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

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

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

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


In the Shadow of the Moon tells the story of the most exciting and challenging years in spaceflight, with two superpowers engaged in a titanic struggle to land one of their own people on the moon. While describing awe-inspiring technical achievements, the authors go beyond the missions and the competition of the space race to focus on the people who made it all possible. Their book explores the inspirations, ambitions, personalities, and experiences of the select few whose driving ambition was to fly to the moon.

Drawing on interviews with astronauts, cosmonauts, their families, technicians, and scientists, as well as rarely seen Soviet and American government documents, the authors craft a remarkable story of the golden age of spaceflight as both an intimate human experience and a rollicking global adventure. From the Gemini flights to the Soyuz space program to the earliest Apollo missions, including the legendary first moon landing, their book draws a richly detailed picture of the space race as an endeavor equally endowed with personal meaning and political significance.


Thirty years ago, when I was identified as an astronaut, as often as not the first question I was asked was, "Which one are you?" I was asked that question hundreds of times but was only quick enough to come up with the best answer one time: "I'm this one!"

Today, the same situation elicits "Did you fly in space?" and "What was your mission?"

This happens because, except for John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, and one or two others, the public sees us as generic heroes—a Mark IV, Mod 3 Astronaut. The media made us heroes at a time when we did not take ourselves all that seriously.

When I was selected to be a NASA astronaut in late 1963, it was still the early days of spaceflight. Like it or not, we were instant celebrities or, more accurately, a celebrity's celebrity. We were sought out and "collected" by politicians and Hollywood stars and never thought a whole lot about it. We were not terribly impressed by anyone else, but somehow or other they were frequently impressed to have an astronaut in the crowd.

The public had many misconceptions about astronauts in those days, believing, for example, that there was an "astronaut diet" or an "astronaut physical fitness program." We did have many academic classes the first couple of years of training, but the Mercury astronauts saw to it that they were all "gentleman's courses"—not pressured by grades. The last thing in the world those guys wanted was to be measured side by side with anybody else who arrived later! Without such measurements, they were always at the top of the heap.

There was an order of seniority in the astronaut office because we were all military-trained people. However, that was a whole lot less important than what I call the pecking order. The pecking order pretty much ignored military rank but had everything to do with whether you were a Mercury . . .

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