Reading Shoot for the Moon

As a longtime space geek I’m familiar with the history of space exploration and the Apollo program. I read the classics and after so much time it’s difficult to tell something new or from a different angle. So I’m selective with what I read, especially with anything published long after the facts or that’s not technical.

Cover of the book Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11
The cover of Shoot for the Moon in the Google Play Books app on a Pixel 2 XL.

But although Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11 by James Donovan is a recent work published in March 2019, ahead of the upcoming 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, deciding to pick it up was a no brainer. The reason is this blurb by legendary astronaut Mike Collins who was a crewmember of the historical mission:
This is the best book on Apollo that I have read. Extensively researched and meticulously accurate, it successfully traces not only the technical highlights of the program but also the contributions of the extraordinary people who made it possible.

Collins is himself a great author and space historian. Back in 1974 he was the first astronaut to write his own autobiography instead of relying on a ghostwriter. His book, Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys, is a candid and ironic account of his life and astronaut experiences. It’s one of the classics of the history of space and possibly the best book about an astronaut ever. So his opinion was enough to decide to pick up Donovan’s book and start reading it, specifically the ebook version I bought at Google Play Books.

Donovan covers the space race from Sputnik and von Braun to Apollo 11. The book doesn’t go into much technical detail and, as Collins noted, it tells the space race through the stories of the people who worked on it, their personal journeys, and their accomplishments.

I’d say it’s a pleasant reading well worth the time of a space geek. In a way it’s a page turner as the story motivated me to keep going even if I already know most of it and the people involved. The book fills in the details of those events by adding depth, anecdotes, and context. In particular, it provides a very well researched, detailed account of the Apollo 11 mission that is rich in stories and tidbits even if the facts are well known.

Shoot for the Moon has a handful of minor inaccuracies though, such as a few incorrect dates.

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