The books highlighted below commemorate the 40th anniversary this month of the first manned landing on the moon.
Painting Apollo: First Artist on Another World
by Alan Bean. Smithsonian Books, 2009
Alan Bean is the only artist to have set foot on the moon. This book pairs 107 of his evocative paintings with essays from experts ranging from art critic Donald Kuspit to Apollo flight director Gene Kranz. The volume is a companion to an exhibit of Bean’s work at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum that will run from July 16, 2009, until January 13, 2010.
Voices from the Moon: Apollo Astronauts Describe Their Lunar Experiences
by Andrew Chaiken, with Victoria Kohl. Studio, 2009
Veteran space writer Andrew Chaiken has interviewed 23 of the 24 astronauts who flew on the Apollo moon missions and chronicles their explorations in their own words. Included are 160 rarely seen photographs shot by the astronauts themselves.
Magnificent Desolation: The Long JOURNEY Home from the Moon
by Buzz Aldrin, with Ken Abraham. Harmony, 2009
On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became the first men to walk on the moon. The fact that their spacecraft very nearly did not make it there is one of many revelations in Aldrin’s new memoir, which recounts his rise to stardom, his painful descent into alcoholism and depression, and his reemergence as a passionate advocate of human space travel.
“... we weren’t thinking about aborting; we did not want to get this close to landing on the moon and have to turn back; we were intent on fulfilling our mission. On the other hand, the alarm was ominous.... Either the computer’s programs were incapable of managing all the landing data coming in to it at once, or perhaps there was a hardware problem caused by all the jostling around since we’d left Earth four days ago. Maybe something inside the computer had broken, just as might happen to a home computer. In any case, we had no time to fix it. The potential for disaster was twofold: First, maybe the computer could not give us accurate information we needed to land; or, second, if in fact we succeeded in landing, would the computer’s malfunction prevent us from blasting off the moon and making our rendezvous with Mike the next day? The demands on the computer then would be even greater.
“While we grappled silently with these possibilities, we continued descending toward the moon, pushing through 27,000 feet. The large red ABORT STAGE button on the panel loomed large in front of us. If either Neil or I hit the button, the Eagle would instantly blast back up toward Columbia, and America’s attempt to land on the moon would be dubbed a failure.”
Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human
by Richard Wrangham. Basic Books, 2009
What’s Next? Dispatches on the Future of Science
edited by Max Brockman. Vintage, 2009
Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
by Nick Lane. W. W. Norton, 2009
You Are Here: Why We Can Find Our Way to the Moon but Get Lost in the Mall
by Colin Ellard. Doubleday, 2009