#BookReview – Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments Ross in Air Power History, Book Review, Cold War, Space Power April 9, 2019 1,119 Words

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)

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Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments. Available March 12th, 2019.

From The University Press of Florida

“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 11 offers 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, 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.

 

 

Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments

 

 

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Book Related Activity Picking Up

Book activity is beginning to pick up with “The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy” being released next month, and “Picturing Apollo 11” in March. I have been getting book signings lined up. Got a “thumbs up” from folks at National Air and Space Museum and Udvar-Hazy yesterday, just need to get dates coordinated. It was great being in D.C. a few years ago with our previous books. John Bisney and I were joined by our good friend Jacques Tiziou, whom we lost two years ago next month. We also had a surprise visit from Andy Chaikin and Paul Fjeld (at right in photo). Both new books are pre-selling really well on Amazon, and John and I are looking forward to getting out on the road with them.

Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments

The Space Aged-Presidency of John F. Kennedy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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