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Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon

4.52  ·  Rating details ·  6,934 ratings  ·  1,020 reviews
The inside, lesser-known story of NASA's boldest and riskiest mission: Apollo 8, mankind's first journey to the Moon on Christmas in 1968. A riveting account of three heroic astronauts who took one of the most dangerous space flights ever, from the New York Times bestselling author of Shadow Divers.

In early 1968, the Apollo program was on shaky
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 3rd 2018 by Random House
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Sherri It doesn't necessarily add anything to the story of going to the moon, but it definitely does a great job just setting the context of the time and the…moreIt doesn't necessarily add anything to the story of going to the moon, but it definitely does a great job just setting the context of the time and the accomplishment much better than Kluger's book did. (As someone who did not live through the time, I have very much enjoyed the weaving the tale of American history with the personal story of going to the moon)(less)
Betsy Depends on how fast you read! It is an easy read, not too technical, and has a quick pace. Kurson does not get in the weeds with all he probably wante…moreDepends on how fast you read! It is an easy read, not too technical, and has a quick pace. Kurson does not get in the weeds with all he probably wanted to write about this mission. (less)

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Angela M
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks
I don’t read very many nonfiction books and I haven’t listened to many audiobooks, but I’m sure that this one will remain one of my favorites in both categories. Before I listened to this book, when I thought of space missions and the moon, I thought of the moon landing and Apollo 11 - the planting of the American flag, Neil Armstrong’s comment “ giant step for mankind.” While I remember Apollo 8, I had no idea of it’s importance in laying the groundwork for future missions. While I alway ...more
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Dem by: Diane S ☔
Absolutely loved this book. A meticulous, uplifting (pardon the pun) and beautifully written account of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts who made Man’s first Journey to the moon

I knew when one of my friends here at Goodreads whose reviews I respect and love reviewed and rated this book 5 stars that it was one I wanted to get my hands on sooner rather than later and was so happy to have sourced this one on Audible.

I read this along with my husband and we discussed and marvelled over the details eve
Diane S ☔
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
Space, planets, NASA are not usually subjects to which I gravitate .So why then did I not want this book to end, finished it ready eyes and gave it all the stars? Well for one, I'm firmly convinced this author cannot write a bad book, can make any subject interesting. It's also because though this is about Apollo 8, it is also about real men, their wives, families and our country in the tumultuous year of 1968.

Kurson includes the three astronauts backgrounds, their training, their flight, but al
Although I’d known about NASA’s Apollo 8 circumlunar mission, my knowledge was very very superficial. Robert Kurson takes the reader inside the mission with words that describe the incredible power and complexities of the Saturn V rocket that astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders rode to the moon on their incredible voyage in December 1968. He describes the lives of the men as they were growing up, how they came to be astronauts, their relationships with their wives, how they inte ...more
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Before Apollo Eleven landed on the Moon astronauts had to prove they could actually get there.
This was the record breaking mission of Apollo Eight.


The first men who;
left Earth's orbit,
flew to the Moon,
orbited the Moon,
saw the far-side,
mapped the landing site,
and returned safely to Earth.


The year 1968 was a disaster for America and the world. Dissent, revolution, the assassinations of Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, the unraveling of Vietnam, the riots in Chicago - all were pulling the cou
Cindy Burnett
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Rocket Men is the masterfully depicted tale of the three courageous astronauts who pioneered humankinds’ first trip to the moon and the NASA engineers and other employees who made such a journey possible. 1968 was a tumultuous year in the United States with the escalation of the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F Kennedy, Nixon’s election as President, and massive protests and riots happening throughout the country. Meanwhile, the Soviet/United States space r ...more
I went into this book with hesitation—spacecraft and rockets are not my usual cup of tea. Understanding so little about them, I feared I would either be bored stiff or totally lost, confused by technical terms that would go over my head. I was neither bored nor confused. The book is directed toward the layman and SO exciting you simply do not want to put it down. Give the book a bit of time. Don’t even consider dropping the book until December 21, 1968, and the launching of the rocket. Durin ...more
How is it even possible to make a book about space that I don't love? Here are some ways:

- Continuous, unrepentant use of idioms and clichés. If you're quoting someone or deliberately reflecting the patterns of speech of your subjects (think Tom Wolfe in The Right Stuff ) that's one thing. If you're reaching for the easiest phrase in the phrasebook, that's ... lazy. This was definitely not the former.

- Indistinguishable voices. Every line of this book felt uniform in tone and pattern. This do
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing story, made even more amazing by Ray Porter's excellent narration.

I can't help but feel that, much like 1968 when this tale took place, we need this kind of patriotic, inspiring story to get us through this tough time.

(And then I see something like this proposed Trump July 4th parade, and I think to myself, this is NOT what we need right now.)

Sorry to get political. These men were patriots, they were brave and they were Americans. It was a pleasure to learn more about them.
BAM Endlessly Booked
Comprehensive story, but I think I should have had a paper copy. The audio didn’t keep my attention.
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Kurson's incredible book "Rocket Men" tells one of the greatest stories of adventure in the modern age, a story that captivated not just the nation, but the entire world. It's the story of the race to the moon. If you loved The Right Stuff and Apollo 13, you'll love this book. After the Soviets launched Sputnik, the space race had begun and, although John Kennedy set getting to the moon within ten years as a goal, it almost didn't happen. Growing up, we all knew the names of the three astronauts ...more
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ☮Karen by: Diane S ☔
1968 - A blast from the past. I remember 1968 well for its many tragedies and a pervasive gloominess about the country's future outlook. What I don't remember is how the year ended with the first manned trip to the moon on Apollo 8, set to launch Christmas day. One man even told NASA they dare not launch on Christmas, because it was sure to fail, kill everyone, and ruin the holiday for the entire country from that day forward. But the flight succeeded. Succeeded in ways one couldn't imagine at t ...more
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 Stars for Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon (audiobook) by Robert Kurson read by Ray Porter. This is an amazing book. I believe that the Apollo 11 story has really overshadowed this story. The author does a wonderful job of introducing us to the men who oversaw and flew this mission. He also really put the mission into perspective for the country. This is a great audiobook.
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
1968 - America was not having a particularly good year. Whether it was the surprise Tet Offensive, the capture of the USS Pueblo, the riots in the streets of Chicago during the DNC, or the double-tragedy of the Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy assassinations, many headline news stories were often casting a fairly bleak view for the country. But in the final weeks there was a story that, if only for a few brief moments, raised the spirits for some of the nation during the holiday season.

Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Apollo 8 was the first time human beings traveled beyond Earth orbit and through deep space to another world - three astronauts traveled to the moon and made ten orbits before returning to the Earth. Rocket Men is a fantastic recounting of this mission and the stories of the three astronauts that pulled it off: Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders. Despite the fact that the Apollo 8 mission took place during late December 1968 and was soon overshadowed by Apollo 11’s moon landing mission in ...more
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 is a very compelling narrative history of the first and very risky journey of man leaving earth to orbit the moon. Kurson, like in his previous work, Shadow Divers, delves deeply into the context of a singular event, and makes the unique fit into the larger history.

With Rocket Men, the primary focus is on astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders. While appropriate attention is devoted to their three families back in Houston, events in Missio
Short version: Wow, what a surprise.

In 2018, the 50th anniversary year after the flight of Apollo 8, I resolved to reread the two books devoted to the subject—Robert Zimmerman's Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8, The First Manned Flight to Another World, and Jeffrey Kluger's Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon.

To space fans, Apollo 8 is probably the least celebrated of the great spaceflights of the cold war. There wasn't a book devoted to covering the flight until Zimmerm
Carly Friedman
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Kurson did an amazing job describing multiple aspects of the Apollo 8 mission. The book describes the background of the three astronauts: Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders. We also learn about how they were selected, the training and other preparation for the mission, and their wives and families. I loved the chapters that summarized the political and social environment during that time period. The description of the mission had me on the edge of my seat f ...more
Dec 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: space
The story of Apollo 8, the first manned trip to and around the Moon. For example, Bill Anders took his famous Earthrise photo in orbit around the Moon. There's very little new information here, but it is a good story.

Kurson's angle seems to have been to interview each of the astronauts and their families, so we hear about their thoughts, and family and marital problems. That's fine. There are extended biographical sketches of each astronaut. The book gives a good sense of the atmosphere for the
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
John F. Kennedy had promised to put a man on the moon before the end of the 1960’s and after his assassination, Lyndon Johnson supported this unlikely goal. The USA had a tremendous desire to win the space race, however, and against all odds, Apollo 8 was conceived and implemented, some said too quickly. Astronauts Borman, Lovell, and Anders went on the historic Christmas 1968 mission to orbit the moon, and after a terrible year of riots, carnage in Vietnam, and assassinations of two beloved lea ...more
Laurens Ter Heegde
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book has been one of the most thrilling reads of my life. Kurson managed to draw me into the command module and make me feel like I was there together with Borman, Lovell and Anders. The narrative extensively treats the context of the mission in relation to the tensions that were troubling the United States in 1968. Since I was born over three decades after the events, this greatly helped in explaining the motives behind taking the gigantic risks involved with the mission. The story conveys ...more
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So incredible! Much like with Shadow Divers and Pirate Hunters, I became fully immersed in the world of Rocket Men. Kurson has made me interested in topics I would have otherwise ignored: deep sea diving, the Golden Age of piracy, and NASA. The writing is stunning and the Epilogue left me weeping—his Author’s Note at the end is one of my favorites ever. Now....I wish he’d pen a tale about lesser-known women :)
Feb 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley, abandoned
This is an excellent read and I think most with an interest in anything space will really enjoy it. For me, perhaps it's because I've read SO much about the space program, I found it it to be somewhat pedestrian. I didn't find too much here that I didn't already know something about and didn't think this telling brought that much new to the story. ...more
Dec 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
5 stars easy. I couldn’t put it down, and when I did, I couldn’t stop thinking about it! The author does such a good job making you feel like you are there in mission control, on the ship, and at the astronauts’ homes with their families. This book covered history, politics at that time, and a personal look into the astronauts’ lives and backgrounds. I did not feel like any details were spared, yet it was never boring or dry. I somewhat follow American politics, and this year has felt like doom ...more
Ellie 9218
Apr 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Read while sheltering at home during a national pandemic. I absolutely loved this beautifully written account of Apollo 8 and the three Astronauts who made Mans first Journey to the moon.
Very accessible for just about anyone interested in the topic.

I got to meet the astronauts,to meet their families of origin and generation, and to get a glimpse of what life was like on board Apollo 8. All of this written in a way that read like a novel--somethung important to many many readers.

I just wanted more technology and science. I will take less readability almost any day if I can get the information.

Overall: Enjoyable and Informative.
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I give Kurson's latest book ***** because it's an important story and an exciting one and told in a very compelling way. The main part of the book focuses on the three astronauts who were the first to go to the Moon--not to land on it, but orbit it--and those were the three men of Apollo 8- Borman, Lovell, and Anders. Kurson gives us a succinct background to Apollo, which was the Cold War and Kennedy's commitment to send men to the moon by the end of the 1960s. What I did NOT know about Apollo ...more
Fredrick Danysh
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Rocket Men is a record of America's space program's efforts to beat the Soviets in getting to the moon. It mentions Apollo 1 disaster that took three lives and caused the acceleration of American efforts. Apollo 8's entire workup and mission is laid out. This is a decent work about space exploration and NASA. My copy was a free review copy through ...more
Sep 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I've ever read! Ever!! I'm embarrassed to admit how little I knew about Apollo 8 at the time it was taking place. (Probably because I was a teenager and thought everything was all about me, me, me.) I loved that there was more to the book than strictly the race to the moon. It also covered other things that were going on in 1968, like the Viet Nam war, race riots, assassinations, and violent protests. What a wretched time that was. It makes the wretched year we're i ...more
Bill Shannon
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've read my share of books about NASA and the space program, and while most of them consider the 1969 Moon Landing to be the apex of the early program's accomplishments, it seems like the 1968 Apollo 8 mission -- the first to go around the moon without actually landing on it -- might be the more galvanizing of the two. I'd have to say this is probably the best book I've read so far about space exploration.

The flight of Apollo 8 was the first time that humans left the earth's gravitational pull
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Robert Kurson is an American author, best known for his bestselling book, "Shadow Divers," the true story of two Americans who discover a sunken World War II German U-boat and for "Crashing Through," the story of an entrepreneur who regains his eyesight after a lifetime of blindness.

Kurson began his career as an attorney, graduating from Harvard Law School and practicing real estate law. His profe

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“After the meal, Borman dropped me off at my hotel, then went to visit his wife at the nursing home where she lives. As he drove away, it seemed to me strange—I felt I’d come to know Susan as well as I had Frank, despite having met her for just a few minutes, despite the fact that she had been too ill to speak. When I returned home and transcribed the tapes of my interviews, I understood why. Borman spoke of Susan constantly; there didn’t seem an aspect of his life he could explain without discussing how much she meant to him or how much he loved her. I’d heard the same from Lovell and Anders about their wives. When I discovered that Apollo 8 was the only crew in which all the marriages survived (astronaut careers were notoriously hard on marriages) it didn’t surprise me. In a singularly beautiful story, it seemed only fitting that the first men to leave Earth considered home to be the most important place in the universe.” 5 likes
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