Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8: The First Manned Mission to Another World Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
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Mass Market Paperback
It was Christmas Eve 1968. And the astronauts of Apollo 8 - Commander Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders - were participants in a mission that took them faster (24,000 mph) and farther from the Earth (240,000 miles) than any human had ever traveled. Apollo 8 was the mission that broke humanity's absolute bond to the Earth: it was the first manned vehicle to leave the Earth's orbit.
Confined within a tiny spaceship, the astronauts were aided in their journey by a computer less powerful than one of today's handheld calculators. Their mission was not only a triumph of engineering, but also an enduring moment in history. The words these three men spoke from lunar orbit reverberated through American society, changing our culture in ways no one predicted.
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|Listening Length||9 hours and 32 minutes|
|Audible.ca Release Date||July 10 2018|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #190,045 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#434 in Astronomy & Space Science (Audible Books & Originals)
#1,016 in Aeronautics & Astronautics (Books)
#1,465 in Aerospace Engineering
Top reviews from Canada
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I own both the hardcover and paperback versions, and I recommend the hardback for those willing to spend the extra money. The hardcover presents a number of illustrations not found in the paperback, including several color photos (compared to the paperback's photo section, which is entirely black and white). And Zimmerman's attention to detail regarding several of the photo descriptions is quite commendable.
The author does a thorough job helping to solve the mystery of just who took the "earthrise" photo, which has become one of the most famous images in the history of photography. For years the astronauts treated the question with a certain aloofness, as if the question should remain unanswered. Until this book, the photo had been left credited vaguely if at all. Indeed, even Andrew Chaikin's lauded "A Man on the Moon" devotes less than a page to this subject and leaves the question (i.e. Why have both Borman and Anders claimed credit over the years?) hanging in the ether. Here, Zimmerman pieces together the sequence of events and details that leave no doubt as to the origins of the two most particular earthrise photos. No book-length account of Apollo 8 would be complete if this was overlooked, and it makes the book worthwhile almost by itself.
Shortly afterward, Zimmerman addresses the subject which gives the book its title: the Christmas Eve reading by the crew, in lunar orbit, from the bible's Book of Genesis. He recounts Frank Borman's dilemma in searching for a Christmas message appropriate for a worldwide audience, while also capturing the significance of the flight's achievement. The fact that these men chose to read words from the bible, completely unbeknownst to NASA, is an ultimate expression of free will during one of the most important events in human history. Even though the author occasionally gets carried away while advocating religious freedom elsewhere in the book, his description here is one of the book's key moments.
The book has some flaws, and often it's when Zimmerman seeks to provide context outside of the mission. He uses the divided Berlin as a backdrop for the Cold War in the 1960s, so Apollo 8 finally becomes a symbol of freedom in contrast to the walls that communism built around itself. The comparison makes sense, but Zimmerman returns to Berlin again and again, when I felt the point was already made.
Another story tells of a U.S. Air Force helicopter pilot during the Vietnam war who eventually becomes a space shuttle astronaut. His story would make a nice magazine article, but honestly, I can't recall that it has anything at all to do with Apollo 8.
And there simply isn't enough coverage of important pre-launch and post-splashdown activities, which is inexcusable. In fact, more detail should have been provided about other technical aspects of the flight, as well. The entire sequence between liftoff and earth orbit, for example, is summed up in only two pages. There's just too much time spent establishing context and significance with not enough care devoted to the entire flight. I'm sure Zimmerman's motivation was to create a very readable account of the flight for a general audience, which it is, indeed. But the result is a less authoritative work than it could have been.
Zimmerman's book fills a major void, and it's a defining work on this historic spaceflight by default, because it is the only account of its kind. It's worth reading, even if hardcore aficionados will be left wanting.
Apollo 8 may be the riskiest but most dramatic space flight ever undertaken. The first manned flight of a Saturn V, it would go to the moon without the backup of a lunar module and count on flight hardware tested only once before returning to earth and entering the atmosphere at an unprecedented 25,000 miles per hour.
Zimmerman expands the story of Apollo 8 to book length by providing an extensive background to the mission, focusing on the politics and current events of the time and the stories of the astronauts. He appears to have a fascination with the depredations of the Soviet Union, particularly the Berlin Wall. He also spends a surprising amount of verbage discussing the astronauts' religious beliefs and choice of churches. This perhaps provides background to the choice of reading matter on that historic Christmas Eve, which he also goes into significant detail on, explaining how the astronauts decided what to do.
There's some annoying sloppiness in the book, phrases which are more impressive than accurate: The Saturn V would in fact fit inside a football stadium since even though it's slightly taller than a regulation football field is long; most stadiums I've seen have extra space beyond the end zones. And it's an overstatement to say that "To everyone on earth, ... [the] Apollo command module had now been reduced to three trebly voices on the radio," since the spacecraft could still be tracked both visually or with a radio telescope. He also seems to claim that Apollo 8 was the climax of the space program and that interest waned thereafter, somehow forgetting the billions who watched and listened to Apollo 11.
He relates the controversy (led by Madalyn Murray O'Hare) over the reading of Genesis and comes squarely down on the side of the astronauts, to the point of expressing irritation about Aldrin's subsequent inability to mention giving himself communion after landing on the moon on Apollo 11.
He settles a few arguments, including who took the classic "Earthrise" picture. (It had to be Anders, who had the color camera. Borman took a similar one and claims he took the famous one but apparently didn't realize he had the black-and-white camera at the time.)
Overall, it's a good if not great book, best when it's expanding on the mission, less significant when it's trying to interpret history.
The author accurately reports on the significance of the timing and the Cold War influences of Apollo 8 . While most space history books reporting on Apollo 8 do so factually and accurately, Zimmerman goes much deeper. He correctly identifies Apollo 8's broad ranging impact on our space program, society, and our nation's history. Zimmerman properly reports on the historical nature of the flight and the Christmas reading/message of the Apollo 8 crew . Zimmerman also recognizes the power represented by the actions of the Apollo crew that Christmas eve in 1968. That subtle power has contributed to our humanity, national space program, and our movement towards becoming a space-faring society. While some may be uncomfortable with Zimmerman's multi-dimensional and historical assessment of Apollo 8, I find his approach to this unique historical event in all history to be compelling! Reading Genesis has certainly enabled me to connect our place in space with our worldliness and spirituality. I see no reason to separate this historical event from these personal relationships and our future. This is an excellent book which I strongly recommend.
Top reviews from other countries
Apollo 8 often times get overshadowed by the first moon landing of Apollo 11 and the near tragic disaster of Apollo 13, however it was probably the most dangerous Apollo mission ever attempted. It was the first manned launch of the Saturn 5, there was no LM ready at the time so if anything happened to the command module, they could not use the LM as a lifeboat (as they had to on Apollo 13), there was only 4 months in which to plan the mission etc.
Robert Zimmerman tells the story elegantly, not just from the astronauts, Borman, Lovell and Anders perspective but also from the wives perspective and throws in major events that were happening at the time around the world to give a sense of just how bad 1968 really was and how the Apollo 8 mission was the saving grace to the bad year.
This is a jewel of a book, easily read and not just targeted towards fans of space and for the price (this is the kindle edition I'm reviewing) it really is a must have.