The dangerous, thrilling Apollo program

Tom Jackson
Mar 23, 2010

 

You probably noticed the hoopla on July 20 over the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, but you may not know just how dangerous and difficult the Apollo space program was.

I have a better appreciation for it now because I've been reading Craig T. Nelson's "Rocket Men."

His description of the adventures of Ohio's Neil Armstrong is particularly gripping. So far in the text, Armstrong has survived (1) Being shot down in Korea, (2) Landing the X-15 safely after the controls malfunctioned, (3) Landing a B-29 after three out of four engines failed and (4) Seeing his home in a Houston suburb burn to the ground in the middle of the night. I haven't gotten, yet, to the chapters in which Armstrong is almost killed while working for NASA.

The book is full of interesting tidbits. Here's one: Everyone at NASA familiar with how rockets work (and don't work) was secretly amazed the Saturn V rocket never blew up on the launch pad.