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11 Books to Celebrate Apollo 11


"Twelve, 11, 10, 9, ignition sequence start. Six, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, zero, all engine running. Liftoff! We have a liftoff, 32 minutes past the hour. Liftoff on Apollo 11." - Jack King, NASA's "voice of launch control." He later said he was so excited that he said "engine" instead of "engines."

On July 16, 1969 - exactly 50 years ago today - at 9:32 am three men left Earth on an historic journey to the moon. Two of them reached the surface, 4 days and 250,000 miles later.

Since then hundreds of books have been written documenting the lunar trip, some by the astronauts themselves, others by diehard fans - some intended for the young and others intended for those who watched the mission in real time. I'm here today to present my 11 favorites on this, the Apollo 11 liftoff day! Drop a comment with your favorites!

Buzz Aldrin's Reaching for the Moon
A children's book with beautiful illustrations! I may be a bit biased - I got to meet Buzz and have him sign my copy when the book first came out!

Destination Moon by Rod Pyle
It's no secret that I'm generally a huge fan of Smithsonian books and this one is no exception. Rod Pyle has put together an impressive collection of photos and memories from the Apollo astronauts themselves!

First Man by James R. Hansen
The book that preceded the movie! First Man is the biography of Neil Armstrong, written after Hansen interviewed the man himself for more than 50 hours! It's not a short story, but it is an important one!

One Giant Leap: The Story of Neil Armstrong by Don Brown
I have been reading this children's book to Zara almost every night for the past month! Her favorite pages are the ones with an illustration of a lunar module - she zooms her own little lunar module model around and lands it on Tranquility Bed Base in sequence with Brown's story.

Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon by Craig Nelson
A historical book, but a thrilling read. Nelson is able to hook readers with his storytelling - making this incredibly complicated mission accessible to anyone who appreciates thrilling adventure.

A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin
If you are looking for the no-kidding historical record of the Apollo program, this book is for you. Clocking in at a whopping 720 pages, Chaikin captures all those tiny details that a space enthusiast lives for.

Magnificent Desolation by Buzz Aldrin
If you want the truest, true story of what it felt like to land on the moon, this is your pick! Echoing the first words Aldrin declared upon walking on the moon "Magnificent Desolation" goes beyond the landing itself - diving into Aldrin's, sometimes turbulent, personal life.

A History in 50 Objects: Apollo to the Moon by Teasel E. Muir-Harmony
True confession - this one is still on my to-read list! But it looks SO GOOD! I love books that dive deep into the artifacts (Smithsonian is great at this), because it makes seeing them so much sweeter.

Failure is Not an Option by Gene Kranz
As a NASA Flight Controller, this is my bread and butter - it's basically required reading! Gene still lives close to the space center and can often been seen in the halls of mission control. In fact, his office was just one down from my own! Check out this book for the behind-the-scenes perspective!

NASA Mission AS-506 Apollo 11 Owners' Workshop Manual by Christopher Riley
A brand new release for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 - this book would make a great gift!

Celebrating Apollo 11: The Artwork of Paul Calle by Chris Calle
This book was originally released 10 years ago, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. I met Paul and picked up this book not really knowing what to expect. I was blown away with the artwork - Calle is somehow able to depict more than the physical power of the Saturn V rocket, his brushstrokes invoke a gutteral response, capturing the immensity of the Apollo program and it's impact on the world. If you only check out one of these books, get this one!

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