One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon

One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon

The remarkable story of the trailblazers and the ordinary Americans on the front lines of the epic mission to reach the moon.President John F. Kennedy astonished the world on May 25, 1961, when he announced to Congress that the United States should land a man on the Moon by 1970. No group was more surprised than the scientists and engineers at NASA, who suddenly had le...

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Title:One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon
Author:Charles Fishman
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One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon Reviews

  • Jay Pruitt

    Released to coincide with the 50-year anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon walk,

    tells the story of how a nation is challenged to do the impossible. As a young boy with his model Saturn V rocket and detachable lunar module in hand, I was among the 600 MILLION viewers who stayed up until 11pm on July 20, 1969 to see Neil Armstrong take a giant leap for mankind. Nation

    Released to coincide with the 50-year anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon walk,

    tells the story of how a nation is challenged to do the impossible. As a young boy with his model Saturn V rocket and detachable lunar module in hand, I was among the 600 MILLION viewers who stayed up until 11pm on July 20, 1969 to see Neil Armstrong take a giant leap for mankind. Nations from around the globe, particularly free nations who opposed communism, cheered the astronauts on. However, few realize the daunting challenges which were overcome to make this event happen. This book does an amazing job of laying it all out there, without getting bogged in technicalities.

    In the early 1960s, on the heel of embarrassments of Russia being the first country to venture into space, as well as the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba, JFK stuck out his (political) neck by challenging the US to put a man on the moon before 1970. We know from private tapes that JFK actually had little interest in space exploration. However, he felt very strongly that America couldn't afford to let the communists plant the first flag on the moon. We must remember that many nations, particularly in Asia and South America, were on the fence in deciding between communism and democracy. JFK took on this costly endeavor, despite opposition within his own Democratic party - which preferred that the $billions be spent on domestic needs.

    Then there was the technology. When JFK announced the mission, none were more surprised than NASA. Russian canines had more spacetime experience than Americans! We didn't have the rockets, launchpads, spacesuits or computers which would need to be designed. We did have Wernher von Braun, the famous Nazi rocket engineer. But no one could fathom what it would take to send a rocket to the moon, land on the moon, take off from the moon, and land on earth. Each of these required massive amounts of fuel. In fact, you needed more fuel to lift the massive tanks (of fuel) out of the atmosphere. Then a clever, but ridiculed, NASA engineer came up with the notion of Lunar Orbit Rendezvous (LOR), which allowed huge weight/fuel savings.

    Then there was designing a computer required to make complicated orbital mechanics calculations. Keep in mind that at the time this was all being designed, 96% of Americans were still using rotary-dial phones. Few people had actually flown in an airplane, as commercial airlines were just being formed. Computers were the size of rooms. NASA wanted one which would fit into a one-foot cube. "Software" was unsophisticated. This was the age of transistor tubes. So, NASA programmed with "hardware" - for every 0 or 1 of a program, there was a wire needed (over 500,000 in total), all weaved together in a complicated nest by a specially-trained group of women.

    Space navigation was an unknown skill. Orbital rendezvous, in particular, was counterintuitive. Unlike what pilots were accustomed to, aiming your vessel at on orbiting spaceship and applying rocket force to narrow the gap generally has the opposite effect. Ironically, the correct maneuver would likely be to instead slow down, which drops you into a lower orbit and caused your vessel to speed up! This is above my pay grade.

    Then there's the political will of a nation, weary of Vietnam and struggling with civil rights. Ironically, if JFK wasn't assassinated, it's likely we wouldn't have landed on the moon. The death of our fallen president become the rally cry to achieving his goal.

    brings the climate of the times and the challenges of this goal to life.

    Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to give my unbiased review of this excellent book.

  • Patricia

    I loved reading this book! The explanation of the science and will to succeed that led to the moon landings is enhanced by the context of history, before, during and after the Apollo years. I was almost 10 years old at the time of Apollo 11 and I remember staying up late to watch the landing on TV. This book illuminates many things I was too young to understand at the time and makes a great argument for regarding the Apollo mission as an amazing success. Highly recommended.

  • Peter Mcloughlin

    Excellent history of the Apollo program to land a man on the moon. It covers with a great deal of detail not only the political aspects of the program but many of the technological details of the program. The jokes when I was a kid in the 1970s was that the moonshot gave us spin-offs like tang or later velcro actually were not products of the space program but were products around before sputnik. However, what was a major spinoff is the integrated computer chip that powers my laptop and just abo

    Excellent history of the Apollo program to land a man on the moon. It covers with a great deal of detail not only the political aspects of the program but many of the technological details of the program. The jokes when I was a kid in the 1970s was that the moonshot gave us spin-offs like tang or later velcro actually were not products of the space program but were products around before sputnik. However, what was a major spinoff is the integrated computer chip that powers my laptop and just about every piece of electronics today. for most of the decade, Nasa and the airforce were the sole purchases of this infant technology. Without government contracts buying up these chips, this industry might have been strangled in the crib. The achievement was extraordinary.. The author puts up a good case for the importance of this project for the US and the world. Wish our country had that kind of optimism to solve problems and get stuff done today.

    A youtube video on the Saturn V guidance computer.

  • Laura Noggle

    Amazing book that looks at more than just the moon missions. How the jump in technology affected the everyday lives of Americans was extremely interesting.

    🚀🌜🛰🌛🛸

  • Elena

    Wow, what a story.

  • Julie

    Having so recently read Shoot for the Moon by James Donovan, there will be a few comparisons, but overall, these were very different books. SftM was a linear narrative and I was emotionally vested, where OGL was much more technical and political. The first chapter introduces the world to the decade in which the space program was born. “The eight years from Kennedy’s speech to Armstrong’s first steps were as transformative as any eight-year period in post-World War II American history…” The dawn

    Having so recently read Shoot for the Moon by James Donovan, there will be a few comparisons, but overall, these were very different books. SftM was a linear narrative and I was emotionally vested, where OGL was much more technical and political. The first chapter introduces the world to the decade in which the space program was born. “The eight years from Kennedy’s speech to Armstrong’s first steps were as transformative as any eight-year period in post-World War II American history…” The dawn of the 1960’s saw technology associated with military applications, but NASA would change that. “The race to the Moon took developments and technologies and trends… and magnified them, accelerated them, and helped make their significance and value clear well beyond space travel.”

    As I said, the narrative doesn’t take us from the beginning of the decade through the end of Apollo. Rather, each chapter addresses different components or problems that needed to be solved and the individuals who contributed to Apollo’s success. And throughout it all is the immediacy to beat the Russians in the space race. “…Americans don’t associate the Moon landings with the Cold War or see them as a dramatic victory over the Soviet Union… But the race to the Moon was born in the Cold War and wouldn’t have happened when it did, with the urgency it did, without it.”

    I would say the main theme was how much NASA influenced the technology we have come to take for granted today. There is an entire chapter devoted to the intricacies of the computer and its development. “The Apollo computer had .000002 percent of the computing capacity of the phone in your pocket: two-millionths of 1 percent.” Yet at the time it was the most sophisticated computer ever built. The impact NASA had on integrated circuit chips alone is astounding. In hindsight, it’s hard to fathom that, “The needs of a spaceship computer were just two or three years ahead of the sophisticated technology necessary to make it.”

    Of course, I loved the trivial tidbits that I read about. I didn’t realize that Playtex (the bra company) designed the space suits. And did you know there was porn on the moon during Apollo 12? The anecdote about GM insisting on designing the lunar rover was cool considering it lead to the discovery of the Genesis Rock (go ahead, Google it, it’s fascinating).

    The book concluded by disputing the idea that the money spent on the space program could have been better spent on more worthwhile things like fighting poverty or funding education. In comparing it to the far more expensive Vietnam War (especially considering the cost of human life), “Apollo was a success,” where Vietnam was a failure. “It was a demonstration of American technological prowess, a demonstration of engineering and manufacturing excellence; it was a reminder of American economic power and also American determination.” I appreciate that Shoot for the Moon gave me more background on the program prior to reading this because it helped me to better grasp the intricacies that One Great Leap presented.

    I received a complimentary copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program.

  • Josh

    One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon by Charles Fishman is a book that chronicles the Apollo program responsible for the manned lunar landing in the late 1960s. One Giant Leap is a tour de force, covering everything from the social and civil unrest which serves as the backdrop to the story, to the behind the scenes politics leading to the conception and funding of the Apollo program, and complete with a deep technical introspective into the challenges and solutions in

    One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon by Charles Fishman is a book that chronicles the Apollo program responsible for the manned lunar landing in the late 1960s. One Giant Leap is a tour de force, covering everything from the social and civil unrest which serves as the backdrop to the story, to the behind the scenes politics leading to the conception and funding of the Apollo program, and complete with a deep technical introspective into the challenges and solutions in making it a reality. It can be easy to forget that the development of any piece of technology is performed by engineers. The Apollo program was no exception and One Giant Leap covers the human element superbly. One key technical consideration chronicled by One Giant Leap was that of the Rendezvous. It was not feasible to have a monolithic spacecraft perform the entire mission. It must be broken down into smaller sections, but where and when these pieces would separate and recombine was major point of contention within NASA. One Giant Leap adroitly covers this topic and its resolution. Like the Apollo program itself, One Giant Leap is not without its blemishes. Most glaringly is the large amount of repetition between chapters. For example, the interference caused by the lunar landing radar is described in depth multiple times which appears to be an editing oversight. Also, the MIT guidance and control computer is given the lion’s share of the technical spotlight which should have been spread over a broader set of the Apollo systems and components. One Giant Leap is an excellent read which serves as a sobering reminder: If we can put a man on the moon, what problem is really to large to overcome?

  • Debbie

    Overall, this was a fascinating look into America’s emergence into the space age. I appreciated the holistic approach this book took, by not only providing a thorough overview of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, but also enumerating the many steps it took to get there (starting from the historical, political and technological context and the programs proceeding it) as well as how the program affected technology and American culture.

    One negative aspect of this book is that at times,

    Overall, this was a fascinating look into America’s emergence into the space age. I appreciated the holistic approach this book took, by not only providing a thorough overview of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, but also enumerating the many steps it took to get there (starting from the historical, political and technological context and the programs proceeding it) as well as how the program affected technology and American culture.

    One negative aspect of this book is that at times, the author would string together a long series of statistics without much intervening explanation or context. While this information was often interesting overall, it did start to get overwhelming. There were also several instances where the content started getting repetitive. In addition, the author often jumped around the chronology to explore a theme rather than the next step in history. While overall this added a dynamic and in depth sense to the book, at other times it felt haphazard or uncoordinated.

    Despite these downsides,

    offers a unique approach to presenting the Apollo space program, and is definitely worth the read.

    ——

    Three times as many people worked on Apollo was on the Manhattan project

    In 1966, five years after JFK formally announce the project, Nas I was spending $1 million every three hours 24 hours a day on the Apollo project. By comparison, they only spent $1 million total in 1961.

    There was surprisingly little public support for the moon landing. In 1960 for a pole show that only 26% of Americans thought we should go all out to make the Russians to the moon.

    Apollo eight orbited the moon in 1968, making America the first country to reach the Moon

    Four weeks after Apollo eight mission, a Paul show that only 39% of Americans favored up moon landing. 55% of Americans said they didn’t think the space program was worth a $4 billion a year it cost it

    The space shuttle program shut down in 2011; and 2018 in order for American astronauts to go to space we have to pay for tickets on a Russian shuttle which is only slightly improved be on the technological capabilities of the shuttles that went up in like the 1960s.

    94% of US households watched the Apollo moon landing on TV. However, the interest quickly deteriorated as if you were people watched the Apollo 17 mission, the last Apollo mission and watch that weeks episode of all in the family.

    The Apollo computer fit into one cubic foot of space and did it calculations practically instantaneously; this was an astonishing feet of engineering because at the beginning of that decade, computers took up entire rooms and took hours for days to do their calculations.

    The Russians were the first ones to send a satellite into orbit around the earth, have a satellite reach the moon, have an unmanned craft land on the moon and place a flag, send a satellite to take pictures of the Darkside of the moon, launch animals into space and bring them back safely, and launch a man to orbit. This all happened before JFK was elected president, most of it happening in the late 1950s with the dogs and the astronaut occurring in 1960

    Every pound of supplies on the lunar module required 3lbs of fuel at takeoff, which is why they didn’t give the Eagle lunar module lots of extra fuel

    The navigation and guidance computer for the lunar module was able to instantly do the difficult calculations to navigate space, but had less computing power than most microwave ovens today

    The MIT engineers who created the real time computing module for the lunar landing module had to do so using a computer that did its calculations from punchcards that took hours or days to calculate

    Apollo 11 was the first time that human lives were placed in the hands of a computer

    The Apollo computer had 73 kB of memory which is less than the average email size today. The computer had two millions of 1% of the computing capacity of an iPhone XS

    In space, if you’re going to the moon and your course is off by 0.5°, then you end up 2100 miles out space, off by the distance of the diameter of the moon.

    It takes about 65 hours to fly back from the moon to earth. When you’re getting close to re-entering the atmosphere, you’re going 7 mi./s and the reentry zone is only 40 miles wide, so there’s absolutely no room for error.

    When NASA selected the company that would be building the lunar module, the company asked MIT how big the computer would be. At that point am I T had no idea how big the computer with me so they just guessed it would be about a cubic foot; keep in mind that at this time most computers were the size of an entire room. Once it was complete, the computer and it up being just over one cubic foot. When MIT made the one cubic foot guesstimate, the materials for the computer filled four refrigerator sized racks.

    When NASA was designing a probe to go to Venus, they had one error in the handwritten calculations that were put on a punchcard for the ground computer that ended up making the rocket not able to calculate its course and aborted mission. Hey single bar going to the-was missing over in a bar that would’ve change the equation, A mistake that cost $18.5 million. It was the mariner one probe.

    Every hour of Apollo space flight required 1 million hours of work on the ground

    There were 589,824 wires in the Apollo 11 computer, each one related to either a 1 (threaded through a ring magnet) or a 0 (next to the magnet). Each was threaded by hand. Because of the time-consuming nature of this software coding, the software had to be complete 8-12 weeks before launch and no changes could be made.

    During the 1960s in the lead up to the Apollo program, Nassau went from the government agency with the 10th largest budget to the one with the third largest budget

    In a secretly taped meeting with the heads of NASA, Kennedy admitted that he wasn’t really interested in space exploration/travel, he just wanted to beat the Russians to the moon

    There was a loss of support and funding in the months leading up to Kennedy‘s assassination because people didn’t see the reason why so much money should be in funneled towards the lunar program to try and force a man landing on the moon by 1970 because it really didn’t seem like we needed to be in such a rush to beat the Russians anymore. However, Lyndon B Johnson was an authentic believer in the space program and reignited the vigor for getting a man to the moon by 1970 and requested the necessary funds to do self following Kennedy‘s assassination. “There is no second class ticket to space.”

    The exit strategy from the lunar module was almost a rope with knots on it that the astronauts would have to clamber up and down to get in and out of the module. It ended up being a ladder in the end because there were too many potential issues with the rope (what if one astronaut was injured and couldn’t haul themselves up? What if they were too tried for the extremely strenuous task of hauling themselves up while wearing a bulky spacesuit? What if they fell? Etc.)

    The idea of doing a lunar rendezvous which involves taking just the lunar module down to the moon and having a rendezvous back up with the main spaceship was text initially look down on us too difficult or impossible because of how difficult and unknown space style rendezvous‘s are because of gravitational mechanics. However that ended up being the method they went with because it allowed the shuttle that landed on the moon to have to carry significantly less weight and therefore less fuel, and it’s also easier to land the module than an entire space shuttle.

    The company that made the lunar modules was a fighter jet making company in World War II; during World War II they made 14 warplanes a day; and contrast it took them 10 years to make 14 lunar modules.

    Apollo didn’t usher in the space age, but it did usher in the digital age. We would have eventually made the technological leaps that were made because of the Apollo missions, but they gave America and excitement about technology and probably help speed up the process but it would’ve otherwise gone.

    From start to finish, Apollo cost $19.4 billion; in 2019, dollars, that’s equivalent to $125.4 billion

    Just because time, money and resources went into the winter project, doesn’t mean that it was necessarily taking away from other items; for example, it’s not like money was taken away from the defense or education budget to fund the winter program. Even if the winter program hadn’t happened the money that has been allocated to it would not have ended up going to cancer research or education or what have you because it wasn’t earmarked for that and they weren’t even in the same category.

  • Tyler Critchfield

    I really liked this. While it's probably a bit too technical for some, I enjoyed the nitty gritty details of what went into our flight to the moon 50 years ago. It truly is remarkable that our nation was able to do it despite not knowing how at the start of the sixties (and with a computer that had less memory than modern kitchen appliances. And so much of our current digital age can be attributed to the Apollo missions and the technology we developed and perfected to get to the moon. Cool to th

    I really liked this. While it's probably a bit too technical for some, I enjoyed the nitty gritty details of what went into our flight to the moon 50 years ago. It truly is remarkable that our nation was able to do it despite not knowing how at the start of the sixties (and with a computer that had less memory than modern kitchen appliances. And so much of our current digital age can be attributed to the Apollo missions and the technology we developed and perfected to get to the moon. Cool to think about.

  • Scott Martin

    (3.5 Stars) (Audiobook) This book is one of many that has hit the shelves in the days/months leading up to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landings. This work takes the approaches of trying to debunk or clarify much of the mythology and misconceptions surrounding the Apollo 11 mission. To do that, Fishman takes the reader on a survey of the history of US manned space flight, describing the advancements of the USSR and how it drove the US towards the goal of putting a man on the moon.

    (3.5 Stars) (Audiobook) This book is one of many that has hit the shelves in the days/months leading up to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landings. This work takes the approaches of trying to debunk or clarify much of the mythology and misconceptions surrounding the Apollo 11 mission. To do that, Fishman takes the reader on a survey of the history of US manned space flight, describing the advancements of the USSR and how it drove the US towards the goal of putting a man on the moon. Yet, such an endeavor was hardly an easy action. For getting men on the moon, and being able to get them back safely, the US needed to develop new technologies, needed tons of money and a lot of political will to make it happen. The US did, but it took a lot of work, and it was not always a certainty that the US could do it. Kennedy didn't embrace space in the way his speeches did, the idea of using a lunar module was not a given, and the nation was not always "all-in" on this quest.

    Fishman does offer good insight and a lot of detailed stories. Yet, he tends to jump around in the work. He starts out chronological, but then will jump around to address various themes, discussing events and actions that occurred long after Apollo 11...only to then go back to cover a different theme, and jump around in the chronological order. This somewhat scattershot organization of the work could make it hard to follow at times, and weakens the overall rating.

    The audiobook reader is solid, neither adding to or detracting from the work. There are a plethora of books out there about Apollo 11. I don't know if I could say that this work falls under the cliche "if you only read one book...", but this is a solid read that will offer a good balance of technical, political and personal histories.

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