On 25th May 1961 President John F. Kennedy issued a speech to congress that would change the world. Before the end of the decade he wanted to land a man on the Moon and have them return safely to Earth. NASA had been given an ultimatum and they had just over eight-and-a-half-years to make it happen. On 20th July 1969, Neil Armstrong would be the first ever human to set foot onto the surface of the Moon and would speak those ever so famous words, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” This is the story of how the greatest of challenges was accomplished…
In extraordinary detail, bestselling author-illustrator John Rocco, details how we got to the moon. He begins the journey with the first space flights with a focus on the Soviet Union who were at the forefront of space exploration in the 1950’s and beginning of the 1960's, successfully sending satellites, probes, dogs and humans into space. Not wanting to be left behind and desperate to out-do the Soviet Union, the mission to put a man on the moon began. Over the next two-hundred pages, Rocco takes readers on an incredible journey of firsts, of brilliant ideas, of ingenuity, of technological advancements, of technical issues, of problem solving, of astonishing challenges, of disasters and of triumphs.
Each part of the process from conception to launch is explained in meticulous detail with chapters devoted to design, construction, survival and ground support. The ‘We Choose to Go to the Moon’ chapter is particularly exciting. I could feel the the excitement and tension building as the hours, minutes and seconds to launch ticked down.
Information is rich and well researched - in his author’s note Rocco alludes to the conversations and meetings he had with those that were part of it all. An encounter with Don Rethke sounds brilliant. Don worked at Hamilton Standard and helped to build the Lunar Module life support system. When Rocco went to visit him, Don had all sorts of surprises in store including an Apollo spacesuit, food pouches, pee pouches and an actual life support backpack that he had stored in his closet!
Rocco has a brilliant knack of taking hugely complicated ideas and scientific processes and breaking them down in a way that is understandable for young readers. The superb artwork and labelled diagrams provide a clear understanding and insight into absolutely everything from the laws of motion to ‘The Instrument Unit’ (the rocket’s autopilot) to the construction of a spacesuit to the designing of the launch site. You’re likely to find the answer to any question you can think of related to the space race in the 1960’s inside Rocco’s fact-filled treat.
Throughout the course of the book, we get a fantastic insight into the brilliant minds that came together and biographies of many of these are featured. Whilst impossible to name all four-hundred-thousand plus workers, Rocco admirably recognises the scientists, mathematicians, engineers, seamstresses, construction workers, doctors, tech geeks and a whole host of other skilled people who contributed to meeting JFK’s goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s. He also regularly highlights the contribution of the many women who faced racial and social prejudices to be treated like their male counterparts but who were fundamental to the success of the mission.
Additional content includes overviews of all of the Apollo Piloted Missions, a detailed research note with photographs, an abundance of resources for further reading including books, documentaries, websites and places to visit, an acronyms guide and index.
A superbly rich, detailed and highly informative tribute to all the men and women involved in making the seemingly impossible a reality. This is a STEM lover’s dream and is essential reading for all space-made kids.
Recommended for 10+.