One Giant Leap
The remarkable story of the trailblazers and the ordinary Americans on the front lines of the epic mission to reach the moon.President John F. Kennedy astonished the world on May 25, 1961, when he announced to Congress that the United States should land a man on the Moon by 1970. No group was more surprised than the scientists and engineers at NASA, who suddenly had less than a decade to invent space travel.When Kennedy announced that goal, no one knew how to navigate to the Moon. No one knew how to build a rocket big enough to reach the Moon, or how to build a computer small enough (and powerful enough) to fly a spaceship there. No one knew what the surface of the Moon was like, or what astronauts could eat as they flew there. On the day of Kennedy’s historic speech, America had a total of fifteen minutes of spaceflight experience—with just five of those minutes outside the atmosphere. Russian dogs had more time in space than U.S. astronauts. Over the next decade, more than 400,000 scientists, engineers, and factory workers would send 24 astronauts to the Moon. Each hour of space flight would require one million hours of work back on Earth to get America to the Moon on July 20, 1969.Fifty years later, One Giant Leap is the sweeping, definitive behind-the-scenes account of the furious race to complete one of mankind’s greatest achievements. It’s a story filled with surprises—from the item the astronauts almost forgot to take with them (the American flag), to the extraordinary impact Apollo would have back on Earth, and on the way we live today.Charles Fishman introduces readers to the men and women who had to solve 10,000 problems before astronauts could reach the Moon. From the research labs of MIT, where the eccentric and legendary pioneer Charles Draper created the tools to fly the Apollo spaceships, to the factories where dozens of women sewed spacesuits, parachutes, and even computer hardware by hand, Fishman captures the exceptional feats of these ordinary Americans. One Giant Leap is the captivating story of men and women charged with changing the world as we knew it—their leaders, their triumphs, their near disasters, all of which led to arguably the greatest success story, and the greatest adventure story, of the twentieth century.

One Giant Leap Details

TitleOne Giant Leap
Author
ReleaseSep 11th, 2019
PublisherSimon Schuster
ISBN-139781501106293
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Space, North American Hi..., American History, Science

One Giant Leap Review

  • Patricia
    January 1, 1970
    I loved reading this book! The explanation of the science and will to succeed that led to the moon landings is enhanced by the context of history, before, during and after the Apollo years. I was almost 10 years old at the time of Apollo 11 and I remember staying up late to watch the landing on TV. This book illuminates many things I was too young to understand at the time and makes a great argument for regarding the Apollo mission as an amazing success. Highly recommended.
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  • Julie
    January 1, 1970
    Having so recently read Shoot for the Moon by James Donovan, there will be a few comparisons, but overall, these were very different books. SftM was a linear narrative and I was emotionally vested, where OGL was much more technical and political. The first chapter introduces the world to the decade in which the space program was born. “The eight years from Kennedy’s speech to Armstrong’s first steps were as transformative as any eight-year period in post-World War II American history…” The dawn Having so recently read Shoot for the Moon by James Donovan, there will be a few comparisons, but overall, these were very different books. SftM was a linear narrative and I was emotionally vested, where OGL was much more technical and political. The first chapter introduces the world to the decade in which the space program was born. “The eight years from Kennedy’s speech to Armstrong’s first steps were as transformative as any eight-year period in post-World War II American history…” The dawn of the 1960’s saw technology associated with military applications, but NASA would change that. “The race to the Moon took developments and technologies and trends… and magnified them, accelerated them, and helped make their significance and value clear well beyond space travel.”As I said, the narrative doesn’t take us from the beginning of the decade through the end of Apollo. Rather, each chapter addresses different components or problems that needed to be solved and the individuals who contributed to Apollo’s success. And throughout it all is the immediacy to beat the Russians in the space race. “…Americans don’t associate the Moon landings with the Cold War or see them as a dramatic victory over the Soviet Union… But the race to the Moon was born in the Cold War and wouldn’t have happened when it did, with the urgency it did, without it.”I would say the main theme was how much NASA influenced the technology we have come to take for granted today. There is an entire chapter devoted to the intricacies of the computer and its development. “The Apollo computer had .000002 percent of the computing capacity of the phone in your pocket: two-millionths of 1 percent.” Yet at the time it was the most sophisticated computer ever built. The impact NASA had on integrated circuit chips alone is astounding. In hindsight, it’s hard to fathom that, “The needs of a spaceship computer were just two or three years ahead of the sophisticated technology necessary to make it.”Of course, I loved the trivial tidbits that I read about. I didn’t realize that Playtex (the bra company) designed the space suits. And did you know there was porn on the moon during Apollo 12? The anecdote about GM insisting on designing the lunar rover was cool considering it lead to the discovery of the Genesis Rock (go ahead, Google it, it’s fascinating).The book concluded by disputing the idea that the money spent on the space program could have been better spent on more worthwhile things like fighting poverty or funding education. In comparing it to the far more expensive Vietnam War (especially considering the cost of human life), “Apollo was a success,” where Vietnam was a failure. “It was a demonstration of American technological prowess, a demonstration of engineering and manufacturing excellence; it was a reminder of American economic power and also American determination.” I appreciate that Shoot for the Moon gave me more background on the program prior to reading this because it helped me to better grasp the intricacies that One Great Leap presented.I received a complimentary copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program.
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  • Jane
    January 1, 1970
    One Giant Leap is a story of how and why the United States of America beat the Soviet Union to the moon. It tells why by detailing the sociological, economic and political background during the 1950s into the 1960s that made the effort necessary. The Cold War was a dominant factor in citizens’ consciousnesses...and America was lagging behind their enemy! Freedom or tyranny was at stake! The writing is not pretentious. Although well researched, the book is easy to follow and filled with lots of i One Giant Leap is a story of how and why the United States of America beat the Soviet Union to the moon. It tells why by detailing the sociological, economic and political background during the 1950s into the 1960s that made the effort necessary. The Cold War was a dominant factor in citizens’ consciousnesses...and America was lagging behind their enemy! Freedom or tyranny was at stake! The writing is not pretentious. Although well researched, the book is easy to follow and filled with lots of interesting facts, such as how many of the critical elements like astronauts’ space suits were sewn by hand, how the wire that carried the computer instructions was hand woven into the circuits, and how pictures of Playboy Playmates made the trip. For this reader who lived through the period it was a wonderful refresher course of the history occurring in my younger years...Vietnam, civil rights, and the assassinations of Medgar Evers, the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King. The book recounts the debate within the Kennedy administration, the meetings, the players, LBJ’s role, how James Webb was selected to head NASA. Once the decision was made the how do we do this questions began. The technology simply didn’t exist. Weight was an issue because as the author points out it took three pounds of fuel to launch one pound of supplies. Navigation problems had to be addressed, current computing capabilities had to be overcome. The chapters on the development of an interactive computer and how to program it alone are worth the price of this book. Methods to keep the astronauts alive going, during and returning had to be designed...spacesuits, cabin atmosphere, the ability to rendezvous, a functional heat shield, the lunar lander and a vehicle to explore the moon’s surface. Focusing on the unsung engineers, mathematicians, suppliers, as well as the politics behind the Apollo project’s ultimate success that seldom are showcased adds great depth to the biggest story of this reader’s lifetime. It was expensive, but was it worth the cost? The last two scheduled missions were canceled because of budget concerns, so was all that expended effort worthwhile? What exactly was gained? I voluntarily reviewed an advance copy of this book. Most highly recommend.
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  • Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com
    January 1, 1970
    For more reviews and bookish posts please visit: http://www.ManOfLaBook.comOne Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon by Charles Fishman tells the story of the Americans who fought tooth and nail to accomplish the task of sending me to the moon, and bringing them safely back to Earth.I’ve read many books about the space program, not nearly as much as other enthusiasts, but enough to hold on to a simple conversation. Being that this year is the 50th anniversary of the moon la For more reviews and bookish posts please visit: http://www.ManOfLaBook.comOne Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon by Charles Fishman tells the story of the Americans who fought tooth and nail to accomplish the task of sending me to the moon, and bringing them safely back to Earth.I’ve read many books about the space program, not nearly as much as other enthusiasts, but enough to hold on to a simple conversation. Being that this year is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, an event which to me is still as exciting as it was back then, there is a lot of material, much of it new (to me) being published.I had no idea what to expect from One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon by Charles Fishman, I thought that it would be another book, rehashing to space program up to the mid-1970s, than complaining about the lack of advancement, than making a push for lunar exploration/meteor excavation/space tourism/Mars mission.What I got instead was a behind the scenes stories of those that help get men to the moon, several cool anecdotes (the American flag was an afterthought) and the impact the space program had, which we feel to this day. The extraordinary book starts with something that I’ve been actually wandering about for a while: what does the moon smell like? This was my favorite part because I could imagine myself sitting with astronauts telling this very personal story.The author goes on to describe how NASA had to invent management processes for such a huge project, which involved up to 20,000 separate companies, all told from the perspective of a few people in upper management. A very interesting, insightful, and readable section which could very easily be made into its own book.Even though people these days don’t realize it, we all benefited from the space program, the book has a whole section which tells of the earthly accomplishments be it ball point pens of the sharp drop in computer chips which help usher in the digital age much quicker. As in everything, there is the bad side as well, the huge amount of money spent on the space program could have been used elsewhere (even though, that’s not how it works), the book does not shy away from this issue either, and, while not discussing it in depth, at least acknowledges that it exists.More than anything, this book puts the Apollo mission in the social and political context of today’s world. The immense achievements we live with today, the inspiration of generations and management of large projects are just a few things which we owe to the space program.
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  • Kathleen
    January 1, 1970
    On July 20, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. And so I read Charles Fishman’s brilliant new book, One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon, a meticulously researched history entwined with vivid details that tell a fast-paced story. Fishman begins by telling us the moon has a smell. After walking on the moon, the astronauts, Neil Armstrong and and Buzz Aldrin, noticed the dust they had tracked in smelled “like wet ashes,” or like “a firecracker” that ha On July 20, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. And so I read Charles Fishman’s brilliant new book, One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon, a meticulously researched history entwined with vivid details that tell a fast-paced story. Fishman begins by telling us the moon has a smell. After walking on the moon, the astronauts, Neil Armstrong and and Buzz Aldrin, noticed the dust they had tracked in smelled “like wet ashes,” or like “a firecracker” that had gone off.Did you know that John F. Kennedy was, in some respects, responsible for the moon landing? In 1961 he told reporters at a press conference that Americans would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. In part, this was a reaction to the Cold War space race: Russians had just sent the first man into space, and Europeans were mocking the Americans.  Kennedy’s advisors and NASA scientists had first confirmed to him that putting a man on the moon was the only way to beat the Russians.This was an incredible achievement. In 1961 NASA had not done even the preliminary researh for travel to the moon, so hundreds of thousands of scientists, engineers, MIT geniuses, seamstresses, computer whizzes, craftsmen, and builders worked together. The craftsmanship was prodigious. The spaceship was built by hand, women were hired to knit the wires for the computer by hand, the Playtex bra company designed the space suits and women sewed them by hand , and the parachutes were also sewed by hand.  And eight years the first men landed on the moon.Fishman stresses that the Apollo missions had a revolutionary effect on the culture of the ‘60s, which simultaneously embraced rock music, the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s movement, the environmental movement, protests against the war in Vietnam, science, science fiction, popular TV shows like Star Trek, Lost in Space, and  Laugh-in.  It was a time of daring and boldness, as well as a time of the terrible tragedies of the assassinations of JFK, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King.And  NASA drove the computer chip business, which powered the space shuttle computers and drove the price of chips way down,  which drove the market for home computers eventually.  The chips began to be used in electronic appliances.  Before Apollo 11, transistors were cheaper.The trip to the moon was hailed by some as thrilling and necessary, by others a waste of money. But Fishman points out that the money spent on Apollo 11 would never have gone to the fighting of poverty and other important issues anyway.I learned so much from Fishman’s book.  An excellent page-turner!
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  • Matt Day
    January 1, 1970
    The book was very in-depth and I learned a great deal about the Apollo project. The author was a tad repetitive in his facts. I will say that I listen to the audio version of the book and sometimes audiobooks are heard differently than when they are read. I was disappointed that more time was not spent on the Apollo 13 mission. As the author said, the Apollo 13 mission was a major accomplishment for NASA in the fact that all three astronauts were returned safely home. I would have liked to have The book was very in-depth and I learned a great deal about the Apollo project. The author was a tad repetitive in his facts. I will say that I listen to the audio version of the book and sometimes audiobooks are heard differently than when they are read. I was disappointed that more time was not spent on the Apollo 13 mission. As the author said, the Apollo 13 mission was a major accomplishment for NASA in the fact that all three astronauts were returned safely home. I would have liked to have heard how they did it.
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  • Trina
    January 1, 1970
    I couldn't quite give this three stars. This book was not what I expected or wanted to read. I believed it would be a chronology of the space race but it wasn't that. While parts are very interesting and I learned from it, it was too long and ultimately I wouldn't recommend it.
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  • Ken Hamner
    January 1, 1970
    Outstanding book. One of the best I’ve read on any subject. A must read for anyone interested in history, politics, business and technology.
  • Ted Mccormack
    January 1, 1970
    This book will tell you many things you did not know about the Apollo space program and the impact it had on American life from the 1960's until today. We use technology every day that was invented for the first landing on the moon.
  • Scott Martin
    January 1, 1970
    (3.5 Stars) (Audiobook) This book is one of many that has hit the shelves in the days/months leading up to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landings. This work takes the approaches of trying to debunk or clarify much of the mythology and misconceptions surrounding the Apollo 11 mission. To do that those, Fishman takes the reader on a survey of the history of US manned space flight, describing the advancements of the USSR and how it drove the US towards the goal of putting a man on the (3.5 Stars) (Audiobook) This book is one of many that has hit the shelves in the days/months leading up to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landings. This work takes the approaches of trying to debunk or clarify much of the mythology and misconceptions surrounding the Apollo 11 mission. To do that those, Fishman takes the reader on a survey of the history of US manned space flight, describing the advancements of the USSR and how it drove the US towards the goal of putting a man on the moon. Yet, such an endeavor was hardly an easy action. For getting men on the moon, and being able to get them back safely, the US needed to develop new technologies, needed tons of money and a lot of political will to make it happen. The US did, but it took a lot of work, and it was not always a certainty that the US could do it. Kennedy didn't embrace space in the way his speeches did, the idea of using a lunar module was not a given, and the nation was not always "all-in" on this quest. Fishman does offer good insight and a lot of detailed stories. Yet, he tends to jump around in the work. He starts out chronological, but then will jump around to address various themes, discussing events and actions that occurred long after Apollo 11...only to then go back to cover a different theme, and jump around in the chronological order. This somewhat scattershot organization of the work could make it hard to follow at times, and weakens the overall rating. The audiobook reader is solid, neither adding to or detracting from the work. There are a plethora of books out there about Apollo 11. I don't know if I could say that this work falls under the cliche "if you only read one book...", but this is a solid read that will offer a good balance of technical, political and personal histories.
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  • Joseph
    January 1, 1970
    Pays homage to a few on the unsung heroes among NASA's administrators and engineers, but seems a little too uncritical of certain shopworn pop history ideas ("the Sixties" as a discrete and meaningful era of American history, for instance, but also of the Capitalism Good vs Evil Communism narrative of the Cold War), and over-invested in the idea that Apollo somehow transformed humanity's understanding of what technology was for. Also, there's a long, extremely tedious passage about the various f Pays homage to a few on the unsung heroes among NASA's administrators and engineers, but seems a little too uncritical of certain shopworn pop history ideas ("the Sixties" as a discrete and meaningful era of American history, for instance, but also of the Capitalism Good vs Evil Communism narrative of the Cold War), and over-invested in the idea that Apollo somehow transformed humanity's understanding of what technology was for. Also, there's a long, extremely tedious passage about the various flags astronauts took to the moon and how they got them there that almost made me stop reading altogether.
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  • Jay Clement
    January 1, 1970
    58-2019. This was a curious book. Plenty of information about the political and scientific challenges of getting the Apollo missions to the moon, with some broad chunks of space history relegated to a few sentences. I suppose that was the stated intent of the book, and the fun facts and stories of those engineers who solved the crazy problems of space flight and navigation were interesting. I guess The Right Stuff will have to serve to fill in the blanks of all the Mercury and Gemini missions.
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  • Jay Gabler
    January 1, 1970
    From the beginning, histories of Apollo have focused on the astronauts and their in-flight experiences. That’s understandable, but Fishman is fascinated with the rest of the iceberg, the vast program America mobilized to land one man on the moon. I reviewed One Giant Leap for The Tangential.
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  • Craig Pearson
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and give an honest review. This is a good history of America's moon landing. The narrative seems to jump around a bit so the timeline is not consistent. The author tends to spend quite a lot of time discussing the computer development along with the software from MIT. While that was obviously important to the endeavour it tends to be boring to the average reader.
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  • PWRL
    January 1, 1970
    E
  • Marietta
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating details about the Apollo space program. Sometimes a little too detailed, but a worthwhile read.
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