Tuesday, July 21, 2009

When We Left Earth (06): To A Rocky Moon (Essential)

Don E. Wilhelms; To a Rocky Moon: A Geologist's History of Lunar Exploration (The University of Arizona Press; 1993; ISBN 0-8165-1443-7; cover from a NASA photograph).

There are essential books in this listing and there are absolutely essential books. This is one of them.

Don E. Wilhelms was involved in the science of Apollo and the study of the Moon along with several other key figures of the period (such as Farouk El-baz and . He wrote what has been called the "bible" of lunar geology, The Geologic History of the Moon (a book that I have sought for over a decade, without luck...you on the other hand, are luckier than I was, because you can read the whole thing online!).

The Geologic History of the Moon is a highly technical book; what this book does is to not only summarize the various theories about the Moon before Apollo, and talk about the results of Apollo, but give an excellent overview of the personalities that drove the science, how the astronauts became geologists and more. If you've seen the Tom Hanks produced mini-series From the Earth to the Moon, you saw portrayals of Farouk el-Baz and Lee Silver, two of the people portrayed in this book. You also get good descriptions of the battles to include science (and a scientist) in the missions, the view from the "back room" where support for the missions was provided, the unmanned missions (Ranger, Surveyor and Orbiter), and a good chapter on "what might have been" (missions that were planned and cut, or which might have happened if the program had continued).

Good stuff. Very good stuff. I can't recommend this one enough!

Bonus! You can read this book online as well, you lucky person, you!

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