Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lost Moon - Jim Lovell & Jeffrey Kluger

"Houston we've had a problem."

On April 11, 1970, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigart blasted off from Earth on a journey to the moon. Three days later there was an explosion that ended the mission and almost ended their lives. For four days they barely slept and did their best to limp home on limited power and oxygen. This story describes in detail the actions of the crew and Mission Control to save Apollo 13 from an uncertain fate.

I liked the various perspectives presented from the Apollo 13 crew to Mission Control to the Lovell household. It was interesting to see how everyone involved reacted to the situation and especially how the team in Houston handled the various problems with the compromised mission. Reading the story from a 2012 perspective I felt somewhat removed from the issues. The idea that that one problem could cause an almost complete meltdown of the spacecraft seems foreign. Today it seems as if there are redundancies for any complex piece of machinery and any issues have long been worked out. But you have to remember that space program was still fairly young in 1970. Man had only landed on the moon one year prior this mission.

As well, the authors did a good job of creating empathy towards the characters. Despite knowing the ultimate outcome of this mission due to its historical nature, I worried about the Apollo 13 crew. I wanted them to be safe. I especially appreciated the attention to detail within Mission control and the spacecraft. The reader experiences the flight just as the crew did and I found the technobabble tired me out. Far from being annoyed at this, it let me identify with crew and the tireless Mission Control employees who even slept at work during the crises.

It was jarring to have Lovell as a co-author and yet the book wasn't in first person from his perspective. I do understand that it wouldn’t have made sense to write the story that way due to the various perspectives presented. It did make the book seem colder and less personable, creating distance between the reader and the story.

One thing I didn’t like was the chronological jumping around in Lovell's and NASA's timeline. I got used to it though, jumping from before Lovell was in the space program to his other space missions to Apollo 13. The problem was every time we cut away from what was happening on Apollo 13 to a different time, it undercut the tension. If the reader is in the midst of worrying about this three man crew and then they're given a chance to relax by switching to an earlier point in history, it diminishes the excitement the story creates. While I believe that a book told chronologically can be somewhat old hat these days, in this case it would have kept my attention for the entirety of the story. As well, the book was filled with dates and technical details and procedures so it was difficult to separate out and remember all that was going on with Apollo 13 when I came back to chapters regarding their missions.

Overall I had a blast reading this book. If you are interested in the history of space travel and don't mind a few technical details read this book! I also watched "Apollo 13" the movie, which was based on this book so look for my review soon.

Rating: 4/5

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