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Moon Lander: How We Developed the Apollo Lunar Module

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  371 ratings  ·  22 reviews
Chief engineer Thomas J. Kelly gives a firsthand account of designing, building, testing, and flying the Apollo lunar module. It was, he writes, "an aerospace engineer's dream job of the century." Kelly's account begins with the imaginative process of sketching solutions to a host of technical challenges with an emphasis on safety, reliability, and maintainability. He cata ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 17th 2001 by Smithsonian Institution Press
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 ·  371 ratings  ·  22 reviews

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Jan 18, 2013 rated it liked it
One of my favorite episodes of the Tom Hanks mini-series, "From the Earth to the Moon," is the one that featured the crew at Grumman Corp. who designed and built the lunar landers. The episode is called "Spider," the name of the first manned Lunar Module (LM) to fly in space. I knew it was a dramatization, of course, but it was such a cool story that when I saw that Tom Kelly had written a book about his LM experience, I wanted to see how close the dramatization was to the truth.

Tom Kelly was o
Kevin Iacobacci
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating book. Being in the aviation safety business, the discussion of the Apollo 1 fire really hit home. Kelly wrote "if we were so obtuse about fire, how many other serious hazards had also escaped our faulty vision?" Still good words to consider 50 years on. Another interesting thing about this engineering story is that the potential show stoppers were just as likely to be related to project management as they were to be linked to engineering. Effective management was as important as br ...more
Jul 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A must read book for moon enuthiasts, engineers and project managers. Not for Apollo 11 "hoax" loonies; enough technical detail and history to shut down any "skeptic" - you can't make this detail and or fake the dedication of Kelly and the thousands of engineers, designers and tradesmen who made the moon landing possible.

This is not only the fascinating story about the greatest technological challenge of the 20th century, but also an amazing text for all project managers, customer managers and
Jul 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Being in the space program and having met some of the players of the Apollo era, it's always good to read a book and say, "yes, that's very accurate". This was one of those books.

At a time when engineering excellence and competence was meeting the needs of a national priority, it's hard not to envy the drive and dedication of those working on something as HARD as the Apollo Moon Lander. Kelly gives you the straight talk with a minimum of cover your butt. Anyone who wants to engineer great things
Dave Hall
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read just about everything there is to read about Apollo and the political socioeconomic era in which that project emerged ... and this is the book that has most inspired me. The company and the factories and engineers that designed and built the series of Apollo Lunar Landers became all very real and alive in my imagination .. this could be replicated! I felt I really wanted to be in those factories and part of the teams actually making hardware that would fly to the Moon, land and retur ...more
Jim Cunningham
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating read if you are interested in space history, engineering, or even just project management. If you're familiar with the history of the design and production of the LM, you know that Grumman and NASA had to do the impossible with this project. Nothing had even landed on the moon or even photographed it well when the team began conceiving this machine, let alone designing it. It's no surprise that the design and construction process was stressful and took longer than anyone thought it ...more
John Mehrman
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Apollo program was the most complex undertaking in the history of mankind. Moon Lander is the story of the development of the Lunar Module told by its chief engineer, Tom Kelly. The book is fascinating in its detail and stories surrounding the enormous endeavor to build a vehicle to safely land astronauts on the moon and bring them back. The book covers not only the technical challenges of building the LM, but also the managerial challenges of organizing the effort. It concludes with a super ...more
Nick Van
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
An excellent history of the design and building of the Lunar Module specifically, and of the development of engineering projects in general. A fine book, but one probably best suited for those who already have a substantial familiarity with the Apollo project.
Joska Pista
May 14, 2019 rated it liked it
More about the organizational and management struggles than design and technical details.
David Czuba
Set in the 60s and early 70s, Grumman Corporation managing engineer Thomas Kelly brings to life the profound, often painful, but enormously rewarding challenge of designing and building the world's first true spacecraft: the Apollo lunar lander. The author refers the reader to some extent to my next favorite history of the lunar program: Chariots for Apollo, for further details. The machine itself proved itself on all six landings and as a lifeboat that got its voyagers safely home from the crip ...more
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Tom Kelly writes the end-to-end story of Grumman's titanic struggle to develop the spindly-legged fragile tin can that went seven times to the Moon, landing and lifting off six times and once serving as a lifeboat, all with utmost reliability. His time as project leader, meeting over and over again challenges that nobody knew existed before they arose, must be seen as heroic. At the same time, Kelly is brutally honest, with himself and his employer as the facts required, which only polishes the ...more
Jul 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book details the challenges in designing and building the Apollo Lunar Module. Although these are highly technical matters, the chief engineer for the project gives a concise explanation of them here: propulsion leaks, ascent engine instability, and stress corrosion. He also gives an excellent summary of the legacy of Apollo at the end of the book, making clear the benefits of spaceflight in terms of American economic competitiveness and the greatly enhanced understanding of the world and t ...more
Paul Kratochwill
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a great book about the specifications, design, manufacturing and testing of the Lunar Module. The author was one of the key members of the Grumman team that build the LM. There was some technical information in the book that might be beyond the casual reader of the history of human spaceflight, but overall this book was easy to read. I would recommend this book to anyone who has even a passing interest in the Apollo program.
Aug 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Overall I liked this book. What surprised me was that the dynamics of the organizations played just as much a role in this book as the technical aspects of the development. At times the writing was kind of bland and a bit boring but was never unbearable and I did enjoy learning about how the lunar module went from being little more than a hopeful proposal to a physical reality that achieved the moon landings.
Nov 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, engineering
A fascinating look into a good deal of the technical and managerial issues that were worked through in order to build the Apollo Lunar Module. Definitely a must-read for any aerospace engineer or anyone who works in a technical job or a highly-stressed job. These guys set out to do something that had never been done before, with a very high risk level and a deadline set by the leader of the free world. And they did it.
Sarit Arora
Nov 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
As an engineer/ product designer, this book was a fascinating read, with all the ups and downs of creating a product, that literally was a moon shot. I love the engineering details but at the same time i feel this may not be a good read for someone who is looking for an easy read on the Apollo program. They should stick to "Man on the moon" book which is catering to that audience.
Jul 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
While at times getting bogged down in the engineering jargon there's some really good information here. Would have liked it if Kelly had spent a little more time talking about why certain decisions were made in the LM's design.
Feb 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2012, stem
Definitely boring at times but this book is an outstanding look inside an engineering design process. I think all engineering students should read something like this to get a good feel for the scope of what our work can accomplish, and why it's important to follow design rules!!
Feb 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Good account of the engineering process. This book follows the steps of making the Lunar Module starting at project proposal to NASA through design, build, test, and flight.

As an engineer, I liked this book. As a moon nerd, I really liked this book.
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A fascinating and in depth view into the development of the lunar module. It would have been even better with some editorial work (place the footnotes inline on the same page, some more images/drawings explaining design consepts etc.)
Patrick DiJusto
Aug 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Wonderful story of the development of the Apollo Lunar Module in the Mad Men era.
Oct 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-book, space, history
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