The Moon is a comprehensive guide that goes beyond the scientific, detailing the history of our race to the surface and the many behind-the-scenes advances required to get there. The book takes a scientific and cultural approach to the subject matter, showing the human curiosity that fueled our lunar obsession. By detailing past, present, and future, we see how far we’ve come on this journey and how far we have left to travel.
Morton alternates between scientific fact and a narrative retelling of the history of the various parts of the Moon and mankind’s discoveries. We see the early days of astronomy and the many revelatory discoveries made by looking at the stars. We get a history of the many years work required to actually get somebody to the Moon. These chapters are filled with accounts of the painstaking research and experiments necessary to prepare for such a journey, in addition to the many dreams by those who could turn this mission from fiction to reality. The short history of mid-century presidents and their respective positions on a journey to the Moon provides an interesting insight. We see Truman influenced by science fiction and Kennedy influenced by the ongoing conflict with the Soviet Union. We see a reluctant Eisenhower who went ahead and created NASA anyway.
Beyond these high-level policymakers, we get a sense of the thousands of people who were responsible for discovering the many components needed for a trip to the Moon. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were created, there was a boom in science and mathematics, and everyone worked together through long hours and excruciating experiments to succeed where others had not. The author goes through the development of many pieces of equipment, detailing just how difficult it was to get where we needed to be.
We also see the capitalist imaginings for the future of the Moon. Mines, weapons, moon bases—it’s all been imagined and proposed. The author also spends some time examining the surface of the Moon in terms of the best colonization locations, examining their strengths and weaknesses in relation to human needs.
Most unique to this version of the Moon’s history is the interspersal of actual dialogue from the Moon missions. You can experience the shock and awe of these astronauts as they discover a foreign surface few have traversed. This addition makes the journey markedly human, showing that in the end, curiosity was a primary driver.
Overall, The Moon will get you excited about the future of lunar travel. By understanding our past advances, we can regain that respect for one of mankind’s greatest achievements and prepare to one day return.
The Moon: A History for the Future
By Oliver Morton
NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.