive fuels and blasted into space. The benefits of the Apollo programme were spread across many areas of modern life, they’re not immediately obvious. Which makes it hard to see exactly what technological progress the programme was actually responsible for.

Bizony is also keen to place much of the credit for Apollo at the feet of James Webb, NASA’s administrator from 1961 to 1968. It was Webb’s leadership of NASA, and the way he set up the entire programme, which led to its success. And, ultimately, its cancellation. Because it was not the cost of Apollo which closed the programme down. The US government was spending more money on a mismanaged and ill-considered war in Vietnam. It has been calculated that NASA’s budget during the 1960s was “less than two dollars a month from each American citizen”. Nor was it a lack of achievement – NASA had met every goal it had been set. But Webb was on old-school Democrat, and believed that the “bounty” of Apollo should spread far and wide across the US, to create jobs and bring wealth to as many different areas as possible. That’s why the launch pads were in Florida, Mission Control in Texas, the spacecraft built in California and New York, and so on. But when the Republicans got into power, they scaled back Apollo as a response to “what they perceived as the over-reaching intrusion of the government into the nation’s affairs”.

One chapter of One Giant Leap is dedicated to Project Constellation, which was cancelled earlier this year. But the chapter makes the important point that a return to the Moon would be just as difficult today as it was in 1969. Yes, there has been much progress in many areas – such as computing. But launch vehicles are not much different, and not much safer, than they were forty years ago. The problems Apollo solved to get the Moon also remain the same, and their solutions were elegant and reliable. Any solutions Constellation might have come up with were likely to resemble Apollo’s – as the Orion Crew Module resembled the Apollo Command Module.

One Giant Leap is an excellent retrospective of Apollo 11. Not only does it contains a huge number of photographs, many of which have never been seen before in a book, but it also make a series of interesting and insightful points about the programme. Highly recommended.

One Giant Leap: Apollo 11 Forty Years On, Piers Bizony (2009, Aurum Press, ISBN 978-1-84513-422-8, 157pp + bibliography)