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Author Topic:   Apollo Moon Missions: The Unsung Heroes
Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27327
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 01-20-2006 10:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Apollo Moon Missions: The Unsung Heroes
by Billy Watkins

This book is 'new news' to all those who followed Apollo- including me. It not only captures the sense of team spirit and a desire to assure success, but it really brings out the human interest side of the program and highlights the contributions of those removed from the "firing line." It's a winner! Fred Haise

Open up the pages of Watkins' in depth view of the unsung heroes of the Apollo mission, and you will get a clear idea of why the Apollo Program was so successful. Meet the people behind the scenes of our journey to the moon as Billy Watkins magnificently portrays the human dedication of many people to achieve man's greatest adventure. - James Lovell

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued a challenge: the United States would land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the decade. It seemed like an impossible task and one that the Russians--who had launched the first satellite and put the first man into Earth orbit--would surely perform before us. The ingenuity, passion, and sacrifice of thousands of ordinary men and women, from all walks of life, enabled the space program to meet this extraordinary goal. In all, six crews would land on the moon before Congress withdrew financial backing for the program. This is the story of those men and women who worked behind the scenes, without fanfare or recognition, to make these missions a success. Thirty years later, they still speak of Apollo with pride, sometimes even awe.

After Apollo moonwalker John Young told journalist Billy Watkins in a 1999 interview that "nobody knows anything about the people who helped make those flights so successful," Watkins made it his mission to identify the unsung heroes and learn their stories. His subjects include:

  • Julian Scheer (NASA publicist): Argued for and won the inclusion of a television camera on Apollo 11, enabling Armstrong's walk on the moon to be broadcast and recorded for posterity.

  • Sonny Morea, lead designer of the Lunar Rover.

  • Hugh Brown, one of the few African Americans who worked on the Apollo program, helped monitor for Russian submarines trying to jam NASA communication during launches, and later went on to become head of the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta.

  • JoAnn Morgan, launch control: One of the few women involved in the space program, Morgan was designated the "lightning specialist." Her knowledge was crucial when the Apollo 12 spacecraft was struck by lightning only seconds after liftoff, nearly causing an abort. She was one of the few specialists allowed in the "firing room" during liftoff.

  • Joan Roosa, widow of Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa, talks about the sacrifices of the families and their devotion to "The Program."

  • Joe Schmitt, veteran suit technician was responsible for making sure the suits were leak-proof and hooked up correctly--knowing any mistake would mean instant death in space.
Table of Contents
  • Forward by Fred Haise
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • History of Apollo

  • Book I "...the Eagle has landed"
    • Steve Bales
    • Bruce McCandless
    • Richard Underwood
    • Clancy Hatleberg
  • Book II "We're not the Soviets"
    • Julian Scheer
    • Joseph Laitin
    • Hugh Brown
  • Book III "Thunder at the Cape"
    • JoAnn Morgan
    • Joe Schmitt
    • Jack King
  • Book IV "Marriage, Missions and Moon Cars"
    • Joan Roosa
    • Rodney Rose
    • Gerry Griffin
    • Sonny Morea
  • U.S. Manned Missions Summary
  • Glossary

    Order your copy from Amazon.com

    [This message has been edited by Robert Pearlman (edited January 28, 2006).]

  • Sy Liebergot
    Member

    Posts: 458
    From: Pearland, Texas USA
    Registered: May 2003

    posted 01-21-2006 08:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Sy Liebergot   Click Here to Email Sy Liebergot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
    Soooo, comparatively, what is the historical significance of the Murray/Cox book, "Apollo: The Race To the Moon," published way back in 1989? Many of us participants judge it to be THE definitive book on how we landed humans onthe Moon.
    Respectfully,
    Sy Liebergot
    "Apollo EECOM: Journey of a Lifetime" www.apolloeecom.com

    freshspot
    Member

    Posts: 272
    From: Lexington, MA, USA
    Registered: Dec 2005

    posted 01-21-2006 09:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for freshspot   Click Here to Email freshspot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
    The Watkins book looks great and I just ordered a copy. Thanks for pointing it out, Robert. Somehow I missed that new title when it came out.

    It is cool to read books that are about people who worked on Apollo other than astronauts. I've enjoyed Kranz' Failure is not an Option, the Murray/Cox book, and of course, Sy's Apollo EECOM: Journey of a Lifetime.

    Dave Scott (not the astronaut)

    Rocketaholic
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    posted 01-22-2006 04:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rocketaholic   Click Here to Email Rocketaholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
    Looks like an interesting book. I will have to check it out. I am finishing reading "First Man" about Neil Armstrong. That is a good read.

    ------------------
    JET

    KSCartist
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    Posts: 2488
    From: Titusville, FL USA
    Registered: Feb 2005

    posted 01-22-2006 09:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for KSCartist   Click Here to Email KSCartist     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
    Sy-

    While I agree The Race to the Moon is an important read and a must for any serious student of space program history - I think it is important to read as many accounts as possible.

    For example Chaikin's "A Man on the Moon",
    Shepard, Slayton, Benedict & Barbree: "Moon Shot" and Slaytons autobiography, "Deke" are IMHO equally important because together they fill in the story more completely.

    "The Race to the Moon" and "The Unsung Heroes" should be read together for the same reason.

    Tim

    Rocketaholic
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    posted 02-04-2006 04:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rocketaholic   Click Here to Email Rocketaholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
    I agree. The more books read on the subject the better.

    freshspot
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    Posts: 272
    From: Lexington, MA, USA
    Registered: Dec 2005

    posted 02-05-2006 08:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for freshspot   Click Here to Email freshspot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
    I just finished this book filled with fascinating stories and unique viewpoints of the Apollo program

    In Apollo Moon Missions: The Unsung Heroes, author Billy Watkins delivers 14 accounts of little known people from the Apollo program. For those of us who read a lot about Apollo, this book adds some well-needed alternative views of the program. I’ve read most of the astronaut biographies and many of the histories of Apollo—after a while I’m looking for some nook or cranny of information that I did not know already.

    The chapters in Apollo Moon Missions are similar to the wonderful 12 page riff in Stages to Saturn about the Super Guppy aircraft that was used to transport the Saturn S-IVB stage. In Stages to Saturn, this story is told partly by profiling flamboyant entrepreneur John M. Conroy and his company Aero Spacelines that built the Super Guppy. I like this kind of story because it personalizes the Apollo program. The accounts in Apollo Moon Missions of people like Sonny Morea, the lead designer of the Lunar Rover, Julian Scheer, the NASA publicist who got TV cameras onto Apollo 11, and Joe Schmitt, suit technician, who was often the last person the astronauts saw before the hatch was closed on the launch pad are fun and unusual.

    Dave Scott (not the astronaut)

    Dwayne Day
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    Posts: 532
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    Registered: Feb 2004

    posted 02-06-2006 12:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
    Can someone post some details about the chapter that refers to the guy who monitored for Soviet submarines off the Cape?

    I have a few documents around somewhere that refer to concerns about the Soviets jamming transmissions and so I'm curious.

    tedc
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    Posts: 86
    From: Renton, WA USA
    Registered: Mar 2002

    posted 02-06-2006 10:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tedc   Click Here to Email tedc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
    I just finished reading this book last night. It was a fresh look at job duties performed by individuals in the space program from their perspective. Or in the case of Mrs. Roosa, from being the wife of an astronaut. It was a very interesting and enjoyable read. I would recommend it to all.

    Ted

    Dwayne Day
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    Posts: 532
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    Registered: Feb 2004

    posted 03-03-2006 04:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
    I just looked at the book. This summary appears wrong:

    "Hugh Brown, one of the few African Americans who worked on the Apollo program, helped monitor for Russian submarines trying to jam NASA communication during launches, and later went on to become head of the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta."

    From my skimming of the chapter, it appears as if his primary duties were assuring communications with the rocket at the Cape, NOT monitoring for Russian submarines. There is a brief mention that they were concerned that the Russians could jam communications, but that is all. It's not like he was a sonar operator or anything.

    Robert Pearlman
    Editor

    Posts: 27327
    From: Houston, TX
    Registered: Nov 1999

    posted 03-03-2006 04:37 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 Dwayne Day:
    It's not like he was a sonar operator or anything.
    No, but he did oversee the installation of a large antenna on the top of the VAB specifically meant to detect the source of observed comm drop outs and at least in part, act as a deterrent to the Soviets...

    Naraht
    Member

    Posts: 232
    From: Oxford, UK
    Registered: Mar 2006

    posted 03-27-2006 03:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Naraht   Click Here to Email Naraht     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
    I just bought "Apollo: The Unsung Heroes," and found it a pleasant read, although not perhaps as detailed as it could have been.

    There is not much new information in the chapters on Steve Bales and Gerry Griffin, who have already received a fair amount of public attention. (At least compared to other non-astronauts who worked on Apollo.) Most of what is recounted about them can already be found either in Murray and Cox or in the JSC Oral Histories, although there are some interesting details here and there. For example, I didn't know that Steve Bales had been a summer intern at JSC prior to being hired there.

    Where this book shines is in profiling people like Joann Morgan, who was the only woman in the firing room during the Apollo 11 launch, but who probably wouldn't be considered important enough to be mentioned in most histories. Compared to her, people like Bales and Griffin are "sung heroes".

    I do really praise the author of this book for having made the effort to go beyond the usual astronaut-centric approach to space history. He is no Charles Murray, but his book is still a very worthwhile read.

    Sy Liebergot
    Member

    Posts: 458
    From: Pearland, Texas USA
    Registered: May 2003

    posted 04-06-2006 11:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Sy Liebergot   Click Here to Email Sy Liebergot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
    Hey Folks, under the heading of “fun stuff,” I was recently apprised of the following book excerpt:
    “The Unsung Heroes” by Billy Watkins, on page 164.
    inside the chapter on Gerry Griffin, reads:
    "But there was also a sense of victory. America, which had been woefully
    behind during the early days of the space race, had beaten the Soviets to
    the moon. This fact was not lost on one of Griffin's team members who wrote,
    "THE RUSSIANS SUCK" and projected the words up on one of the screens in the
    front of mission control. "We all got a good laugh out of that," Griffin remembered, "but I finally said, 'Guys, we probably need to get that down before the press sees it.'"

    From Sy: I was unaware that my original outburst had “legs.” (See page 131 of my book, “Apollo EECOM”.) I checked with Gerry Griffin, who was a flight director on the Green team and he wrote: “I think there is an explanation...I believe someone on my team heard about your "exclamation" (it made the rounds) and put it up on the screen later...shifts later. I remember seeing it, it was in the middle of the night and was hand written, and remained on the screen for a very short time...and that's all I can remember about it. I never who did it.”
    Sy Liebergot
    "Apollo EECOM: Journey Of A Lifetime" www.apolloeecom.com

    [This message has been edited by Sy Liebergot (edited April 06, 2006).]

    Naraht
    Member

    Posts: 232
    From: Oxford, UK
    Registered: Mar 2006

    posted 04-10-2006 04:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Naraht   Click Here to Email Naraht     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
    Thank you for your insight, Mr. Liebergot. After reading your book, and then "Unsung Heroes," I had wondered what the relationship between the two incidents was. We're very lucky to have someone who was actually there giving us the inside details.

    leslie
    Member

    Posts: 208
    From: Surrey, England
    Registered: Aug 2005

    posted 05-16-2006 10:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for leslie   Click Here to Email leslie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
    A belated posting but I have just got round to reading "Unsung Heroes". I actually finished the book in one sitting on a train journey.
    My opinion is that it was a "light read" and slightly disappointing in that it lacked detail, however, I also think it an important book as it brings the space programme into perspective reminding us that thousands were involved in getting man to the Moon. It also illustrated quite clearly the commitment and professionalism these men and women had and the tremendous sense of pride in what they were doing.

    ------------------
    Leslie

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