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The Man Who Knew The Way to the Moon

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  3,618 ratings  ·  360 reviews
The story of John C. Houbolt, an unsung hero of Apollo 11 and the man who showed NASA how to put America on the moon.

Without John C. Houbolt, a junior engineer at NASA, Apollo 11 would never have made it to the moon.

Top NASA engineers on the project, including Werner Von Braun, strongly advocated for a single, huge spacecraft to travel to the moon, land, and return to Ea
Audible Audio, 5 pages
Published July 4th 2019 by Audible Studios
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Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was reading something about the 50th anniversary of the moon landing recently, and one thing that caught my eye was that apparently over 400,000 people worked on various projects related to making that happen. I’d say that out of all them, the contribution of John Houbolt may be the most controversial.

Houbolt was an engineer at NASA who became an advocate for Lunar Orbit Rendezvous. In the early days of trying to get to the moon most everyone thought that the way to do it was to either build
Jul 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, science
A fascinating look at how NASA decided to use the Lunar Orbital Rendezvous to get to the Moon and back. At least that part was interesting.

The sad part was the moaning and complaining from John Houbolt, and how he spent the rest of his life angry and frustrated that he didn't get the recognition he thought he deserved. Sad, really.
Andrew Bulthaupt
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: space, audible
I listened to this book via Audible.

I was familiar with John C. Houbolt's contributions to the Apollo program thanks to the seminal HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, so when I saw the Audible Original about the man who championed Lunar Orbit Rendezvous (LOR) I knew I had to listen.

The production is a fantastic overview of Houbolt, giving you information on his background and upbringing, which gives context to his actions in the early 1960s at NASA. It was interesting to learn about his
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating behind-the-scenes details about the moon landing 50 years ago.
Sep 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Despite being a self-proclaimed Apollo nut, I knew not of John C. Houbolt, the man credited with devising the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous method of landing on the moon. At the time, there was a push at NASA to use one giant rocket (the Nova) to make the trip and land / take off from the moon but John's idea ultimately won over Wernher von Braun and the NASA decision makers.

Houbolt didn't have a lot of people on his side and felt disrespected during the run-up to the Apollo program, but received his
Colleen Houck
I don't usually read much in the way of non-fiction but this one was very interesting. How scary it must have been for the early astronauts to attempt landing on the moon. It's something I've always taken for granted. Hearing exactly how it happened with all the problems and issues going with it was really interesting.
Lis Carey
John C. Houboldt was a airplane engineer who worked for NASA, and became interested, in some ways obsessed with, the Moon program that he logically ought to have no role in.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, there were already, before President Kennedy ever made his speech committing the US to get to the Moon and back before the end of the 1960s, space program scientists were already working on how to do it. There were three basic approaches--the direct approach, using a single large rocket to l
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
I will always find any stories connected with humanity’s exploration of space inspiring and this is no exception.

I have a feeling a lot of people will judge John Houbolt as being petty in his quest for recognition. I wonder how I would have felt in his place. I know a lot of people deserve credit for their part in one of humanity’s greatest achievements. We think of the Space Program as representing the best of us. The worst of us was also there and I think if John was petty, so were those who s
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Okay, I wasn't sure how to rate this so I'm giving it four stars because the production was great and I love all the interviews and the detailed historical research that went into this production. The audiobook itself, I would give five stars.
I have a love-hate relationship with stories about people who didn't get the recognition they deserved at the time. I personally love some of these books about people behind the scenes and unsung heroes. Yet, I also easily irritated by people who feel like
I've been familiar with John Houbolt and his quest to see Lunar Orbit Rendezvous (LOR) become the USA's method of getting to the moon for quite some time. It's touched on in Andrew Chaikin's A Man on the Moon, and character actor Reed Birney played Houboult in the HBO mini-series Chaikin's book inspired, but I've never seen this story as more than a footnote to the greater tale of going to the moon.

And maybe that is all it really is ... a footnote.

But it is a fascinating footnote, and as told
I am of two minds about this book. On the one hand, I learned some stuff I never otherwise would have looked into in regards to the moon landings of the '60's. On the other hand, most of what I learned made me dislike the titular man who "knew the way to the moon" and I really don't think that was the author's intent.

My feelings for what I learned about John Houbolt aside*, I also have mixed feelings about the audiobook. There were lots of interviews and quotes from TV or radio broadcasts. And t
Kristi Krumnow
The story behind the creation of, landing, and return of Apollo is fascinating. The calculations for a spacecraft lift off from the moon are intriguing - I had never considered how the ship would get off the moon without the thousands of gasoline needed for takeoff. Nor how the plane would leave the surface of the moon. The recorded voices of the astronauts are touches of history that propel the otherwise snoozer story.
The comical astronauts and Houston's radioed responses - in outer space - wer
Chalay Cragun
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was my favorite audible original I have listened to yet. I felt like it was incredibly well researched and told a familiar story with so many new facts. As someone who is only mildly interested in the space race Zwillich made it so I was much more intrigued. I also very much enjoyed his voice and it didn't bug me near as much as the chili guys.
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Loved this. As part of my summer of Apollo it was an interesting and refreshing tale in the cannon of the moon landing. And a great way to ease myself down off the Moon Landing high. Best Audible Original I’ve heard so far. Or at least the one that worked best for me.
Danijel Pranjić
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very good book which is giving close insights according to one of the biggest achievements in human history.
It is presenting how even good/best ideas can be hard to implement to some company scheme.
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My childhood was filled with a fascination about space travel. I still (50 years later) vividly remember watching the moon landing. I challenge folks who don’t believe we landed men on the moon to listen to this audio book about a brave NASA engineer who stood up for what was right.
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Poorly put together and not well-written. Learned some facts, but the story was too fragmented to make much sense.
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating account of how the persistence of a NASA scientist led to the U.S. being the first to successfully have a man land on the moon.
Larry Bassett
Aug 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, nonfiction
I’m not really much of a space buff although I do go back to what were practically my pre-teenage years and watching the sputnik blink through the sky. So this is enjoyable to listen to with some of the audio highlights of the 1960s and the race to the moon. The story of the man is particularly interesting. Because I am somewhat of a filter at windmills myself so I can relate to pushing on something when others seem unsupportive or disinterested.

If you are used to reading mystery stories where a
Karen Mardahl
May 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting story about sticking to what you feel is the right decision even when your organisation doesn't agree with you. I have always been fascinated by the whole effort to get to the moon or just getting off this planet. Stories like this or the book "Hidden Figures" is telling me that NASA is basically a toxic workplace! That is sad and a bit tragic. How much more could they have achieved if it hadn't been for the various politics games and cultural forces that were at work the ...more
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it

3.5-4.0 stars

The audio production explores the contribution of Apollo program engineer John C. Houbolt, a NASA associate at Langley Research Center. An aeronautic engineer, not assigned to the space program, he was an early advocate (zealot) of the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous as the most economical and fastest strategy for putting man on the moon and returning them to the earth safely.

The production includes sound bites from the period, as well as interviews with Houbolt's wife (Houbolt pas
Gilbert Stack
Aug 04, 2019 rated it liked it
If you’re curious about the backroom politics at NASA—a combination of honest disagreements, petty jealousies, and the usual jockeying for position—than this short book was written for you. It tells the story of John Houbolt who thought up the way to get astronauts to the moon’s surface and back—Lunar Orbit Rendezvous. The preferred idea at NASA was to build a rocket big enough to launch to the moon, land there, and then launch again to come home. The problem with this was that the tech to build ...more
Lars Dradrach
Jul 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
50 years ago a man walked on the moon.

I can hardly say I remember the moment as I was 5 at the time, but the whole Space program has always fascinated me and are probably a big part of my science fiction interest.

As part of the anniversary Audible issued this tale about one of the lesser known heroes of the Apollo program, it’s a very interesting story that gives some insight into some of the politics which surrounded this immense program spanning nearly 10 years.

It also raises the very interest
Debbie Cranberryfries
Eh. 2.5 stars
Interesting look in to a tiny bit of what NASA was up to specifically around the lunar orbital rendezvous time and how it came about.
Felt a bit odd about how it seemed the more main point was how much Houbolt was pushing and getting resistance. At least in the light of this book obviously with the title. But it really felt forced and still an unwelcome outcome.?
Di Richardson
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I found this book, another audible original, interesting and thought provoking on numerous levels. It tells the story of John Houbolt, a junior engineer at NASA that would not take no for an answer. John stood up to the ridicule of his coworkers and colleagues, and went around his managers because he knew the success of the Apollo mission and meeting President Kennedy’s directive to get a man on the moon was dependent upon the use of a Lunar Orbit Rendezvous (LOR). it is a really good lesson for ...more
Catherine Puma
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
This 3.5 hour Audible Original production is about the NASA engineer John Houbolt, who was the earliest advocator for lunar orbital rendezvous. While he did not invent the concept, he was a champion for getting the idea considered by upper level NASA decision-making management personnel. Houbolt distributed memos, sent off frustrated letters, gave pitching proposal presentations, and was on a team that wrote a 100+ page report detailing how to pull off the engineering and funding for the strateg ...more
Michael Huang
Aug 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
A surprisingly good story about the lunar orbit rendezvous (LOR) idea for the Apollo missions: it’s balanced, comprehensive and yet not verbose.

Most people alive today were not yet born when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. But most probably have some knowledge about it, perhaps including details such as there were 3 astronauts on the mission, two of them touched down on the surface while the third was left in orbit. This approach is the so-called LOR. It makes a lot of sense as it takes a lot les
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Even as someone not into 60s history or space exploration much (tho I *do* love me a good Robert A. Heinlein novel — and I digress), I really really liked this book. It was fascinating and the story of the dogged and brilliant yet sometimes self-defeating Houbolt was wonderful.

Unlike other readers, Houbolt’s desire for credit didn’t rankle me at all. Who wouldn’t have a little PTSD of sorts from superiors YELLING THAT YOU ARE LYING when you present simple math facts? He probably felt like he had
Amy Mills
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
The information presented in this is quite interesting, but superficial enough to make me wonder if I'm really getting the full story. The views presented here as strangely dismissive make me wonder what else was going on behind the scenes. Still, it was fascinating to see that what we think of the "the" way to get to the moon was one of many ideas, and not at all the most prominent until time became a crucial issue.

It was also of interest to me that the original plans for getting to the moon in
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
A somewhat interesting snippet of moon landing history. I was a bit bored during some of the parts due to having done some mission design for NASA myself (ie. I don't need the Rocket Equation explained to me by a layperson). And a bit miffed about speculation on John Houboult's personality, and why he never received the credit he felt he deserved. The bit about him being angry because the $100K award was reduced to $15K was mind-blowing to me. At the NASA *I* worked for a couple decades later, b ...more
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