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Moondust: In Search Of The Men Who Fell To Earth

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  2,349 ratings  ·  203 reviews
The Apollo lunar missions of the 1960s and 1970s have been called the last optimistic acts of the twentieth century. Twelve astronauts made this greatest of all journeys and were indelibly marked by it, for better or for worse. Journalist Andrew Smith tracks down the nine surviving members of this elite group to find their answers to the question "Where do you go after you ...more
Paperback, 372 pages
Published 2006 by Bloomsbury (first published 2005)
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4.05  · 
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 ·  2,349 ratings  ·  203 reviews

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Bionic Jean
Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth is a unique account by the journalist Andrew Smith, recording the experiences of the 9 remaining astronauts who went to the moon. As he says:

"Of over 400 people who have now been into Space, only 27 have ever left Earth's orbit and seen her from the perspective of Deep Space - all American and all between the Christmases of 1968 and 1972."

In 2005, Andrew Smith realised that there would only be a short time left for this account to be written from
Brendon Schrodinger
May 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, space
I'm finding it hard to write this review. Not due to the book at all, just due to my own problems. I listened to the audio book of this the last couple of weeks at the gym. And it was very entertaining and interesting, it kept me at the gym for longer than I would have listening to music. But I'd class my audio comprehension as slightly retarded. That styrofoam ball that my sister dared me to shove up my nose when I was six never came back out. I have a feeling that the section of my brain that ...more
Dec 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
First, let's lament the unfortunate cover of this new edition. Here's the old one:

Okay, onward: I actually read each chapter at least twice before moving on. I've never done a neurotic escapade like that with a book before, but I didn't want it to end.

Part memoir, part essayist account, part historic narrative (the description of the Eagle landing here is the best, sorry Andrew Chaikin), Moondust is more than a search for the last surviving men who walked on the moon. It's also NOT a technologic
May 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Gonzo-light style book by a music journalist on trying to meet the surviving 9 astronauts who walked on the moon, discuss it and their post-moon lives, and draw Deep Lessons. Prompted by the interesting review of it in the LRB ("What did you expect? The banality of moon-talk").

Smith strives very hard to contextualize the short interviews/encounters, often unsuccessfully, bouncing between a frustrating amount of padding, the history, and very short snippets from the actual interviews - he is part
Aug 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After the death of Pete Conrad in a motorcycle accident, Smith sets out to interview the nine Apollo moonwalkers who are still alive. In his interviews, Smith focuses on discovering how the astronauts were changed by their trip to the moon, and what the trip meant to them. And while the interviews are fascinating (I was born too late to appreciate the Apollo program while it was happening, but I was obsessed with it in the last few years of the seventies, as the program's crazy glory faded and i ...more
Nick Davies
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Despite having a slightly contrived aim (the author decided he wanted to track down the nine remaining men, at time of writing, who had walked on the surface of The Moon) and despite me not being a gigantic super-fan of astronomy, I did enjoy this book and find it interesting. Another random punt picked up from a charity shop proving to be a very good choice.

The main strength of the book is the writing. In another author's hands interviews with a series of American men in their sixties/seventies
Jenny (Border Dweller)
Mar 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a book about people rather than technology, or rather, the impact of technology on people. Those looking for a detailed and factual account of the Apollo Moon Landings will be disappointed. Those, like me, who know the official narrative but want answers to the questions no-one thought to ask, will love it.

The basic premise of the book is simple: what does it do to a man to leave earth and stand on another world? To answer this question, the author interviews the remaining "moonwalkers",
Dec 06, 2007 rated it liked it
I found the author far more interesting that the astronauts. I liked his speculations of why we are fascinated with the moon. I liked his thoughts on how the moon landings fitted in with history at the time. I like his reflections on his childhood. I loved the thoughts of proximity and distance that this book prompted.
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There is nothing to say aside from this book is absolute magic and you should all read it. Beautifully written and captivating from start to finish. I didn't want it to end.
May 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
This is an interesting book: part travelogue, part collective biography of the nine remaining men who set foot on the moon and what happened to them after that life-changing experience, and part philosophical discourse on what Apollo and the moon landings have come to mean to us in the forty years since Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon. I loved it, from start to finish; I couldn't put it down, and when I did I felt thoroughly infected by the author's passion and 'childlike wonder' ...more
Mark Fleming
Sep 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A masterpiece. A book that manages to convey the awe, the magic and yet the very ordinariness of an extraordinary time and event. We can almost walk with these ageing men in an impossible place. We feel their aches of age and the sadness they each seem to convey. The moon-men soared in their early lives, test pilots, fighter pilots and daredevils. Then they set off for the moon. Each in their own way has never returned, and for those who reached its ancient surface, something other than just the ...more
Jan 18, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: reviewed
I'm sorry to say I didn't really enjoy this. The purpose of the book sounded fascinating (man goes to moon, returns, life is ruined forever) but in reality this pitch was stretched wafer thin. The book felt like it ought to have been an interesting long article, but instead you have loads of navel gazing filler from the author - "weren't the sixties just great let me tell you all about it..." um, no ta.
Phillip Jones
Aug 19, 2007 rated it liked it
This was a random purchase but turned out to be very good indeed. The conceit is that the writer is trying to find the remaining men who walked on the moon and, while doing so, tries to find-out why the world has become so unimpressed by their achievement. Intriguing.
Mar 12, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club
What an awful, boring book. Shame really. Space is my favourite subject. I tried to read it, I really did but it just dragged on and on.

Find my personal ‘Quote of the Book’ on pg.319::
“Pete Conrad used to defuse the question [of what was it like to stand on the Moon] by answering “Super! Really enjoyed it!”.”

Then place a bookmark on pg 32 where a crew list for the Apollo missions (11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17) which reached the surface of the Moon can be found. Further detailed information is to be found in the Appendix at the back of Michael Collins’ superb 1974 book “Carrying The Fire”.

If you’re reading either of the 2006 or 2009
Hilary G
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned

I am very sorry but I finally had to give up on this book, which completely failed to hold my attention. After trying to read it for more than a month, I am barely past page 100 and mired in the incoherent ramblings of Buzz Aldrin. How disappointing that humanity’s first ambassadors into space, had they met any aliens, were barely articulate enough to say “Take me to your leader”.

I have always been terrifically interested in the space programme. The year after the first l
Nov 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Ogreboy, Shinynickel, my dad
I found this book to be fascinating, uplifting, inspiring, and emotionally moving. It was well-written, and here and there quite humorous. I feel grateful in a surprising way after reading this, grateful and happy that someone attempted to interview these men, and that Andrew Smith got as close as he did to finding out the astronauts real thoughts on what it was like to be on the moon, and what it was like to come home after and live on the Earth. Smith has a gift for staying grounded in reality ...more
Sep 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Larry and any other 40-somethings
This may not have been the best book to "read" (or rather listen to) at the start of my Apollo kick, coming as it does from the far more philosophical perspective of "What did it all mean?" rather than the prosaic "What happened?". I found myself, as the author reflected on the fact that he was about the same age as the astronauts he was interviewing were when they walked on the moon, realising that I myself am about the age he was when he was chasing these men down to interview them for this bo ...more
J.M. Hushour
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not so much a history of the Apollo guys, more an expedition for their own self-searching about what they did, as told through the author's own self-searching.
Of course, it's with the latter that one can easily find fault, because, frankly, who cares what Smith thinks. This is about finding out what the remaining (then) nine guys who walked on the moon thought about the experience. I'll get back to Smith in a minute.
Smith's attempts to wander around America getting the nine living Apollo astrona
Robert Day
Jul 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Aside from a brief spike of interest just before page 250 where the author started to talk about something deep and meaningful, this book is kind of dull.

Here's the premise - the author is the age at which 12 men walked on the moon (30 years previously) when he finds out that there are just 9 of them left. So he decides to interview as many of them as he can and then write a book about his experiences of the interviews.

Yes - you got it - this isn't a book about the men who walked on the moon - t
Peter Kobryn
May 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: space
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

I borrowed the 2006 edition paperback from my local library; and read as far as pg 174 ... whereupon I serendipitously came across and bought this 'as new' copy of the 2009 edition "with a new preface and afterword' in a charity (thrift) shop. Excellent value!

My full review can be found at

The preface to this 2009 book contains Smith's observation that, perfectly in character, Neil Armstrong did not attend his hometown's celebrations of the 30th anniversar
In 1999, journalist Smith met Charlie and Dotty Duke, in order to interview them for a magazine article. Duke was one of the twelve Americans who walked on the moon (as the lunar module pilot for Apollo 16), and during the interview, they got the news that Pete Conrad, an Apollo 12 moonwalker, had died in a motorcycle accident. Duke's sad response was, "Now there's only nine of us," and therewith started Smith's personal quest to speak to all of the remaining moonwalkers.

The result is a marvelo
Nic Margett
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, science
While at work reading this on my lunch break, one of my colleagues mocked the "Richard and Judy's book club" logo on the front page. I was very quick to defend them. I've only read a handful from their lists, but every single one has been a thoroughly entertaining and effortless read and this one has been no different.

I read a lot of science fiction, yet it occurred to me while i read this that i hadn't really looked at the realities of space exploration in any particular depth. I've watched a
Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
In some ways I feel I may need to re-read this book in order to gain a better perspective on it, having read it during a period where I struggled to keep focus on reading while other things have been happening in my life. For all that though I found this a very interesting read, an exploration of Apollo and the remaining men who once trod the lunar soil; a search for understanding of the ways their lives were affected by their experiences. It tells a side of the Apollo story that I hadn't seen m ...more
Erin Greenberg
May 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I can't tell you how much I loved this book. I read it a few years ago during a summer of space race reading. I ended up buying my own copy and have loaned it to several friends already! It was amazing to read the impact space travel and moonwalks had on these elite men. Their lives were never the same. The most interesting aspect of this book was watching each astronaut's story unfold. Each of them did the same thing (aside from Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swiggert of Apollo 13) - they eac ...more
Oct 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In turns poignant, humorous and contemplative, this is a beautifully written book that goes far beyond simply interviewing the surviving American astronauts who walked on the moon. Considering the trajectory of their lives following their lunar expeditions raises many questions about what brings true satisfaction. I'm actually not very interested in astronomy or space exploration, but the quality of the storytelling kept me engaged throughout, which is a real credit to the author. Excellent audi ...more
Carol Hislop
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I don't know why I like this book so much because I am definitely not a scientifically minded person but I really loved it. It is written by a journalist who meets all of the nine astronauts who have walked on the moon. He writes about why they became astronauts and what effects their trips to the moon had on them. It's maybe of more interest if you lived at the time of the moon landings though as I did.
Alison Smith
Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Andrew Smith tracks down the last 9 astronauts who went to the moon - 30 years after the event. A fascinating book about the American Space Progress/the Cold War/the 60s & 70s. I was astounded at the danger & risks which the astronauts faced. Smith brilliantly recreates the excitement, the atmosphere of the times. Half the men who went were radically changed, half were not. A really interesting (& entertaining) read. Highly recommended.
Kyrstie Gennoe
Oct 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-reading
I have a fascination with the moon, space and space travel. I therefore loved this book. It takes us back to a time and an excitement we will never haw again and brings the sense of 'what if' that is not possible today. It focuses on the people and emotions and the day to day work of getting to the moon. I can't wait to read it again
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Goodreads Librari...: Corrections / add 3 8 Jul 10, 2019 12:52PM  

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I was born in New York, but have lived most of my life in the UK and started out as a journalist, just writing and writing at Melody Maker, then The Face, Sunday Times and Observer. The engine of my work is always curiosity: my first book, 'Moondust', stemmed from me wondering what had happened to the 12 men who walked on the Moon between 1969 and '72; my second from bewilderment at the way Web 1. ...more
“When I review my travels among the astronauts, my mind's eye goes first to the Houston shopping mall where Alan Bean sat for hours after returning from space, just eating ice cream and watching the people swirl around him, enraptured by the simple yet miraculous fact they they were there and alive in that moment, and so was he.” 7 likes
“Had (President) Kennedy turned to his advisers and wailed, "What can we beat the Russians at?" and if someone had cried "Backgammon!" at that point, Apollo would never have happened.” 5 likes
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