Rocket Men Book Summary - Rocket Men Book explained in key points
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Rocket Men summary

Robert Kurson

The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon

4.5 (21 ratings)
24 mins

Brief summary

Rocket Men by Robert Kurson is a thrilling account of the Apollo 8 mission, the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon. It reveals the challenges faced by the crew and the incredible bravery required to achieve one of humanity's greatest accomplishments.

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    Rocket Men
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    The Space Race began as a rivalry between the two largest Allied powers, the Soviet Union and the United States.

    Cast your mind back to 1946. The Second World War had come to an end. The Allied forces, led by the Soviet Union and the United States, had been victorious. But relations between the two countries hadn’t just deteriorated; they’d become distinctly sour. In that year, Joseph Stalin declared that the Soviet Union would soon surpass the West in science and technology, and an ideological battle began.

    By the end of the 1950s, it was clear that Stalin had made no idle boast. The Soviet Union already had the upper hand.

    The symbolic peak of the Soviet Union’s success was the launch of the famous Sputnik satellite into orbit. Though small, this technological step, taken in October 1957, was significant for humankind. But the technological clout of the Soviets gave many people pause. After all, rockets that were powerful enough to launch satellites into space would be powerful enough to launch missiles across the world.

    To make matters worse, the United States was lagging behind. When they attempted to send their own satellite into space that same year, it was a massive failure. The rocket rose just a few feet above the launch pad before crashing back down and exploding.

    And then, in April 1961, the Soviets confirmed their dominance. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became not just the first human to be fired into space; but they also achieved the very tricky task of getting him to orbit the Earth, and then to return safely again.

    It was clear after Sputnik that if the Americans wanted to keep up, they would have to push themselves to the limit. Their efforts had mixed results.

    To begin with, in September 1958, president Eisenhower created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

    Thanks to NASA, astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space when he flew the first mission of its Mercury program. Shephard’s mission was a success, but somewhat underwhelming when compared to the Soviet’s accomplishments. He had made it to space, and he had made it back, but he’d only managed to do it after Gagarin.

    That same May, President John F. Kennedy stood before Congress and proclaimed that the United States would not stop. Its audacious goal was to send a man to the moon and bring him home safely before the end of the decade. This sounded impossible – but striving to achieve the impossible pushed the United States to catch up to the Soviet Union.

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    What is Rocket Men about?

    Rocket Men (2018) tells the riveting story of Apollo 8, the moon mission that put the United States ahead of the Soviet Union in the Space Race. In 1968, NASA chose to risk everything. They had to beat the Soviets to the moon, and they had just four months to do it.

    Rocket Men Review

    Rocket Men (2018) by Robert Kurson takes readers on a thrilling journey to the moon, chronicling the Apollo 8 mission. Here's why this book is a must-read:

    • Through meticulous research and interviews with the astronauts, Kurson brings to life the incredible bravery and determination of the Apollo 8 crew.
    • The book offers an intimate look at the personal sacrifices and challenges faced by the astronauts and their families, adding a human element to the story.
    • With its suspenseful narrative and vivid descriptions, the book keeps readers on the edge of their seats, reminding us of the audacity and wonder of space exploration.

    Best quote from Rocket Men

    Apollo 8 jettisoned used parts during its mission, going from a takeoff weight of 6.2 million pounds to a return weight of 12,000 pounds.

    —Robert Kurson
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    Who should read Rocket Men?

    • Amateur astronomers
    • Space-exploration enthusiasts
    • People with an interest in politics and social issues of the 1960s

    About the Author

    Robert Kurson is an award-winning writer whose work has been published in the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone and Esquire.

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    Rocket Men FAQs 

    What is the main message of Rocket Men?

    Explore the courage and determination of the Apollo 8 astronauts who took humanity's first journey to the moon.

    How long does it take to read Rocket Men?

    Reading time for Rocket Men varies, but it can be read in several hours. The Blinkist summary is condensed and can be read in just a few minutes.

    Is Rocket Men a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Rocket Men offers a gripping and inspiring account of an extraordinary mission. It's definitely worth reading!

    Who is the author of Rocket Men?

    The author of Rocket Men is Robert Kurson.