Review: Apollo Moon Missions: The Unsung Heroes
by Jeff Foust
|The book makes its point clear: that for each of men both skilled and fortunate enough to travel to the Moon, there were thousands more on Earth who made it possible but would never get the recognition the astronauts received.|
The book, as its title suggests, looks at those “heroes” not in the public limelight that helped make Apollo possible. Fourteen people are profiled in the book, spanning a vast range of people and roles. Bruce McCandless was the Apollo 11 capcom who later flew on the space shuttle, becoming the first astronaut to make an untethered spacewalk with the MMU. Steve Bales was the 26-year-old guidance officer for Apollo 11 (he considered Neil Armstrong, at the ripe old age of 38, “ancient” at the time) who had to sweat out the program alarms during the lunar module’s descent to the surface. Joe Schmitt was a technician who helped get the astronauts suited up for their flights. Hugh Brown and JoAnn Morgan played supporting roles, but stood out because of his race (African American) and her gender. Each chapter of the book is a miniature biography, as the person profiled describes not only their roles on Apollo but the path they followed both before and after the program.
The selection of people in Apollo Moon Missions: The Unsung Heroes is somewhat random: Watkins writes in the introduction that he settled on 14 for symbolic reasons, representing the 12 astronauts who walked on the Moon and the two on Apollo 13 who planned to but could not because of the accident en route. However, the book makes its point clear: that for each of men both skilled and fortunate enough to travel to the Moon, there were thousands more on Earth who made it possible but would never get the recognition the astronauts received. “You know, the astronauts have been interviewed to death,” Apollo astronaut John Young said (in, ironically, an interview with Watkins mentioned in the book’s preface.) “But there were so many people who helped us go to the Moon and bring us back, and nobody knows anything about them. You should find some of those people and write about them.” Watkins, of course, did just that, and the result is this book: a glimpse at who those unknown thousands working on Apollo were.