by blog.retrospaceimages Categories: UncategorizedTags: #bookreview, aeronautical, aerospace, Apollo, Apollo11, astronaut, astronauts, Books, Engineering, History, JohnsonSpaceCenter, KennedySpaceCenter, moon, NASA, nasaspacecenter, Nationalairandspacemuseum, Photo, Photography, podcast, Retrospaceimages, Rockets, SaturnV, science, Spacecoast, Spaceflight, spacerace, Spacex, Stem
Thank you Dr. Brian Laslie for the review!
J.L. Pickering and John Bisney, Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2019. Hbk. 264 pp.
A different type of book necessitates a different type of book review. Herein you will not find an author’s argument or a critique thereof since the book being discussed today is a collection of photographs and an excellent one at that. J.L. Pickering and John Bisney have brought us Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments. As we approach the 50thanniversary of the first moon landing, there is sure to be a proliferation of all sorts of materials, merchandise, and collectables celebrating one of, if not the defining moment of the 20th Century and in what will undoubtedly be a crowded field, it will be difficult for printed works to stand out. Pickering and Bisney have accomplished just that, a unique look at the Apollo 11 mission through photographs: both official and candid – many of which have never been published before.
It is common practice for me that when a book arrives in my mailbox, I will take a few minutes and flip through it. It should be noted that when Picturing Apollo 11arrived on my doorstep, I stopped what I was doing, sat down, and read the entire book (insert joke here about my ‘reading’ a picture book). However, this extremely well-done book did what few other works can do, it stopped me in my tracks. Divided into nine chapters, the book covers everything from the assembly of their Saturn V, training for the mission, all the way through the triumphant return home. Rather than review the book as you might typically find on the site, I have decided to highlight some of my favourite photographs from the book.
Any of the shots of the Saturn V rocket, Service Module, Command Module, or Lunar Module arriving at the Cape and being ‘processed’ and stacked are compelling. However, I found myself especially drawn to photos of the Command Module (CM) wrapped in the protective blue plastic covering (p. 51) – this was how Apollo Nine’s CM came to be known as ‘Gumdrop.’ If you have ever viewed one of the Apollo CMs in a museum setting – I am currently trying to see them all – you have only ever seen the scorched and burned relic after its re-entry. There is something inexplicably ‘technological’ when you view the CM as it was before being mounted on the Service Module; the newness and perfection of the CM in its original state are fascinating. It is also especially entertaining to see the many ‘Remove Before Flight’ banners hanging about the CM as if it has been decorated with red sprinkles in addition to its blue wrapping.
I also enjoyed many of the candid shots of Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins during training (pp. 71-80) or visiting (pp. 82-8) the Apollo support sites around the country. Sixties fashion is on full display in these pages and as representative of the times as the astronaut’s moon suits! In this vein, there is an excellent shot of a group of the Apollo Astronauts at the US Navy Diving School in Key West, Florida; love the paisley shirt, Neil!
Military pilots love the T-38, and NASA used the versatile training aircraft to keep up the astronaut’s proficiencies, but also as a way for the astronauts to travel rapidly across the country from Texas to Florida, California, and Missouri. Here, there is an excellent shot of Armstrong and NASA’s Flight Crew Operations Director Deke Slayton (p. 95) strolling away from their parked T-38; while Armstrong looks conservative in his blue flight suit, Slayton looks every bit the fighter pilot and a bit more devil-may-care. Their personalities come forth in the photograph: Armstrong the Engineer, Slayton, the tough-as-nails director.
The pictures from all the moon landings are amazing, but as better equipment was sent up on later missions, those shots became increasingly more precise and crisper. Armstrong and Aldrin suffered from being the first in this regard, but modern photographic enhancement has brought the Apollo 11 shots into better relief. In this regard, my favourite photograph in the book is a shot of Aldrin and the American Flag (p. 193), where if you look close enough, you can clearly see Aldrin’s face inside the suit looking towards Armstrong. As you may know the pictures of Armstrong on the lunar surface are limited, but a great photograph of a relaxed looking Armstrong back inside the Eagle smiling after the EVA was completed sums up his feelings after landing and walking on the moon.
Picturing Apollo 11 is nothing short of a masterpiece. It is a truly unique work and a compelling collection of photographs that is sure to fire the imagination of those who remember the mission and those looking retrospectively at an event they were not around to see. As I closed the book, I again wondered, when will we return?
After you have ordered Picturing Apollo 11, I also highly encourage you to pick up a copy of Apollo VII-XVII a photographic journey through all the Apollo missions.
Dr Brian Laslie is an Air Force Historian and currently the Deputy Command Historian at North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM). A 2001 graduate of The Citadel and a historian of air power studies, he received his PhD from Kansas State University in 2013. His first book The Air Force Way of War (2015) was selected for the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s and the Royal Air Force’s Chief of the Air Staff professional reading lists. His recently published Architect of Air Power: General Laurence S. Kuter and the Birth of the US Air Force. He lives in Colorado Springs. He can be found on Twitter at @BrianLaslie.
Header Image: On 1 March 1968, the Saturn S-IC-6 arrived at the Mississippi Test Facility – today’s NASA Stennis Space Center – from the Michoud Assembly Facility. The was the first stage section of the Saturn V rocket the took Apollo 11 into space. (Source: NASA)
Picturing Apollo 11
“50 years ago this July, Neil Armstrong took ‘one giant leap for mankind’ as he became the first human to step foot on the moon’s surface—and now, never-before-seen pictures provide a unique glimpse behind the profound 1969 voyage.”—Daily Mail
“Across 10 well-organized chapters, the selected images capture the country’s mounting excitement; the meticulous preparation of astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins; and finally the moon landing itself and the crew’s return to Earth. . . . The reader is left with an ample sense of the astronauts’ fame and, thanks to Pickering and Bisney’s wise selections, of their lasting accomplishment.”—Publishers Weekly
“Focused almost exclusively on the three astronauts of Apollo 11, this profusely illustrated book recounts the adventure of the first Moon landing.”—Roger D. Launius, former associate director of collections and curatorial affairs, National Air and Space Museum
“A visual feast. We’re right alongside Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins, and Buzz Aldrin through the months of training, the incredible journey to the Moon, and the hero’s welcome that greeted their return. Pickering and Bisney have produced a precious chronicle of a time that will never come again.”—Andrew Chaikin, author of A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts
“Visually engaging and comprehensive. From training to splashdown, from the Saturn V towering on the launchpad to intimate moments among the crew, Picturing Apollo 11offers a rich portrait of the first lunar landing.”—Teasel Muir-Harmony, author of Apollo to the Moon: A History in 50 Objects
“Apollo 11 was humanity’s greatest achievement. Pickering and Bisney have collected some of the best images of little-known events from the lead-up to humankind’s first steps on another world.”—Jason Rhian, senior editor, SpaceFlight Insider
“A vivid reminder that Apollo 11 was not only an astonishing technological accomplishment but also a deeply human one.”—Ron Miller, coauthor of Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space
July 16, 1969. Nearly one million spectators flock to Cape Canaveral to witness the largest rocket ever built send three Americans to the Moon. Four days later, two step onto the lunar surface. The extraordinary achievement is celebrated around the world. Images capturing these incredible moments fill the pages of Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments, an unprecedented photographic history of the space mission that defined an era.
Through a wealth of unpublished and recently discovered images, this book presents new and rarely seen views of the people, places, and events involved in planning, accomplishing, and commemorating the first Moon landing. Starting with the extensive preparations for the mission, these photographs show astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins training for the flight and their spacecraft and stages of the massive Saturn V rocket arriving at the Kennedy Space Center for assembly. They display the media frenzy over the unfolding story and the “Moon fever” that gripped the nation. In addition to both ubiquitous and lesser-known images of the moonwalk itself, the authors present life back on Earth while men explored the lunar surface, as well as the anniversary festivities that paid homage to them in the following decades. Accompanying text details each scene, revealing the enormous scale and scope of the activities that went into planning and executing one of humankind’s most historic moments.
Presented chronologically, each picture evokes the electric atmosphere of the time. No other book has showcased as many never-before-seen photos connected with Apollo 11 or as many images covering the activities from the months before to the years after the mission. Most of the hundreds of photographs were selected from NASA archives and J. L. Pickering’s collection, the world’s largest private collection of U.S. human space flight images.
J. L. Pickering is a spaceflight historian and authority who has been archiving rare space images for more than 40 years. John Bisney is a journalist who has covered the space program for CNN, the Discovery Science Channel, and SiriusXM Radio. Together, they have coauthored Spaceshots and Snapshots of Projects Mercury and Gemini: A Rare Photographic History, Moonshots and Snapshots of Project Apollo: A Rare Photographic History, and The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy: A Rare Photographic History.
To see images from Picturing Apollo 11, check out the video below:
In their new book, “The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy,” author John Bisney and space historian J.L. Pickering have put together a 224-page, hardcover book featuring 528 rare color photos of President John F. Kennedy.
And not just rare photos, but photos that capture Kennedy engaged in the one of the most crucial missions of his presidency, getting an American on the moon.
Los Alamos residents especially will get a kick and perhaps a wave of nostalgia reading the book, as it features an extensive number of photographs from his December 1962 visit to Los Alamos. Kennedy visited the Los Alamos National Laboratory that December to check on “Project Rover,” where the laboratory was working a small nuclear reactor designed for rocket flight.
The book’s foreword is written by Christopher Kraft, the flight director for all of six manned Mercury missions at the Manned Spacecraft Center. He would later go on to serve as the center’s director of operations and then later as the center’s director.
Kraft recounts what happened sometime in 1961 when National Aeronautics and Space Administration officials let it be known to Kennedy that they had been thinking of sending a manned flight around the moon.
“Why just fly around the moon?” Why not land?,” the president told them.
“The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy” chronicles everything that happened after that sentence in beautiful black and white and color photography.
Bisney is a former correspondent who covered the U.S. space program for 30 years for CNN, the Discovery Channel, SiriusXM Radio and other news outlets. Pickering s a space-flight historian who specializes in rare images and historic artifacts from the U.S. space program.
Before “The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy” Bisney and Pickering collaborated on two other books about America’s space program, “Spaceshots and Snapshots of Projects Mercury and Gemini: A Rare Photographic History” and Moonshots and “Snapshots of Project Apollo: A Rare Photographic History.”
In their book about Kennedy, Bisney said the photos already uncovered for the prior two books led them on to see what other photos were out there.
“That led us to wonder what else might be available from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum,” Bisney said in their latest book’s introduction. “Once we realized we had plenty of unpublished or rarely seen material to work with, our goal became to follow the template of our previous two space history books, completed with detailed captions.”
Though Kennedy would never live to see America’s goal of putting a man on the moon, “The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy” captures perfectly the Kennedy’s engagement with the Mercury program all the way to him personally seeing the first two-stage Saturn I booster being readied for its first, record-setting flight.
Though the laboratory’s reactor concept was not used in the space program, the book features extensive photo coverage of Kennedy’s December 1962 visit to Los Alamos. The book shows rare photos of his speech at Sullivan Field and touring the Los Alamos National Laboratory with then director Norris Bradbury. Many of the photographs feature Los Alamos buildings and landmarks that are still recognizable, such as the Los Alamos Post Office. The pictures are so sharp and clear; residents who were around at that time might recognize themselves along the motorcade route down Central Avenue or in the crowd at Sullivan Field.
“The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy” and the authors’ other titles are available through the University of New Mexico Press, and can be ordered on line at unmpress.com.
The last six months have brought us two major movies about Apollo 11, and some of its figures: First Man (released October 2018), and Apollo 11 (currently playing in theaters). While this 50th anniversary year will bring many related films, documentaries, and books to the fold, here are five that stand out. While four have either been recently released or are awaiting release, one is a 1970 classic that should be revisited by space fans and those who are maybe just learning about Apollo alike.
Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments, by J.L. Pickering and John Bisney (University of Florida Press): Space historian Pickering and journalist Bisney have combined many never-before-publicly-seen photos of the era with text that judiciously explains the entire Apollo 11 mission from training through splashdown and quarantine (and beyond). Space buffs will be thrilled to see rare shots of, say, Michael Collins posing model-like by a simulator, and of course the stunning lunar vistas captured by Armstrong and Aldrin during their short time upon the Moon’s surface.
Pickering has been archiving rare spaceflight photos and images for over 40 years; he and Bisney together have co-authored several books, including Spaceshots and Snapshots of Projects Mercury and Gemini: A Rare Photographic History, Moonshots and Snapshots of Project Apollo: A Rare Photographic History, and the upcoming The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy: A Rare Photographic History. For more rare spaceflight images, Pickering’s Retro Space Images photo discs are highly recommended viewing.
First Man: The Annotated Screenplay, by Josh Singer with James R. Hansen (Titan Books): While the title of this book pretty much explains the bulk of its contents, devotees of First Man the movie and Hansen’s 2005 Neil Armstrong biography (which remains the only authorized biography of the publicity-shy late astronaut) will enjoy reading about the decisions behind keeping certain scenes and personalities within the film.
Moreover, it’s attractively illustrated, featuring scenes from the film and pertinent NASA photos from the 1960s. It’s exciting to read about how actual astronauts and key figures contributed to the movie’s accuracy; for example, Joe Engle – X-15 spaceplane pilot and NASA astronaut, and the only space shuttle commander to conduct a partially manual reentry – was heavily consulted for the film’s X-15 scenes, which Armstrong also piloted before his 1962 NASA astronaut selection.
The Step, by Martha Lemasters (Morgan James Publishing): The Step provides its readers with a different perspective of the Apollo program, one that doesn’t necessarily include all men, wearing the ubiquitous of-their-time NASA-issued American Optical sunglasses, piloting and training for thousands of hours. Lemasters is one of the few women who worked for an Apollo contractor at Cape Canaveral during the 1960s. The Step is her story about her rise from divorced single mother to writer at IBM, at a time when IBM was building and enterprising one of the key components of the Saturn V Moon rocket, the Instrument Unit (IU).
The story of Apollo, its workers, and its unique challenges are told back-dropped by her life’s story, which involves coming into her own as a woman during a time when women were frequently underrepresented (or not represented at all) in scientific fields. Lemasters uses a fine brush to paint a vivid picture of what it was like to be a young, attractive woman in a field that did not attract many young, attractive women, and how a rather demure miniskirt was capable of scandalizing an entire Vehicle Assembly Building.
First on the Moon (2019), by Rod Pyle (Sterling Publishing): Writer and space historian Pyle, who is the editor-in-chief of the NSS’ Ad Astra and authored the recently-published Space 2.0, has put together an unmissable journey of a book that explains each step of the Apollo 11 mission, including Apollo’s humble origins. The reader sees how America’s space conquest goes from strength to strength in a short decade’s time, from recovering from embarrassing early launch failures (such as the infamous “Kaputnik”) to achieving one of the world’s greatest engineering feats, putting two humans on the lunar surface with no major failures.
Pyle’s book is also beautifully illustrated, featuring rare photos and helpful diagrams showing each mission phase. What also makes this book distinctive is a chapter looking forward to the future of lunar explorations, featuring the sci-fi visions of artists including James Vaughn. This chapter hearkens to the theme of this year’s ISDC, which is “Back to the Moon to Stay.” First to the Moon is scheduled for release on April 2, 2019.
First on the Moon (1970), by Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin written with Gene Farmer and Dora Jane Hamblin (Little, Brown and Company): This book was one of the “gateway drugs” that got me into spaceflight during my childhood, and still stands the test of time after nearly 50 years. Its perspective upon the historic mission is still somehow startlingly fresh after all this time, and it captures the personalities of key personnel almost better than anything I have ever read. While it’s championed as “the astronauts’ own book,” we also read about figures including secretary Lola Morrow and astronaut nurse Dee O’Hara. But if astronauts are your thing, you’ll enjoy reading about each phase of the mission in the astronauts’ own distinctive voices.
This volume – and each volume on this list – deserves a revisit (or visit) this summer, as we celebrate 50 years since the signature Moon landing mission.
Photo Credit: NASA, dated May 1969: “The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has named these three astronauts as the prime crew of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. Left to right, are Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot.”
Emily Carney is a writer, space enthusiast, and creator of the This Space Available space blog, published since 2010. In January 2019, Emily’s This Space Available blog was incorporated into the National Space Society’s blog. The content of Emily’s blog can be accessed via the This Space Available blog category.
Note: The views expressed in This Space Available are those of the author and should not be considered as representing the positions or views of the National Space Society.
Co-Authors John Bisney and JL Pickering. Forward by Dr. Christopher C. Kraft Jr.
“The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy gives readers an in-depth look at President Kennedy’s involvement in the beginning stages of the gargantuan effort to reach the Moon–before the Russians. The combination of rare photographs and insight Bisney and Pickering lend to the story gives a unique context to the politics and events of the era.”–Roland Miller, author of Abandoned in Place: Preserving America’s Space History
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