A nation in need of hope, the most powerful rocket ever launched, and the first three men to break the bounds of Earth: Apollo 8 was headed to the moon.
In 1957, when the USSR launched Sputnik I, the first man-made satellite to orbit Earth, America’s rival in the Cold War claimed victory on a new frontier. The Space Race had begun, and the United States was losing. Closer to home, a decade of turbulence would soon have Americans reeling, with the year 1968 alone seeing the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy as well as many violent clashes between police and protesters. Americans desperately needed something good to believe in, and NASA’s mission to orbit Earth in Apollo 8 and test a lunar landing module was being planned for the end of the year. But with four months to go and the module behind schedule, the CIA discovered that the USSR was preparing to send its own mission around the moon — another crucial victory in the Space Race — and it was clearly time for a change of plan. In a volume full of astonishing full-color photographs, including the iconic Earthrise photo, Martin W. Sandler unfolds an incredible chapter in U.S. history: Apollo 8 wouldn’t just orbit Earth, it would take American astronauts to see the dark side of the moon.
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Booklist (September 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 2))
Grades 6-10. With a computer less powerful than today’s handheld calculators, Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to leave Earth’s orbit and circle the moon. Sandler captures Apollo 8’s significance on many levels with astonishing details and storytelling. Beginning with an overview of the Cold War and subsequent space race, he explains how Apollo 8’s original mission (to test a lunar lander capsule) was quickly changed to orbiting the moon, when the CIA learned that the Soviets were developing their own moon rocket. After introducing the three-man crew of Apollo 8 and the Saturn V rocket that would launch them, Sandler focuses on their flight, “the riskiest mission yet,” emphasizing that even the tiniest error could have trapped the astronauts in space forever. As the crew of Apollo 8 broadcast live from space on Christmas Eve 1968, they not only accomplished scientific and historical firsts but united the U.S. in wonder as a turbulent year came to an end. Stunning photographs, including the now iconic Earthrise, bring this awe to a new generation.
Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2018)
In one of the most turbulent years in modern American history, the Apollo 8 mission to the moon served as a desperately needed morale boost for Americans. Sandler explains the historical significance of the mission in the broader context of the Cold War space race and the tumultuous events occurring in the United States. In 1968, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, riots in major cities across America, and growing protests against the Vietnam War left Americans needing something good to believe in. NASA’s mission to orbit the Earth in Apollo 8 and test a lunar landing module was scheduled for the end of the year, but this changed when the CIA discovered the Soviet Union planned to send its own mission around the moon. That would be another crucial victory for the USSR in the space race that began in 1957. Sandler describes how NASA decided Apollo 8 would be the first manned trip around the moon and offers a detailed chronicle of the difficult mission and the crew who successfully completed it. The book is abundantly illustrated with archival photographs, and a highlight of this informative, engaging text is Sandler’s discussion of the iconic Earthrise photograph and how it “became a symbol of the Earth’s fragility, a reminder of just how small and insignificant the Earth’s place in the universe truly is.” In its 50th-anniversary year, a compelling account of the historical significance of a lesser-known space mission. (photos, source notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)
About the Author
Martin W. Sandler has written more than seventy books for children and adults and has written and produced seven television series. He has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and has won multiple Emmy Awards. He lives in Massachusetts.
Exploring the Moon Educators Guide
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