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

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  1,071 ratings  ·  174 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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Community Reviews

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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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
Hugo Torres
When the right conditions align to a group of driven people it is incredible what they can accomplish and in doing so propel mankind to new worlds. Should in a thousand years, those who inherit the earth from us may look back at the age of the Apollo missions with the same wonderment of our accomplishment and we do of those men who built the Pyramids.

I appreciated the personal NASA personnel interviews, the seemingly inconsequential inside stories (that when put together weave a richer story),
This would be of especial interest to those who were around to follow the space race. It gives a good, brief background leading up to Sputnik and the cold war atmosphere that helped move a tremendously complex process along at such an accelerated rate.

A very good balance of enough detail to help you understand/appreciate the complexities, but not grueling detail that turns you off. I also like the fact that it gave an informative "epilogue" of the astronauts post-Apollo. It gave you a much bette
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.
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
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
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
What a cool book. I checked this one out in hopes of finding some inspiration for my next novel. Mission accomplished. (Shameless tease: I'm actively brainstorming The Rocket Riders, which I hope to finish in 2013.) This book is full of interesting anecdotes and details about the personalities and events of the Space Race. The book's third act, which focuses on the details of the Apollo 11 mission itself, was absolutely riveting. I loved the first-person accounts of what it looks and feels like ...more
Stephen Kennedy
Like several other reviewers on Goodreads say this may not be the greatest book on the Apollo 11 Mission and the Apollo program in general. Having said that I did enjoy it despite it's flaws.
I have been reading a number of books regarding the space program and yes the CIA and Area 51 which actually overlaps this book a fair bit.
The author goes through the story of the Apollo 11 Mission in particular but also touches on some of the earlier Apollo missions. He also goes into the politics and behi
When I was in middle school I was fascinated by space travel. I could name the NASA programs and identify the rockets they each used. Now, at 28 years old, this book has brought that fascination and wonder to new life. The tale Craig Nelson unravels is a sweeping story of urgency, intelligence, ingenuity, fear, bravery and cooperation unlike any in human history and reading this book takes you into the midsts of it in such a way that I myself was, with bated breath, anticipating the Apollo 11 la ...more
Tom Gase
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
Michael K Martin
This is the ultimate story of the men who landed on the moon and, most compelling, the engineers who developed and ultimately oversaw their getting there. So good so far.

This was an amazing book. I didn't know how much risks the original Apollo, Mercury, and Gemini missions took until I read this.

Cool facts I didn't know:
*Koraliev, (sp?) the Russian genius involved in the moon race, died due to complications brought about by starvation in one of Stalin's reeducation camps. If he hadn't di
Where did I hear about this book?

I came across it while browsing at Half Price Books.

Why did I decide to read it?

1. I'm really enjoying Jonathan Hickman's The Manhattan Projects, a comic book that features fictionalized versions of Werner von Braun, Yuri Gagarin, Laika, and Helmut Gröttrup. All these men (and the dog) played vital roles in the space race and I was interested in learning more about their real lives.

2. Space is awesome. Rockets are awesome. The fact that we landed on the moon in 1
Rocket Men reads like a biography of the Apollo missions that took humans to the Moon. Craig Nelson's research is superb. Descriptive and concise, the reader gets the sense of what the Cold War and Space Race was truly about.

Fear of Sputnik and Soviet dominance of the heavens was a major underlier motiviating the US, and President Kennedy most of all, to send a manned spacecraft to the cosmos. Nelson's work provides insight from those on the inside. The words from the astronauts, their wives an
Casey Wheeler
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
Joseph Serwach
``Rocket Men'' tells the ``big picture'' story better than I've ever heard it told. Makes some incredible arguments for why it was worth going (for one, the precision work NASA required raised the standards for everything and totally changed the economy, for another the space program saved the aerospace industry -- creating 400,000 jobs --the way the feds are saving GM and Chrysler today and it also inspired a whole generation to go into science and engineering careers) and why we should go back ...more
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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.” 4 likes
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