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  First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong (Hansen) (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong (Hansen)
Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-31-2003 12:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong
by James R. Hansen
On July 20, 1969, the world stood still to watch 38-year-old astronaut Neil Armstrong become the first person ever to walk on the Moon. Perhaps no words in recent human history became better known than those few he uttered at that historic moment.

Upon his return to Earth, Armstrong was honored and celebrated for his achievement. But he was also misunderstood. As authorized biographer James Hansen reveals in this fascinating and important book, it was the act of flying that had driven Armstrong rather than the pull of the destination, from his distinguished career as a fighter pilot in the Korean War right through to his most famous mission.

Drawing on flight logs, family and NASA archives and over 125 original interviews with key participants, "First Man" vividly re-creates Armstrong's life and career in flying, from the heights of honor earned as a naval aviator, test pilot and astronaut, to the dear personal price paid by Armstrong and, even more so, by his wife and children, for his dedication to his vocation. It is a unique portrait of a great but reluctant hero.

  • Hardcover: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 18, 2005)
  • ISBN-10: 074325631X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743256315

hinkler
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posted 01-31-2003 12:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for hinkler   Click Here to Email hinkler     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What great news.
Almost 34 years after Neil Armstrong's "giant leap for mankind," James Hansen, history professor at Auburn University in Alabama, was given permission to write the biography of the first man to walk on the moon.

"It's an ordinary boyhood that became an extraordinary life," Hansen said of Armstrong. "Most people remember him just for the moon landing. What people see is him walking down the ladder. What that is is an icon, not the real person."

Hansen, who can now tell the world about the "real" Armstrong, will become the first person to chronicle the life of the former astronaut in a book.

bruce
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posted 01-31-2003 08:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for bruce   Click Here to Email bruce     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is what Chris Kraft was telling me about 18 months ago!

Paul
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posted 01-31-2003 09:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul   Click Here to Email Paul     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great news! I've been waiting for this to happen for 30 years now, as I'm sure many of you have! It's true, Armstrong is more than just the first man to step onto the lunar surface, he's an icon of aviation and space history!

Thank you, Professor Armstrong and thank you Professor Hansen!

lewarren
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posted 01-31-2003 01:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for lewarren   Click Here to Email lewarren     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
WOW - that's probably the coolest news I've heard in a really long time.

sts205cdr
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posted 01-31-2003 01:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for sts205cdr   Click Here to Email sts205cdr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
HALLELUJAH!!! I can't wait to read this one!

WAWalsh
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posted 01-31-2003 04:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for WAWalsh   Click Here to Email WAWalsh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is indeed good news and something to look forward to...

DChudwin
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posted 10-24-2005 10:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just got a copy of "First Man," the long-awaited biography of Neil Armstrong. I quickly read the chapter "Astronaut as Icon," and found some very negative stuff about space collectors.

First, we are included with those nuts who think the moon voyages were a hoax.

Also, the chapter implies that autograph collectors are a bunch of avaricious vultures, eager to turn a profit on someone's signature.

The author extensively quotes (selectively I assume) Robert Pearlman to negatively classify those who dare to criticize Armstrong for not signing anymore.

The author gives market prices, a little exaggerated, for Armstrong signed items-- which are so high because Armstrong stopped signing (look at John Glenn, for example).

Finally, the author quotes Charles Lindbergh in l969 as advising Armstrong to never give an autograph. The author then implies that Armstrong was a wimp for waiting 25 years to put that policy into effect. He reaffirms that Armstrong will never change now, even for charitable purposes.

Overall, the he portrays Armstrong as a shy man who is not socially adept, but also not the recluse that some have called him. His schedule was so busy, according to the book, he couldn't find time to take a trip with his first wife Janet (who later left him).

I admire Armstrong for his pilot skills (X-15, Gemini 8, and Apollo 11) and courage, but certainly not as a role model for kids of today or tomorrow.

These are just some first impressions. What do you think?

Aztecdoug
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posted 10-24-2005 12:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aztecdoug   Click Here to Email Aztecdoug     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by DChudwin:
...the chapter implies that autograph collectors are a bunch of avaricious vultures
I had to look that one up...
avaricious - immoderately desirous of acquiring e.g. wealth; "they are avaricious and will do anything for money"; "casting covetous eyes on his neighbor's fields"; "a grasping old miser"
...and on and on.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-24-2005 02:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by DChudwin:
The author extensively quotes (selectively I assume) Robert Pearlman to negatively classify those who dare to criticize Armstrong for not signing anymore.
For the record, I do not feel that Hansen misquoted me; rather I read the specific few paragraphs of the six pages dealing with autographs as highlighting exceptional cases of hero worship rather than a general damnation of all of Armstrong's fans (collectors included).

It would be dishonest to suggest that there aren't individuals amongst our community who feel they are entitled to an autograph, going so far as to verbally attack the astronauts, including Armstrong, who do not sign. In that regard, they are very much like the moon hoaxers in their almost obsessive belief in a falsehood.

To Hansen's credit, he spends more time discussing the type of requests Armstrong receives/d than the complaints levied against him. Hansen also distinguishes between the "mad" and "hobbyist" collector, and laments that Armstrong's policy of not signing leaves hundreds of children and teenagers disappointed every year.

I might add that by skipping ahead to read that one chapter it might be taking its content out of context. I, more than most, had a reason to do so and instead resisted the temptation, reaching Chapter 34 in the normal course of reading the book. I would highly recommend reading "First Man" from cover to cover.

mzieg
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posted 10-25-2005 06:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mzieg   Click Here to Email mzieg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by DChudwin:
I admire Armstrong for his pilot skills (X-15, Gemini 8, and Apollo 11) and courage, but certainly not as a role model for kids of today or tomorrow.
I respect Armstrong not only for his piloting skills, but also for the way he's conducted his life ever since Apollo 11. I think Gene Cernan summed it up pretty nicely at the news conference held at KSC as part of the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 flight. In that press conference, held in the Apollo-Saturn Center with a contingent of Apollo astronauts in attendance (including Armstrong), Cernan said that he knew of no other man, himself included, who could have done a better job of bearing the honor of being the first man on the moon and the responsibility that goes with it, and do it with as much dignity as Neil Armstrong. The audience & reporters in attendance erupted in applause. Armstrong, characteristically, gave a quick nod of acknowledgment and then held his gaze on the floor, clearly embarrassed by the attention he was receiving.

That story says it all - a testimonial by one of his peers, and the humility of a man that has nothing to be humble about. I met Armstrong two years ago at the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, and the most lasting impression I have of him was his genuine humility. Considering how may examples there are of people who self-destruct and lose their moral compass with fame and fortune, this man, as Gene Kranz once said, never diminished or tarnished his reputation.

Armstrong is criticized in some circle because he's decided not to sign for collectors anymore, though he did so for 25 years for free. Unscrupulous collectors took advantage of his generosity, so he said enough, and in some circles he's a bad guy for not signing for today's kids. Forget the fact he's donated loads of money to Purdue University to help educate those same kids, not to mention his work to help the Boy Scouts and the YMCA over the years. This is the same guy who WILL talk about the moon & space flight to kids, even if he chooses not to with adults.

Armstrong's given countless interviews, press conferences, and delivered speeches to all kinds of professional societies and organizations over the years since Apollo 11, but when he shies away from pop culture public exposure, like talk shows and media circus events, that makes him aloof & distant to many. Armstrong's only fault, if you can call it that, is that he thinks and acts on higher plane than most, and that makes him hard to understand for many people. He's not driven by the usual motivations of money and public acclaim that many public figures feed off of, but is content with a quiet satisfaction of knowing he's accomplished great things. He doesn't need or even want public affirmation of that fact. As Hansen says in his book, Armstrong does things on his own terms.

If Armstrong isn't an acceptable role model for kids of today and tomorrow, good luck finding a better one. Maybe a pro athlete on steroids will do, or maybe even Paris Hilton.

capoetc
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posted 10-25-2005 08:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for capoetc   Click Here to Email capoetc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hear, hear! Neil Armstrong does not owe autograph collectors anything.

And, when he was signing for free, I wonder how many "kids" asking for his autograph were adults who turn around and sell the autograph on eBay. I don't blame him one bit for "just saying no."

In fact, I think most of the people who frequent this site would honor his desire to not sign autographs by merely being happy to shake his hand and maybe take a picture with him if provided the opportunity to meet him.

I suspect that he understands, in some regard, peoples' desire to have something personal from him because of his unique place in history. It doesn't mean he has to like it, though!

dss65
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posted 10-25-2005 08:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dss65   Click Here to Email dss65     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I wish he would sign. He has every right not to, if he so chooses. He's a terrific role model.

collshubby
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posted 10-25-2005 08:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for collshubby   Click Here to Email collshubby     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I too admire Mr. Armstrong for the way he has lived his life since Apollo 11. The man has given more than many of us are asked to give. He has done his service; he (as well as any other astronaut) is entitled to do whatever they please. If he chooses not to sign, no problem. I respect that. I would love to have his signature in my collection, but I don't think any less of him because I do not.

I would love to have the chance to meet with him, shake his hand, and have a photo with him. More so, I would rather have a photo of him with my kids. That would certainly be a centerpiece in my family photo collection.

John K. Rochester
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posted 11-01-2005 11:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for John K. Rochester   Click Here to Email John K. Rochester     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In reading the book "First Man" you see the many ways that Armstrong's and Charles Lindburgh's life were parallel... both felt the most comfortable in an aircraft, both tragically lost children, both became heroes and eventually withdrew from public life. I guess that is the price you pay for being first.

As far as the book itself... I thoroughly enjoyed it. It really gave a greater insight to a great many things about both of his flights. Many of the things were those I had never heard before, even though the 11 mission was the most written about in history. The only negatives for me were at one point where the author called Chris Kraft "the voice of Project Mercury"... that was Shorty Powers... and he also spoke of the time Gus " hung a lemon " on the Apollo Command Module, when we all know by now it was the simulator that was adorned. There were a few other "miscues"... but not enough to ruin the read.

DChudwin
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posted 11-01-2005 03:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is NOT true that Armstrong is a recluse. He has given many talks and appearances over the years -- but they have not been in support of the space program. Rather he has spoken to professional groups and (presumably for a large fee)to other groups around the world.

What he has not done is speak on behalf of the space program, which provided him the opportunity to do what he has done since leaving NASA. While some may criticize Aldrin, I admire his commitment to our future in space. Armstrong has not made such an effort. I respect his dignity, but NASA did not chose the best possible spokesman in Neil.

As far as autographs, Armstrong does not owe anyone his signature. I am grateful that he signed through the mail a few items I sent him between 1967 and 1994. It is a shame, though, that younger collectors have to pay exorbitant prices. It's a matter of supply and demand. John Glenn and others kept signing, even for a fee, and there are enough available so that prices are reasonable. Armstrong's policy encourages high prices.

Armstrong is a complicated man, and the comparisons to Lindbergh are interesting -- however, I am sure their politics are different (Lindbergh was a Nazi sympathizer).

D-Day
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posted 11-01-2005 03:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for D-Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by DChudwin:
I respect his dignity, but NASA did not chose the best possible spokesman in Neil.
They were picking a commander.

DChudwin
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posted 11-01-2005 04:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There were a number of highly qualified astronauts who could have been the commander of the first lunar landing mission. Pete Conrad, under certain circumstances, could have been the "First Man." His personality and support for our future in space would have been my preference. That Armstrong was first was due to a speed-up in the original Apollo scheduling because of the desire to do a landing before the end of the decade goal. I did not mean to imply that NASA was JUST looking for a spokesman.

D-Day
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posted 11-01-2005 04:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for D-Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
But this is simply a request (demand?) that Neil Armstrong advocate the things that you believe in, rather than to be his own man.

There were lots of other astronauts who also did not go on to advocate space exploration. What you are saying is that NASA should have picked somebody based upon their personal beliefs in favor of space exploration.

DChudwin
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posted 11-01-2005 04:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As you know, Deke Slayton picked a series of crews for the Apollo flights. It was not known which mission would turn out to be the first lunar landing. If there would have been problems with Apollo 8, 9, or 10, then Apollo 11's crew would not necessarily have been the first-- it could have been Pete Conrad on Apollo 12 (or even possibly Jim Lovell on Apollo 13).

So NASA did not specifically choose Neil to be first.

I covered the Apollo 11 launch in person at the Cape so it is a period with which I am somewhat familiar.

That said, my own opinion is that Armstrong should have been more supportive of our future in space, like Aldrin, Conrad, Bean, Cernan, Duke and most (but not all) of the Apollo astronauts.

If Armstrong does not believe in space exploration, then why did he lay his life on the line during Gemini and Apollo? If he does, then why not express himself? Is it shyness, a lack of belief, or a desire not to inject his opinion? I don't know the answer -- I hope someone who knows Armstrong might enlighten us.

albatron
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posted 11-01-2005 05:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for albatron   Click Here to Email albatron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
David, have you read the book yet? It is fraught with examples of speeches that support the program - but of course we as space supporters, would like to hear more.

The constant theme throughout the book is such that the responsibility that comes with being the "First Man" on the Moon (he recently told X-15 pilot Bob White how much he does not care for the title by the way). Anything he says, someone nitpicks something in it and turns things around, that doesn't happen when Buzz speaks, or another moon voyager. For nefarious reasons, for accidental reasons, for whatever reason, there is far greater strain on him, as opposed to the other 23 (11).

An example is his lawsuit in regards to the hair, or with Hallmark. In both cases what is NOT reported, is his attempts to settle and prove a point, and the monies go to charity. Yet in some arenas he is shown as a petty man - which nothing could be further from the truth.

It also discusses incidents he very well COULD have sued, or prosecuted, but chose not to.

You see, if he did when WE would've he IS painted as a petty vindictive man - yet we'd be seen as exercising our rights. Unfair? Oh you betcharoonies.

So the man simply avoids situations that we would like to see him not.

Many of us see things "he should do", but fail to really and literally put ourselves in his shoes before deciding what he should do. Its human nature, and not an insult on my part to anyone here or anywhere - but we really do need to think from his perspective, and frankly we cannot.

spaceman1953
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posted 11-01-2005 07:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceman1953   Click Here to Email spaceman1953     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree with you all... Dr. Armstrong owes none of us anything.

Of course, that is easy for "me" to say, having met and shaken hands with him twice in my lifetime.

But he owes us nothing. Nor do Buzz or Mike or any other astronaut.

They have, like any military veteran, given us everything. They have risked their lives to give us exploration and all the spinoffs that came/come with it.

As we each mourn each of their passings from this world, as well as we mourn the legions of our fellow Americans who did any little bit in helping them do their "jobs" of space exploration, when we lose them, each job they did, enriched each of our lives infinitely.

WE owe THEM our thanks. They owe us nothing!

Spacepsycho
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posted 11-11-2005 11:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spacepsycho   Click Here to Email Spacepsycho     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was lucky enough to meet Neil Armstrong last month at the Society of Experimental Test Pilots event at Disneyland and had a chance to speak with him. He is a very gracious person, he spoke with and took photos with everyone who asked (200+), but he nicely refused to give an autograph. I don't know if he has disdain for collectors, but after the way he's been treated by a few of the nastier collectors, it's no wonder he holds us in such low regard.

I've dealt with every kind of person in my careers, from major movie stars, major felons, big money people, the working poor and the homeless. After being around folks from all walks of life and I've learned to read people's body language and to get a quick read on what their about. There are things people unknowingly do when their lying, truthful, happy, stressed, anxious, avoiding something or trying to hide something. Once you know what to look for, it's really simple and fun to see what people are really thinking.

After watching Armstrong speak with everyone during the lunch and dinner events, the thing that struck me was his openess and warmth when talking with people. He really enjoyed himself when having a conversation with his old friends, he laughed easily, chatted up a storm and listened to others for a long time. But when someone wanted something from him, his persona changed just a little and it was more of a self protection mode that he would exhibit. He was still very friendly, he answered questions and took photos with people, but you could tell his antenna was out to see what the person wanted from him.

The thing he handled very well was being bothered during dinner to sign something or to take a photo or to shake someone's hand. It's one thing to ask while he's mingling, but people would walk up to him in the middle of eating or when he was in a conversation and interrupt. He literally stood up every few minutes when a stranger came by to shake his hand or take a photo during dinner. He is a no BS, honest and warm person in the way he treats everyone, but he also doesn't waste his time on the garbage. You can tell his mind is always working, evaluating, measuring what's going on around him.

When I asked Armstrong about his GT-8 emergency, he was very humble and explained that it was just a problem he and Dave Scott had to solve to survive. He didn't elaborate, I didn't press him and we left it like that. I would have loved to get more details, but I could tell it was a subject he wasn't interested in talking about. I guess it's like all the moon walkers who get asked what it's like walking on the moon a million times. It's not interesting or challenging for them unless they're explaining it to children, so they come up with short answers.

I have to admit that I'm a little disappointed with the lack of cheerleading by Armstrong to help promote manned space projects like a lunar base and a Mars mission. I would like to see him make more appearances using the national media to promote space, extol the achievements and technologies the space program has given to humanity.

I think NASA has badly dropped the ball when lobbying or promoting itself to the public and congress to further it's agenda. Then again, their engineers and scientists and they're not in the promotion game, which takes an entirely different breed of animal.

Let's face it, the general public is pretty ignorant about the extraordinary return for the money invested in the space program, especially when compared to any other federal Gov't program. If the public isn't told how the space program will benefit their lives, why should they support it?

I think Armstrong is a pilot first and foremost, an engineer and scientist next, a teacher, an astronaut and then a reluctant celebrity. After watching him for most of the day, he honestly doesn't want and probably feels he doesn't deserve all the attention that he's been given. For better or worse, as one of history's most important people, it's unfortunate that he is not more of a public promoter of the space program, especially when he could easily help loosen the national purse strings.

As far as him not signing, it's his decision. After all the BS he's had to endure with people stealing his hair or a million other petty things, if I were him, I wouldn't think too highly of collectors either. Anyone who berates or puts down Armstrong for not signing, is a selfish child who probably threw tantrums when their parents didn't give them every new toy for XMas.

Regardless, he is a class act and an extraordinary roll model for all generations to admire and emulate.

capoetc
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posted 11-12-2005 08:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for capoetc   Click Here to Email capoetc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the great reporting on your opportunity to interact with Mr. Armstrong. I would love to have that opportunity myself (as would 150 million others, which makes it tough to be Neil Armstrong, to say the least.

As you described his short answer to the GT-8 emergency, I was reminded of Pete Conrad's stock answer to the "what was it like to walk on the moon" question: "Great. Super. Really enjoyed it."

gliderpilotuk
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posted 11-12-2005 08:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Spacepsycho:
I think Armstrong is a pilot first and foremost, an engineer and scientist next, a teacher, an astronaut and then a reluctant celebrity. After watching him for most of the day, he honestly doesn't want and probably feels he doesn't deserve all the attention that he's been given. Regardless, he is a class act and an extraordinary roll model for all generations to admire and emulate.
Totally agree Ray and a nice summary. When I was lucky enough at attend an interview with Armstrong in Ireland a couple of years ago he definitely came across as pilot first then all the others in the order you listed.

I only saw one kid in the audience ask for an autograph and Armstrong was most polite in his refusal. No one could have taken offense.

A hundred or so of us had dinner with Armstrong in attendance and Blackarrow and I managed to engage him in a little chat about gliding. Good to see that he enjoys silent flight.

It was a priceless encounter... even for my wife!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-27-2005 02:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was reading through some of the reviews of "First Man" that have appeared in newspapers over the last few weeks. Most agree that bringing Armstrong's life to print was a good thing and that its delivery was well executed.

Many praise the detail Hansen used when writing about Gemini 8, Apollo 11 and Armstrong's experiences as an astronaut.

The same reviewers though take issue with Hansen when he applies the same approach to other facets of Armstrong's life. They write that Hansen could have spared readers the fine details of Armstrong's family history, military career and interaction with others.

I personally didn't find the detail to be overwhelming but I am curious what others who have read the book have thought. Were these reviewers correct?

Here are a few links to reviews for comparison:

spacecraft films
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posted 11-27-2005 07:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacecraft films   Click Here to Email spacecraft films     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I liked the detail on other aspects of Armstrong's life. I especially liked some of the detail because it brought out a trait of character in Armstrong that tends to be missing in many persons in the public eye today.

I would go so far as to say that one of the reasons he's treated as if he is a "recluse" is because of some of these traits of character he exhibits which are different from today's cult-of-celebrity norm. For this reason I found the read refreshing, although admittidly most of my reading is of non-fiction and historical subjects (although I do enjoy a true-crime every now and then).

I disagree with the reviewers who don't find these details important or relevant for the book. After all, focus should be maintained. This is a book on Neil Armstrong, not a book on the X-15, Project Gemini, or Apollo 11.

Given what I have just said, I obviously enjoyed the book a great deal... it was one of those I devoured and then was sad to turn the last page. However, I came away from it disappointed. I know more about what happened to Neil Armstrong now, but I don't feel much closer to understanding him. I was hoping for more insight into what makes him tick. But from the total of what I've seen on the subject, so is everyone else.

SRB
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posted 11-27-2005 08:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SRB   Click Here to Email SRB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for posting links to these reviews of First Man. You might have also included a link to your favorable review of the book.

It took me three weeks to get through the book because of the length and the massive amount of detail about less important matters. Most of the book read like the technical manual of Armstrong's life. However, I liked that Hansen covered Armstrong's early life. But he did not need to list all his friends whenever he could. I liked the section on Armstrong's military career. But Hanson did not need to list the number of rounds fired each month by his squadron. What was badly needed was an editor with a red pencil. The story should have move along much better.

I fully agree with you the parts about Gemini 8 and Apollo 11 were terrific. I think it was because of the natural excitement of the events as well as that these events fit with Armstrong's current wish to talk only from an engineering viewpoint - and no other. Hansen's blessing and curse was that Armstrong clearly would only talk engineering now. No personal feelings, no new insights and no retrospection. It was so bad that Hansen would put in the book Armstrong's reaction to someone else describing the events he was involved in, rather than getting a first hand account by Armstrong.

At the end of the book when Hansen was briefly describing Armstrong's speeches after Apollo 11, they were more human and insightful than anything he would let himself talk about now. Too bad. Armstrong is a hero. His moon landing was heroic. He is entitled to talk only about the the engineering things he is willing to discuss. But it's too bad because it would be nice to know more about why he did what he did and how he felt about it then and now.

Lastly, some of Hansen's detailed work to correct prior errors was interesting. But, a lot of it also seemed very defensive.

Overall, First Man is an important document because of the many details provided about this historic figure. However, if you want to enjoy a book about Apollo, read something else. Mike Collins' Carrying The Fire is far better. In fact, for enjoyment I would put First Man pretty far down on the list of astronaut biographies.

DChudwin
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posted 11-28-2005 06:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When I first posted to this thread I had not read the entire book. I have finally plowed through the 769 pages of "First Man" and want to give you some further opinions.

On the positive side, the author did an incredible amount of research, interviewing almost everyone alive who had a significant role in Armstrong's life (the main exception is his son Mark). Hansen approached this daunting task with the thoroughness of the historian he is. He also sifted through hundreds of documents, files, and other material. He also was granted extensive interview time with Armstrong himself, who does not usually do one-on-one interviews with journalists (more on this later).

Secondly, Hansen is not afraid to broach controversial or painful topics, a practice not always the case with authorized biographies. He explores how the emotionally-challenged Armstrong approached the tragic death of his daughter from brain cancer, and how and perhaps why (emotional distance) his first marriage broke up. Hansen discusses the bad rap (unjustified in my opinion) that Armstrong and Scott could have salvaged the Gemini 8 mission by using different procedures when a thruster was stuck open.

Third, there is a lot of new information, at least to me. For example, Deke Slayton offered to replace Aldrin on the crew with Lovell if Armstrong felt uncomfortable with Buzz (Neil decided to stick with Buzz). Also, a few days before Apollo 11 there was a "sim" concentrating on computer alarms. When Steve Bales made the "Go" calls on the actual landing it was because the team had practiced the situation. There is also a brief discussion of what Armstrong brought in his PPK to the moon-- a subject of much speculation.

On the negative side, the book is too long. Details of the Armstrong family tree and of some of the Korean combat could have been omitted. On the other hand, Armstrong's 9 years at the University of Cincinnati are just given 6 pages.

The writing style is uneven. The author tries to be lyrical at times and in other parts he is mired in "techno-speak."

The organization is generally chronological but chapters or segments are interspersed at unusual moments. For example, the chapter on astronaut wifes is oddly placed. Also, the discussion of the astronaut's PPKs is suddenly dropped in after recounting CBS's commentary on the landing.

My biggest criticism is that Hansen does not, at the end of the book, assess Armstrong's historical role and legacy. While this is often best done at a distance after the subject is gone, an interim assessment from Hansen would be interesting.

After reading the entire thing, I still believe Hansen "disses" space collectors by grouping them with UFO and hoax-theory types. He does not explore why people might want to collect space (other than the monetary aspect he focuses on). (Robert: did you expound your views on this when he interviewed you?)

I also stand by my original comments criticizing Neil for not promoting space exploration more. There is a great quote in the book from Jim Lovell with a gentle reminder to Neil that it was NASA, the U.S.government, and taxpayers who gave him the opportunity.

The book shows that Neil is not a recluse, but that most of his speeches have been to obscure trade and industrial groups (who have the dollars to pay speaking fees).

Armstrong has a basic lack of understanding of how the media works by declining to give one-on-one interviews. The press conference, in which he has occasionally participated, is the worst way to impart information. In such setting, reporters, frequently uniformed, ask the usual dumb questions.

The book states that he doesn't give one-on-one interviews because he has been misquoted, while a public press conference (with many people present)is safer.

However, individual interviews are the best way to get a point across because media outlets like "exclusives."

There are serious journalists and authors with knowledge about space who are available.
If Armstrong truly believes in the future of space exploration, he should set aside a few hours of his time for such people and give his opinions.

While many have touted the "dignity" of Armstrong's post-Apollo 11 life, I think history will judge him favorably for his flying, but unfavorably for his failure to take advantage of the "bully pulpit" he was given by fate as the First Man.

capoetc
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posted 11-28-2005 08:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for capoetc   Click Here to Email capoetc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some interesting thoughts there.

I have to disagree on Armstrong's legacy, though ... 500 years from now, I suspect no one will give a hoot whether he advocated one position or another regarding future space flight. But people will remember who was the first human to walk on another celestial body...

Matt T
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posted 11-29-2005 08:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Matt T   Click Here to Email Matt T     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Reading between the lines Armstrong seems to have set a policy of not discussing his personal life outside of how it affected his work. There is no direct quote from Armstrong about his feelings on his daughter's death, the loss of his parents or his divorce. These sections of the book rely heavily on the opinions / experiences of others who were affected. In that respect it is not truly the 'life of Neil Armstrong', more the 'career of' with background history.

Form mirrors content of course; the constrained picture that the book affords us of Neil Armstrong is in keeping with the personality shown within. My own reading of the book left me feeling that Armstrong's separation of emotional life from his work borders on the almost sociopathic. Of course, that's why he's survived numerous situations where other men would have emoted all the way into the ground...

Robert M Blevins
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posted 12-04-2005 10:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert M Blevins   Click Here to Email Robert M Blevins     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Spacepsycho:
When I asked Armstrong about his GT-8 emergency, he was very humble and explained that it was just a problem he and Dave Scott had to solve to survive. He didn't elaborate, I didn't press him and we left it like that. I would have loved to get more details.
The thruster stuck while they were working near the Agena target vehicle and would not shut down. Scott was of little help, since they were spinning at the rate of about once per second. He was beginning to lose it.

It was Armstrong who focused and fixed the problem.

FFrench
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From: San Diego
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posted 12-05-2005 06:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert M Blevins:
Scott was of little help, since they were spinning at the rate of about once per second. He was beginning to lose it. It was NA who focused and fixed the problem.
An interesting theory, but the facts as known, the original accounts of both men who were there, the recollections of the ground controllers and the flight transcripts and debriefs do not support it. Scott was the one working the Agena shutdown controls and the emergency release, even remembering to re-enable ground control of Agena. Armstrong, as commander, had other duties with the thrusters. In short, the two worked as a team of well-trained test pilots, and there is no reason to belittle Scott's role.

randy
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posted 12-30-2005 01:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for randy   Click Here to Email randy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm almost done with 'First Man', on chapter 30. It has given me new insight as to why Neil is the way he is. The one thing I don't like about the book so far is the way it puts down anyone or anything that disagrees with the author or subject. I don't particularly care for that. Other than that, I've found it to be a good book.

spaceman48263
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From: Michigan
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posted 12-30-2005 10:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceman48263     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does anybody know why Mark Armstrong was not interviewed?

Crsh4Csh
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posted 02-03-2006 11:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Crsh4Csh   Click Here to Email Crsh4Csh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can't recommend "First Man" enough... I'm not much of a book reader, but I must say I started to read James Hansen's book and couldn't put it down. From cover to cover, Mr. Hansen gives a thorough overview filled with all sorts of interesting details and perspectives, all while writing with an easiness and plain-speak that even a non-bookie guy like me could enjoy.

You all must give it a read. Robert, and collectSPACE, is pretty prominently mentioned in the book as well, and if you are an Apollo 11 fan, then it is a MUST read.

Peter S
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posted 02-03-2006 02:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Peter S   Click Here to Email Peter S     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree... wonderful book, and long overdue.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-31-2007 11:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Auburn University release
Auburn University Professor James R. Hansen's book, "First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong," has been named by Choice magazine as one of the Outstanding Academic Books of 2006.

Choice, the publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries, listed Hansen's book in its January issue among the top 10 percent of more than 7,000 works reviewed last year.

"My challenge in writing the Armstrong biography was composing a book that would serve the dual purpose of attracting and satisfying readers from the general public while still living up to the highest standards of academic scholarship," said Hansen, a professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts. "It is extraordinarily fulfilling to receive this confirmation that I have somehow managed to do both."

Hansen's book, published by Simon and Schuster in 2005, is the first authorized biography of astronaut Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. It spent two weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and has also won the Gardner-Lasser Aerospace Literature Award, presented by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronauts, and the Eugene M. Emme Prize in Astronautical Literature, awarded by the American Astronautical Society.

Reviewer John Carver Edwards of Library Journal said the book is "a Herculean effort" and that Hansen "succeeds in penetrating his subject's seemingly enigmatic personality. This impressively documented and engagingly written biography will stand the test of time."

Choice magazine editors selected its Outstanding Academic Books based on a variety of criteria, including overall excellence in presentation and scholarship, value to undergraduate students, and importance in building undergraduate library collections.

Lunatiki
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From: Amarillo, TX, USA
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posted 11-06-2007 12:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lunatiki     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
At my local Barnes and Noble they had quite a few hardback copies of First Man on their bargain shelves for, if my memory serves me, $6.98, give or take a dollar. I'm sure their other stores would too, so I thought I would pass it along.

fabfivefreddy
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From: Leawood, Kansas USA
Registered: Oct 2003

posted 11-06-2007 01:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fabfivefreddy   Click Here to Email fabfivefreddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
First Man is a great resource to learn from. I did not think of it is an entertaining book, such as Carrying the Fire. However, you can find just about any factoid in First Man. I liked that aspect.

I believe the book is a reflection of Armstrong's true personality. He is very matter of fact and scientific. That is not what most reporters want to hear, but it is his true style. He is a detail oriented person. That makes him a great astronaut and engineer. I admire his ability to analyze such details.

First Man is more fun to read if you find a section that you are curious about, then maybe put it down and read it again. It is full of facts and was a primary reference source for my new book.


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