This summer, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s moon landing, it would be good to remember what came before. Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon does just that, describing the rushed preparation and voyage of Apollo 8, which took its three astronauts around the moon, made it possible to land on the moon six months later, and gave us the famous Earthrise picture that still stirs us today. The story alternates between the technical details of the mission, the inner thoughts of the astronauts, and the lives of their families. I found the family stories particularly interesting, as NASA tightly choreographed what they could or could not do, even for the wife who was convinced that her husband would die. It must have been tough for her to be paraded in front of cameras!
And of course there is the background of a though year of national dis-unity, and the everyday sexism evoked in details: there was no women’s bathroom at Mission Control, because there were no women there.