Tuesday, July 21, 2009

When We Left Earth (03): Taking Science to the Moon (Essential Book)

Donald A. Beattie; Taking Science to the Moon: Lunar Experiments and the Apollo Program (Johns Hopkins University Press; 2001; ISBN 0-8018-6599-9; cover photographs from NASA).

Apollo is mostly characterized as being a "flag and footsteps" program, we came, we saw, we left. There are several reasons for this: a lack of a clear mission beyond getting to the Moon in ten years, a lack of political will by the President and Congress to fund beyond the initial mission, the general political climate and more.

Somewhat buried in this was a battle between might be termed the engineers, the pilots and the scientists. The pilots wanted to do the mission, get home and fly neat stuff. The engineers wanted to launch their toys. The scientists wanted to do science. This book, and a few others that I'll mention, does a good job of talking about the battle, but also about what science was deployed during Apollo and what we've learned (a bit, but there's a lot more...anybody who thinks we know "everything" about the Moon is deluding themselves). Emphasis here is more on the science than the background and politics, but it is quite a good book, so I'm tagging it an "essential".

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