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One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,167 ratings  ·  181 reviews
The remarkable story of the trailblazers and the ordinary Americans on the front lines of the epic mission to reach the moon.

President John F. Kennedy astonished the world on May 25, 1961, when he announced to Congress that the United States should land a man on the Moon by 1970. No group was more surprised than the scientists and engineers at NASA, who suddenly had less t
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published September 11th 2019 by Simon Schuster (first published June 11th 2019)
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Jay Pruitt
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"No other act of human exploration ever laid a plaque saying We come in peace for all mankind."
--Neil deGrasse Tyson--

Released to coincide with the 50-year anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon walk, One Giant Leap tells the story of how a nation is challenged to do the impossible. As a young boy with his model Saturn V rocket and detachable lunar module in hand, I was among the 600 MILLION viewers who stayed up until 11pm on July 20, 1969 to see Neil Armstrong take a giant leap for mankind
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Overall, this was a fascinating look into America’s emergence into the space age. I appreciated the holistic approach this book took, by not only providing a thorough overview of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, but also enumerating the many steps it took to get there (starting from the historical, political and technological context and the programs proceeding it) as well as how the program affected technology and American culture.

One negative aspect of this book is that at times, the author
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved reading this book! The explanation of the science and will to succeed that led to the moon landings is enhanced by the context of history, before, during and after the Apollo years. I was almost 10 years old at the time of Apollo 11 and I remember staying up late to watch the landing on TV. This book illuminates many things I was too young to understand at the time and makes a great argument for regarding the Apollo mission as an amazing success. Highly recommended.
Laura Noggle
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book that looks at more than just the moon missions. How the jump in technology affected the everyday lives of Americans was extremely interesting.

Oct 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very interesting and readable book about the Apollo program and its legacy.

The first chapters give us the societal and political context at the end of the 50s, review the accomplishments of the Soviet space program, Gagarin’s flight and Kennedy’s response. They also give some evidence that, though strongly supporting the moon project in public, Kennedy was not so keen on it in private, and as criticism mounted and his second term election approached, he was pondering cutting its budget.

But the
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Wow, what a story.
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon by Charles Fishman is a book that chronicles the Apollo program responsible for the manned lunar landing in the late 1960s. One Giant Leap is a tour de force, covering everything from the social and civil unrest which serves as the backdrop to the story, to the behind the scenes politics leading to the conception and funding of the Apollo program, and complete with a deep technical introspective into the challenges and solutions in ...more
Scott Martin
Jun 19, 2019 rated it liked it
(3.5 Stars) (Audiobook) This book is one of many that has hit the shelves in the days/months leading up to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landings. This work takes the approaches of trying to debunk or clarify much of the mythology and misconceptions surrounding the Apollo 11 mission. To do that, Fishman takes the reader on a survey of the history of US manned space flight, describing the advancements of the USSR and how it drove the US towards the goal of putting a man on the moon. ...more
Tyler Critchfield
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I really liked this. While it's probably a bit too technical for some, I enjoyed the nitty gritty details of what went into our flight to the moon 50 years ago. It truly is remarkable that our nation was able to do it despite not knowing how at the start of the sixties (and with a computer that had less memory than modern kitchen appliances. And so much of our current digital age can be attributed to the Apollo missions and the technology we developed and perfected to get to the moon. Cool to th ...more
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, vine, non-fiction
Having so recently read Shoot for the Moon by James Donovan, there will be a few comparisons, but overall, these were very different books. SftM was a linear narrative and I was emotionally vested, where OGL was much more technical and political. The first chapter introduces the world to the decade in which the space program was born. “The eight years from Kennedy’s speech to Armstrong’s first steps were as transformative as any eight-year period in post-World War II American history…” The dawn ...more
Dennis Garone
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Now that I’ve reached the age when I am in the minority of humanity that actually lived the moon landing I needed an inspiration to truly revive my enjoyment and awe of the accomplishment.

The author reminds us of the ultimate goal that was a perfect storm of Cold War, paranoia, scientific and cutting edge technology and the journey’s amazing place in history.

Living through the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo programs I was living the dream as a kid, building the models and corresponding with Gordon Coope
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The acclaimed journalist Charles Fishman has written a thoughtful examination of the legacy of the Apollo program, released in time for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 last year. The book feels quite fresh, because instead of simply rehashing the often told stories about the astronauts' experiences, Fishman highlights the contributions of the lesser known figures. Although the astronauts are usually the center of attention, he shifts the focus to people such as those at the Massachusetts Insti ...more
Mathew Madsen
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I went in expecting a play-by-play of the events leading up to and surrounding Neal Armstrong's famous words, but I got so much more. One Giant Leap provides not only a good overview of the moon missions, but a fascinating behind the scenes look at 1960s era NASA as a whole. From international geopolitical analysis and awe-inspiring stories to plain old domestic politics and amusing anecdotes, this book has it all. I learned a lot and came away with a new appreciation for everything it took to l ...more
Robert Melnyk
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book about the history of the mission that flew us to the moon. The book goes into details about the space race, from Sputnik through the last moon mission, Apollo 17. Since I lived through this entire period, a lot of what is talked about in the book I already knew about, but there was also many details about what went on behind the scenes that I either did not know, or had forgotten. Perhaps I am prejudiced because I have always had such an interest and fascination with our space p ...more
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really liked the chapters written about technical and behind the scene stuff : for example, Apollo Guidance Computer, the Lunar Module, the rover. However, the first three chapters are more about the social and political environment which led President Kennedy to announce that the USA will put a man on the moon before the end of the 60s. To me, it seemed that there was a lot of repetition on those first chapters that could have been summarized better. In short, a very interesting read about Ap ...more
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Excellent read. Not your typical recounting of all the Apollo missions - the chapters were more like individual vignettes about an aspect of the space program, some which had not been explored in all the reading I've done about it in the last year or two... My favorite quote:

That's the sense in which the culture of manned space travel helped lay the groundwork for the Digital Age. Space didn't get us ready for space; it got us ready for the world that was coming to Earth.

Terry Lutz
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Having lived through men walking on the moon, this book needs to be read by everyone who has not.
The vision, engineering innovation and technology development at a time when we had no business doing what we did, is absolutely unthinkable and incredible.
Just as incredible is how we can take this accomplishment for granted today.
At a cost of $20 billion the return on investment from going to the moon is immeasurable.
The book did a great job of simplifying the complexity we faced, and the greatest
Dec 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very well organized book about the whole history of NASA and the space program and the race to the moon. Made you feel proud, yet again to be an American. Loved the little stories throughout of everyday people doing extraordinary things!
Robyn Harrison
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
So many things I either didn't know or had forgotten about this time in history. It certainly left me with a lot to think about... ...more
Mary Leahy
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I listened to this book on audible. It is a wonderful history of space travel.
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Landing human beings on the surface of the moon is such an unfathomable achievement that even today, 50 years after it happened, the event has an almost science fiction surrealism to it. When we want to convey the sharpest critique of our failings on Earth we invoke our greatest achievement in space by calling on the phrase “if we can go to the moon, we should be able to...” And isn’t that odd? Shouldn’t our space travel capability be so far advanced now, half a century later, that we look back ...more
Oct 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a great look at human thought process-- people trying to imagine all the unknown unknowns and creating layers of contingency plans. Never heard many of these stories before. Little things like dust on the moon, how to fly a flag in zero atmosphere, rendezvous flight dynamics in space, so many leaps of imagination that forced engineering to evolve, whole new fields of computer science created.

I'm sold that Apollo left a legacy so much greater than velcro and Tang. This was fine research
Jul 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
After reading the first chapter of this book, I wasn’t sure I would finish it. It felt like much of the book would be beyond my grasp. In deciding to soldier on I gained an appreciation of the effort and determination it took to not only design and build a spaceship to get to the moon but the ingenuity involved, all in a decade’s time. President Kennedy didn’t live to see the reality of landing on the moon or the benefits of such an endeavor which was a shame. His leadership motivated the US to ...more
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, history
On July 20, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. And so I read Charles Fishman’s brilliant new book, One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon, a meticulously researched history entwined with vivid details that tell a fast-paced story. Fishman begins by telling us the moon has a smell. After walking on the moon, the astronauts, Neil Armstrong and and Buzz Aldrin, noticed the dust they had tracked in smelled “like wet ashes,” or like “a firecracker” that ha ...more
John Lybrand
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book covers some familiar ground like the Cold War motivations and engineering problems related to manned space flight. This needs to be included because not everyone has heard these stories before. As the author points out 70% of people living in the US as of 2018 either were not born, or were five years old or younger at the time of Apollo. The author does a good job with these themes, and even extends them to cover more of the culture of the 1950s and 1960s. However, what makes the book ...more
Ondrej Kokes
Sep 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is an epic journey into the 60s and all the obstacles faced by the many thousands of people involved in the Apollo programme.

The book goes into so much detail that the Notes section in the Kindle version takes up more than a third of the book.

While most of the content is captivating, there are rambly and verbose bits here and there, so the book is a bit longer than one would need. But it’s a great read anyway.
Minervas Owl
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
J.K. George
Apr 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020-books
This is a wonderful book for any library. It covers the field extremely well, but the story is dense and filled with so many facts that it took a number of late nights sitting and reading, as I dozed off. The story gains weight with all behind-the-scenes stories only a persistent expert in the field and well-connected writer can scoop up.

The book is a paean to JFK's vision as well as his "hands off" method of the program. His tragic assassination led to the opposite approach by LBJ who decided
Ryan Thorpe
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Bullet point review. What did I learn?

1. Apollo was the biggest civilian project pretty much ever. It was literally the second largest employer in the country and had more people working for it than were in Vietnam at its peak.
2. It was basically a war move – beat the Soviets in an all-out race to the moon. And people really felt like that at the time! In some never-exactly-defined-way people thought that if the Soviets won the race to the moon, that was dangerous not just bad for morale. But a
Realms & Robots
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One Giant Leap tells the story of the moon landing from a behind-the-scenes perspective, leaving the big picture plot points behind for the nitty gritty details many of us are unaware of. To say the trip to the Moon was a difficult task would be an understatement. The narrative shows the moon landing as one of those impossible tasks your overbearing boss sets for you, assuming you can complete it in a quarter of the necessary time, on budget and in a race with your primary competitor. It’s a fas ...more
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As a reporter, Charles Fishman has tried to get inside organizations, both familiar and secret, and explain how they work.
In the course of reporting about water to write The Big Thirst, Fishman has stood at the bottom of a half-million-gallon sewage tank, sampled water directly from the springs in San Pellegrino, Italy, and Poland Spring, Maine, and carried water on his head for 3 km with a group

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