In honor of National Moon Day on July 20th commemorating the day man first walked on the moon in 1969, this month’s task for our 2022 Reading Challenge is to read a book about NASA and the Space Program. Below you’ll find a few recommendations to meet the task, but for even more suggestions, give us a call at 708-867-7828. Your librarians are here to help.
Download a printable form and keep track of your reading tasks throughout the year to earn a free book.
A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin
On the night of July 20, 1969, our world changed forever when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. Now the greatest event of the twentieth century is magnificently retold through the eyes and ears of the people who were there.
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
Millions of words have poured forth about man’s trip to the moon, but until now few people have had a sense of the most engrossing side of the adventure; namely, what went on in the minds of the astronauts themselves – in space, on the moon, and even during certain odysseys on earth. It is this, the inner life of the astronauts, that Tom Wolfe describes with his almost uncanny empathetic powers, that made this book a classic.
Failure Is Not an Option by Gene Kranz
Gene Kranz was present at the creation of America’s manned space program and was a key player in it for three decades. As a flight director in NASA’s Mission Control, Kranz witnessed firsthand the making of history. He participated in the space program from the early days of the Mercury program to the last Apollo mission, and beyond. He endured the disastrous first years when rockets blew up and the United States seemed to fall further behind the Soviet Union in the space race. He helped to launch Alan Shepard and John Glenn, then assumed the flight director’s role in the Gemini program, which he guided to fruition. With his teammates, he accepted the challenge to carry out President John F. Kennedy’s commitment to land a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960s.Kranz was flight director for both Apollo 11, the mission in which Neil Armstrong fulfilled President Kennedy’s pledge, and Apollo 13. He headed the Tiger Team that had to figure out how to bring the three Apollo 13 astronauts safely back to Earth. (In the filmApollo 13,Kranz was played by the actor Ed Harris, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance.)InFailure Is Not an Option,Gene Kranz recounts these thrilling historic events and offers new information about the famous flights. What appeared as nearly flawless missions to the Moon were, in fact, a series of hair-raising near misses. When the space technology failed, as it sometimes did, the controllers’ only recourse was to rely on their skills and those of their teammates. Kranz takes us inside Mission Control and introduces us to some of the whiz kids — still in their twenties, only a few years out of college — who had to figure it all out as they went along, creating a great and daring enterprise. He reveals behind-the-scenes details to demonstrate the leadership, discipline, trust, and teamwork that made the space program a success.Finally, Kranz reflects on what has happened to the space program and offers his own bold suggestions about what we ought to be doing in space now.This is a fascinating firsthand account written by a veteran mission controller of one of America’s greatest achievements.
Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys by Michael Collins
The years that have passed since Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins piloted the Apollo 11 spacecraft to the moon in July 1969 have done nothing to alter the fundamental wonder of the event: man reaching the moon remains one of the great events–technical and spiritual–of our lifetime.
In Carrying the Fire , Michael Collins conveys, in a very personal way, the drama, beauty, and humor of that adventure. He also traces his development from his first flight experiences in the air force, through his days as a test pilot, to his Apollo 11 space walk, presenting an evocative picture of the joys of flight as well as a new perspective on time, light, and movement from someone who has seen the fragile Earth from the other side of the moon.
Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
Space is a world devoid of the things we need to live and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh produce, privacy, beer. Space exploration is in some ways an exploration of what it means to be human. How much can a person give up? How much weirdness can they take? What happens to you when you can’t walk for a year? have sex? smell flowers? What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a spacewalk? Is it possible for the human body to survive a bailout from space? To answer these questions, space agencies set up all manner of quizzical and startlingly bizarre space simulations. As Mary Roach discovers, it’s possible to preview space without ever leaving Earth. From the Space Shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA’s new space capsule (cadaver filling in for astronaut), Roach takes us on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.
Rocket Men by Robert Kurson
By August 1968, the American space program was in danger of failing in its two most important objectives: to land a man on the Moon by President Kennedy’s end-of-decade deadline, and to triumph over the Soviets in space. With its back against the wall, NASA made an almost unimaginable leap: It would scrap its usual methodical approach and risk everything on a sudden launch, sending the first men in history to the Moon–in just four months. And it would all happen at Christmas. In a year of historic violence and discord–the Tet Offensive, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago–the Apollo 8 mission would be the boldest, riskiest test of America’s greatness under pressure. In this gripping insider account, Robert Kurson puts the focus on the three astronauts and their families: the commander, Frank Borman, a conflicted man on his final mission; idealistic Jim Lovell, who’d dreamed since boyhood of riding a rocket to the Moon; and Bill Anders, a young nuclear engineer and hotshot fighter pilot making his first space flight. Drawn from hundreds of hours of one-on-one interviews with the astronauts, their loved ones, NASA personnel, and myriad experts, and filled with vivid and unforgettable detail, Rocket Men is the definitive account of one of America’s finest hours. In this real-life thriller, Kurson reveals the epic dangers involved, and the singular bravery it took, for mankind to leave Earth for the first time–and arrive at a new world.
Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 by Jeffrey Kluger and Jim Lovell
In April 1970, during the glory days of the Apollo space program, NASA sent Navy Captain Jim Lovell and two other astronauts on America’s fifth mission to the moon. Only fifty-five hours into the flight of Apollo 13, disaster struck: a mysterious explosion rocked the ship, and soon its oxygen and power began draining away. Commander Lovell and his crew watched in alarm as the cockpit grew darker, the air grew thinner, and the instruments winked out one by one. The full story of the moon shot that almost ended in catastrophe has never been told, but now Lovell and coauthor Jeffrey Kluger bring it to vivd life. What begins as a smooth flight is transformed into a hair-raising voyage from the moment Lovell calls out, “Houston, we’ve got a problem.” Minutes after the explosion, the astronauts are forced to abandon the main ship for the lunar module, a tiny craft designed to keep two men alive for just two days. But there are three men aboard, and they are four days from home. As the hours tick away, the narrative shifts from the crippled spacecraft to Mission Control, from engineers searching desperately for solutions to Lovell’s wife and children praying for his safe return. The entire nation watches as one crisis after another is met and overcome. By the time the ship splashes down in the Pacific, we understand why the heroic effort to rescue Lovell and his crew is considered by many to be NASA’s finest hour. This riveting book puts the reader right in the spacecraft during one of the worst disasters in the history of space exploration.
American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race
New York Times bestselling author and historian Douglas Brinkley delivers a young readers’ edition of a story rooted in heroism, bravery, and patriotism: America’s race to the moon.
July 20, 1969. It’s a day that has earned a spot in history. It’s the day that America was the first nation to succeed in sending two astronauts–Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong–to the moon.
But what led to this unforgettable event? What were the stakes riding on the Apollo 11’s safe landing? In acclaimed author Douglas Brinkley’s first young readers’ edition, space fans will get the riveting and factual backstory of arguably the most significant achievement of the 20th century.
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.
Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.
Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.