Author: Chris Riley & Phil Dolling
Publisher: Haynes, 2009
Aimed at: Anyone with an interest in space technology
Pros: Readable technical explanation
Cons: No detailed blueprints
Reviewed by: Mike James
OK, it isn’t exactly programming and it isn't focused on computing, although there is an interesting chapter on the computer aspect of the moon shot, but who could resist looking at this particular geeky title? It's ideal I-Programmer recreational reading…and it's our way of celebrating the 40th anniversary of the moon landing.
There are lots of books on the market commemorating the 40th anniversary of the first landing on the moon so why should you buy this one? The first is reason is that it’s a good, but very small joke, one that those in the know will approve of. Haynes Owners' Worshop Manuals are well known in car d-i-y circles and are more or less an essential buy if you lift the bonnet at all. To have a book which looks like a familiar Haynes manual for Apollo 11 is at least worth a smile. I can imagine enthusiasts downloading the cover illustration, printing it out and framing it for the workshop wall - I know I have.
Getting inside the book itself the second reason why you should buy it is that while it isn't a workshop manual to Apollo 11, it is the most accessible technical explanation you are going to find.
If you were expecting the dry workshop manual approach used by the standard car repair books from Haynes then you will be disappointed and probably should stay away from the book. If you think about it then it should be very clear that there is no way of creating even a mock workshop manual to a machine like Apollo 11 at a reasonable cost.
So once you open the book the workshop manual aspect is a bit lost. What you get instead is a mix of history and technical detail. The subtitle, "an insight into the hardware from the first manned mission to land on the moon" sums it up well. There are diagrams and descriptions of how the rocket motors worked, life support, the computers, the fuel cells, the space suits and so on. I particularly liked the description of the problem of navigating in space - I'd assumed it was all gyros and computers.
The diagrams are not detailed blueprints - if they were the details would probably be overwhelming. They, and the descriptions, are at about the level the would satisfy the intelligent geek who wanted to know more than the condensed version of the plot - i.e. they got into a rocket and went to the moon and back. I doubt there is very much that is new and if you are already a super expert on the Apollo technology you will probably yawn and wonder what the fuss is about. On the other hand if don't know much about the technical detail of the project and you want to then this is enjoyable and informative at just about the right level. Buy a copy and keep it - it's bound to be a collectors item.
For an alternative account in even more detail try How Apollo Flew to the Moon by David Woods - highly recommended.