First-person accounts of the space programme
December 24, 2011 7:11 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for first-person accounts of the US space programme from the start to the moon shot.

I am planning to write some stories set in that environment, so I'd like to get the setting right. I'm less interested in the technical details of the spacecraft (which are readily available), and more in stories about the people (engineers, astronauts, administrators) working on the project.

Books are OK (I'm happy to buy some to read up on this), so are websites.
posted by Zarkonnen to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I enjoyed Failure is not an Option by Gene Kranz.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:18 AM on December 24, 2011

Best answer: I posted this in an earlier thread. Even though you haven't specified documentaries, I'd also add In the Shadow of the Moon and Discovery's When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions to that list.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:21 AM on December 24, 2011

Best answer: Jim Lovell wrote "Lost Moon".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:23 AM on December 24, 2011

Best answer: I really enjoyed mike mullane's Riding Rockets.
posted by Mimzy at 7:40 AM on December 24, 2011

Best answer: A Man on the Moon is often regarded as THE book on this subject. It was the basis of the HBO mini-series.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:21 AM on December 24, 2011

Best answer: How about The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe?
posted by mekily at 8:54 AM on December 24, 2011

Best answer: For All Mankind doesn't get into the political climate but as far as documenting the Apollo astronauts' perspective from launch to landing it is incredible.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:49 AM on December 24, 2011

Best answer: I've been reading these sort of books for the past year. Here's what I'd recommend:

A Man on the Moon is a must read, no question. You should also read the sort of sequel to that, Voices from the Moon: Apollo Astronauts Describe Their Lunar Experiences . It pairs quotes of the Apollo astronauts with photos from the mission, gives a real close up view of the various personalities and how they actually felt about what they did in the program.

Deke! by Deke Slayton, the guy who selected the crews for the Apollo missions. He was picked as a Mercury astronaut, was grounded for heart programs and wound up as the head of the astronaut office. This book is where some the astronauts first found out why they were assigned to specific missions.

Carrying The Fire by Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot on Apollo 11. He was part of the Gemini program and really lays out what training to fly a mission entailed.

Flight: My Life in Mission Control was written by Chris Kraft, the guy who was NASA's first flight director. He was there at the beginning and made major decisions about how the astronauts and mission control would work together, definitely check it out.

I would skip the documentary When We Left Earth and watch Moon Machines instead. That's great about the later is that it covers the Apollo program from the side of the engineers, delving into the history of the hardware and software used on the missions.

Frank Borman's "Countdown" is great if you want a story about THE poster boy of the All American astronaut, serving God and Country.

I really enjoyed mike mullane's Riding Rockets.

This book had nothing to do with the Apollo program, it deals strictly with the Shuttle program. A good read, but not what the OP is asking for.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:44 AM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Gene Cernan's Last Man on the Moon was pretty good. Apollo 17 was his last mission but he also flew two Gemini missions, as well as Apollo 10.
posted by Rash at 11:44 AM on December 24, 2011

Best answer: Cernan only did one Gemini mission. His book wasn't very well written, but he was a character.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:34 PM on December 24, 2011

Best answer: Came in to recommend Failure is Not An Option, but I see someone beat me to it. It's a good read and a good insider view of NASA during the Apollo era.
posted by geeky at 5:47 PM on December 24, 2011

Best answer: Another recommendation for Carrying the Fire by Michael Collins.
posted by lukemeister at 6:45 PM on December 24, 2011

Best answer: I have in the past found the folks at the NASA history division (part of the NASA office of external relations I think) to be helpful when I had some similar questions. See

Also the Kennedy library has a ton of stuff related to NASA, if you happen to be in Boston. It's mostly at very high levels though, not the life of the average engineer or anything.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:04 PM on December 24, 2011

Best answer:

A man on the moon makes a lot of best of lists.
posted by mearls at 12:57 PM on December 25, 2011

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