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Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  1,699 Ratings  ·  224 Reviews
A richly detailed and dramatic account of one of the greatest achievements of humankind

At 9:32 A.M. on July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 rocket launched in the presence of more than a million spectators who had gathered to witness a truly historic event. It carried Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins to the last frontier of human imagination: the moon.

Rocket Men is t
Hardcover, 404 pages
Published June 25th 2009 by Viking Adult (first published January 1st 2009)
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Oct 08, 2012 Nolan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Neil Armstrong’s death earlier this fall had a profound impact on me. It served as a stark wakeup call and reminder that even boyhood heroes who slip the surly bonds of Earth with such majesty and dignity cannot live forever. I remember thinking on the day Armstrong died that is death was “one giant loss” to mankind, and I still feel that today. I remember that Sunday afternoon when the lunar landing actually happened. I was in my dad’s pickup, high in the Uinta mountains. My folks were packing ...more
Sean O'Hara
Mar 05, 2010 Sean O'Hara rated it liked it
Rocket Men is a rather preposterous novel about the United States sending a space craft to the moon in 1969. The story begins with the rocket on the launchpad, waiting for blast off, with brief flashbacks to the launch prep, as the administrators make last minute checks on mission readiness and the "astronauts" undergo final training.

(The astronauts are named -- and I swear I'm not making this up -- Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. And "Buzz" isn't a nickname -- that's the character's legal name.
Aug 14, 2012 Grant rated it really liked it
It's always hard for a professional engineer to read a history of the technology they are involved with. When the (usually) non-technical author messes up on a technical detail, it's worse than fingernails on a blackboard...

However, Craig Nelson does a very good job of seeing past much of the hype and propaganda to tell some of the tales of the Moon Program, often in personal detail from the mouths of those having done the work. The book really grabs my interest when it talks with people I know
Jan 20, 2016 Donna rated it really liked it
The author, Craig Nelson, did a fantastic job with this book. He assembled so many intimate jokes, stories, conversations, and underlying emotions of the first astronauts to walk on the moon. It was nice to have that view and not just a whole bunch of historical facts. But there were also plenty of facts that felt like an inside track to the whole space race.

I liked the part of this book that dealt with Apollo 11. Once they had rocketed off toward the moon, the book then detoured to WWII and to
Patrick Sprunger
Rocket Men is a study in missed opportunity. The author, snared in the spell of his subject, failed to see what he really had: A good book about the Cold War arms race.

At the center of this book is a close study of the rocket and missile science essential to Cold War policy on both sides of the iron curtain, most notably how the space race served as a demilitarized proxy for testing communist versus capitalist preeminence. Mr. Nelson explains the Cuban Missile Crisis and quiet agreement to foreg
John Davis
Apr 07, 2017 John Davis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this an absorbing read of the seemingly miraculous feat of America's race to be the first to put a man on the moon. This history is informative, entertaining, and thrilling. With a plethora of first hand reminiscing and reflective commentary by those intimately engaged with NASA's Apollo missions the reader gets a good lead-up narrative to and through the greatest voyage in human history. It is the story of a cold war and its accompanying space race with the Soviets that begins at the e ...more
Mar 09, 2012 Barney rated it liked it
I am a sucker for books about the Space Race. I picked this up when I finally broke down and bought "A Game of Thrones". I saw this book with the picture of Buzz Aldrin next to the U.S. flag during Apollo 11 flight, and I saw the discount price of $5.98. SOLD!

Oh well, would that it were worth it. Don't get me wrong, it is not a bad book. Craig Nelson wrote a very well received biography of Thomas Paine, and his writing is crisp and detailed. What this one lacked was really anything new that one
Sep 24, 2009 Noelle rated it it was amazing
This book to me is the "bible" of the space race. Lots of new details but presented in a manner that will still hold the interest of the everyday non rocket scientist reader .. sort of human interest aspects, intermingled with new trivia (did you know they had to prop the door open on the lunar lander as the design had omitted to put a handle on the outside to get back in - the ultimate "I've locked myself out" nightmare!!) mixed with a very few tecnical passages that the average reader may want ...more
Jun 28, 2011 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rocket Men by Craig Nelson is a good, solid book on the origins of the space program, the space race, and Apollo 11. Having completed it, I feel I learned a great deal.

The largest portion of the book is focused on the Apollo 11 mission and astronauts. The book begins with the lead-up to the Apollo 11 launch and then takes a detour to cover the origins of the space program, with a significant amount of time explaining the cold war fueled space race between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. The birth of NASA,
Oct 31, 2010 Skyring rated it really liked it
I love reading the story of the moon race. It all seemed so easy on the diagrams printed in the paper. Just fly to the moon, descend to the surface, walk around a bit, fly back up, light the rocket and come home.

But every step of the long way there was difficult, once you begin to "drill down" into the details. Things like gimbal lock and Max-Q emerge from the murk of technology. Every tiny problem had to be solved, and solved in a way that didn't cause problems for anything else. Make a support
Oct 22, 2009 Andy rated it really liked it
There are countless books and documentaries on the U.S. space program and many times more armchair experts on the subject, and so any new account of the space race is bound to encounter criticism. One online reader notes 150 “doozies” in Nelson's book, critical lapses like this: “Thor is an ICBM on pg. 113, but downgrades to an IRBM by pg. 117” and “GET is Ground Elapsed Time, NOT ‘General’.”

I, however, think that Nelson’s book succeeds where it counts; it made me marvel at the sheer grandeur of
Dave Gaston
Once every two years (if I’m lucky) I have the rare privilege of reading a true five star epic. Nelson’s detailed account of America’s amazing space race captures an essential historical decade. Several times I was shocked by the clarity of his story telling at both the macro and micro levels. Nelson achieves this effect by layering together a sweeping series of well edited personal cameos, each on to itself a fascinating victory or tragedy. I’m 46 and this is one of those invaluable books that ...more
The space race was probably one of the most fascinating periods in American history. It was a time the U.S. came together to do something both literally and figuratively out of this world. But because of political polarization, detente, and poor PR on the part of NASA and scientists alike, nothing like the space race has happened since. "Rocket Men" does a great job of chronicling this forgotten time. Covering everything from the origins of rockets to the end of the Apollo program, Nelson shows ...more
Jul 17, 2009 Jeff rated it it was amazing
I loved every minute of this book. This is a very detailed look at the Apollo 11 mission, with a good overview of the entire Apollo program and even a decent history of the entire space race thrown in for good measure.

The book starts with a detailed look at the preparation and final countdown of Apollo 11. At launch, the book breaks, and gives a full history of the space race, starting with the development of rocket technology before WWII. Once the history catches up to Apollo 11 (with special
Aug 31, 2009 Mattfrey54 rated it really liked it
I've just recently become very interested in the history of NASA, which is somewhat surprising to me since my grandfather was an engineer for Rocketdyne through all of NASA's ballistic rocket development up until 1982 (when he passed). After checking out the science section at the local bookstore, I decided to make this the first book i read on the subject. I was a little concerned about all the reviews claiming hundreds of factual errors, but i picked it up regardless. I'm glad i did. While it ...more
Nov 09, 2009 Jo rated it liked it
I listened to the audiobook. It was a fascinating, exciting & inspiring book, until the last chapter when it discussed what we (& the world) is currently doing & aspiring to in space, then it became interesting, depressing & kinda scary. I understand from reading reviews elsewhere that the author got a lot of the scientific & technical explanations wrong, but I didn't understand that part anyway (& wouldn't have understood it if it were correct either). I liked how the au ...more
Apr 29, 2013 Heather rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
I enjoyed the narrative, and the plethora of long quotes from participants of the Apollo 11 mission and some of the rocket scientists who made it possible.

I continue to be amazed at the sheer gumption that took NASA from rockets failing on the pad to the creation of a tiny oasis that carried three men through the vacuum to the moon and back home again. In this divided time, I almost long for the shared national vision and sense of wonder that they all must have felt, even if it was ultimately o
Sep 02, 2011 Blake rated it really liked it
Very informative and interesting. The format was a little odd -- it seemed to bounce around quite a bit from one topic to another. However, I think this also made it a bit more entertaining and not as boring as a simple chronological story might have been.

Upon reading this, I found myself thinking a lot more about the purpose and value of NASA. Recently I have tended to question NASA's value and whether it should be funded at all. This book helped me to see some of the benefits of the space prog
Sep 23, 2016 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bill
As the title says this is the story of the first trip to the moon. History of rockets, the Russians space program, the Mercury and the Gemini programs that proceeded the Apollo program. This book brings back so many memories from my elementary years since my household was enthralled with the space program and especially Gene Kranz who was from Toledo and Ohioans John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. There was a lot new here for me.
Richard McGonagle, the narrator, vocally is a clone for Leslie Nielson
Sep 11, 2010 Nick rated it liked it
A tough read at first. Very dense, and with some rather bad writing and organization. It definitely got better about half-way through, and offers some very interesting questions about what happened to our national desire to be first in space.
May 13, 2016 Zetagilgamesh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
A solid examination of the space race and Cold War centered around the men and activities in support of Apollo 11. The book was solid. Excellent narration, and a exciting look at the activities and technology of the time.
Bruce Thomas
Nov 08, 2016 Bruce Thomas rated it liked it
Excellent detailed presentation of the Apollo 11 mission, with good background on the entire space program including the Nazi rocket scientists the US nabbed (who actually selected US vs. Russia.) Author gives credit where due to the entire 400,000 people who worked on the program. Really specific details on the critical mission points, and even knowing the outcome, the story is at times quite "edge of your seat." Interesting tidbit that the "dress rehearsal" Apollo 10 flight had lunar lander sh ...more
Mar 21, 2017 Taylor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fantastically thorough exploration of all the "rocket men." When I started reading, I thought the above-mentioned men were just the astronauts of Apollo. Over 400 pages I learned that it was really about all the men involved in the history of rockets, from Goddard to Armstrong.
A great source of info on the space race, the cold war, the history of NASA, the history of spaceflight, and everything in between.
Erik Fjeldsted
Mar 17, 2017 Erik Fjeldsted rated it liked it
This really was a good book. I was entertained and educated at times while at other times I was bored and felt like the level of detail was a little much. For example there was a solid 30-50 pgs about the original rocket scientist, i.e. Von Braun and Goddard, and what inspired them or how Russian rockets where progressing but inconsistent.

I could tell that the author put in a lot of work putting this book together and it really is a great book for people who want an understanding of what it too
Tom Gase
Nov 11, 2009 Tom Gase rated it really liked it
In Rocket Men, author Craig Nelson has done a great job bringing back to life the Summer of 1969 when the entire world watched as the United States sent Apollo 11 and it's crew of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins to the moon.

After a couple of good first chapters, I started to become a little bored with this book because Nelson went back and described the late 1950's and early 60's and the race against the Soviets to get to the moon. This was fine, except I had just read The Right Stu
Dan Herman
Mar 16, 2016 Dan Herman rated it it was ok
I wanted badly to like this book. It's about the nerdiest of nerds, guys who literally wore pocket protectors and carried around slide rules, and yet managed to land a dozen human beings on a rock floating through space.

Never has the use of precisely controlled unfathomably large explosions to propel a massive vehicle into the heavens managed to seem so boring. I get that the vast majority of the guys you're talking to were the engineers whose professional lives definitely peaked when they laun
David Brown
Sep 09, 2016 David Brown rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating account of an adventure I was part of in my 18th year. The author provides a host of details about the Apollo project, in particular, Apollo 11 and the first men on the moon. He exposes issues that I never knew existed and truly makes me wonder how they ever did it. Can you imagine driving a space ship to the moon (and back) with less processing power than is in your smart phone? He offers some humour. In 1969 the most popular name for children was Apollo but one man called ...more
Dec 05, 2009 Jay rated it really liked it
Listening to this as an audio book. On disc 11 of 14. Fascinating subject - one of the most important in American history.
One thing I don't like about this book so far is that the flow is hard to follow. The author jumps around the time line with no warning or explanation and I find I'm still thinking about one phase of the history while he's quoting someone from another phase. With a history like this that brings in so many parties, it's detracts from the work to be playing catch up.
Also, I hop
Dec 06, 2010 Abe rated it liked it
A history of Apollo 11, along with much of the background that got us there, this book has a lot of flaws in the way it is written but is still an extremely interesting read.

The book covers the history of rocketry and the leadup to the space/missile race, as well as the race itself. It tends to jump around in time between this stuff and the days/months before Apollo 11, which doesn’t always work. The book used lots of material from NASA interviews and relies too heavily on quotes, often long and
Casey Wheeler
May 01, 2012 Casey Wheeler rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, space
This book focuses primarily on the trials and tribulations of the Apollo 11 crew before, during and after the epic landing on the moon. Author Craig Nelson also delves into the space race that led to this historic event along with what happened to NASA in the aftermath. I have to admit that it took me a while to get into it, but once I got through the first 50 pages it started to roll.

The book is rich is first person descriptions of thoughts about the events from individuals at all levels of the
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Not Worth The Read 1 3 Oct 20, 2015 11:55AM  
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  • Flight: My Life in Mission Control
  • Light This Candle: The Life & Times of Alan Shepard--America's First Spaceman
  • The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight
  • We Seven: By the Astronauts Themselves
  • In the Shadow of the Moon: A Challenging Journey to Tranquility, 1965-1969
  • "Live from Cape Canaveral": Covering the Space Race, from Sputnik to Today
  • A Man on the Moon
  • Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond
  • Deke!: An Autobiography
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  • Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13
  • Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis Aboard Mir
  • This New Ocean: The Story of the First Space Age

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“Trinity’s witnesses responded just as those to Apollo 11 would, as J. Robert Oppenheimer remembered: "We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent." Oppenheimer later said the he beheld his radiant blooming cloud and thought of Hindu scripture: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." Aloud, however, the physicist made the ultimate engineer comment: "It worked.” 7 likes
“and returning him safely to earth.” 0 likes
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