In the Shadow of the Moon; A Challenging Journey to Tranquility, 1965-1969

Article excerpt

In the Shadow of the Moon; A Challenging Journey to Tranquility, 1965-1969. By Francis French and Colin Burgess. Lincoln: Bison Books (Univ. of Nebraska), 2010. Photographs. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 480. $22.95 paperback ISBN: 978-0-8032-2979-8

As a docent for the National Air and Space Museum, I have known for a very long time the average visitor is most interested in our space collections. Now imagine you are one of those visitors and you discover that your hometown meeting hail has organized a Space Symposium and invited all of the astronauts and cosmonauts who were part of NASA and the Soviet space programs between 1965 and 1969. The facilitators, Francis French and Colin Burgess, are award-winning authors of several space-history publications chronicling the human aspects of space-flight. Not much technical or management details of the spacecraft or system will be included.

First they would give a brief description of the Gemini and Apollo spacecraft followed by a brief biography of the first crew. Next would be a description of mission accomplishments, with the crew then invited to give a first-hand account of the flight. After the remarks, the facilitators would wrap up the flight and continue with the next flight.

This is how this book is formatted: we are introduced to each crew of the nineteen missions flown during these five years (ten Gemini, five Apollo and four Soyuz). In later missions, as a rookie astronaut makes his first flight, his biography is detailed.

Little has been written about the Gemini flights in comparison with Apollo. Starting with Gemini III (Gemini I and II were unmanned) in March 1965, NASA launched ten manned missions over seventeen months. These proved that humans could perform spacewalks, rendezvous with an orbiting spacecraft, and survive at least eight days in space (minimum lunar voyage), among other things. …