Review: Footprints in the Dust
by Jeff Foust
|The book is a collection of essays by what Burgess describes as “a cadre of spaceflight enthusiasts” that traces the history of human spaceflight from Apollo 11 through the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.|
The result is, in many cases, a rather conventional history of Apollo. The essays on most of the Apollo missions, particularly 12 and 14 through 17, are all fairly standard histories, with background about the astronauts and an account of the key events of the mission. The book wisely departs from this formula for the two best-known Apollo missions: Stephen Cass examines Apollo 13 from the vantage point of the flight controllers who worked to bring the wounded spacecraft home safely, while Rick Houston dispenses with a general review of Apollo 11 altogether, focusing more on how various people watched and remembered the mission, from a young boy who would later become an astronaut (Tom Jones) to a Vietnam POW who only indirectly found out about the landing weeks later. Similarly, the essay about ASTP is as much author Geoffrey Bowman’s tale of his journey from the UK to Florida to see the launch as it is about the mission itself.
Beyond that, there isn’t much in the way of new material in the book, although the essays about the Soviet program of that era are likely to be more enlightening than the Apollo essays simply because the typical reader is probably less familiar with the details about Soviet missions. That doesn’t mean that Footprints in the Dust is a bad book: it is, in fact, a good, general history of human spaceflight of that era. However, for those with more than a passing familiarity with those missions, the book won’t add much in the way of new insights about those missions or their broader historical context. It’s proof of Burgess’s statement in the introduction of just how well-chronicled this era in spaceflight truly is.