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Author Topic:   Across the Airless Wilds (Earl Swift)

Posts: 6284
From: Geneva, Switzerland
Registered: May 2006

posted 10-13-2020 04:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Across the Airless Wilds: The Lunar Rover and the Triumph of the Final Moon Landings
by Earl Swift
In this follow-up to the acclaimed New York Times bestseller "Chesapeake Requiem," Earl Swift rediscovers the final three Apollo Moon landings, arguing that these overlooked missions — distinguished by the use of the revolutionary Lunar Roving Vehicle — were the pinnacle of human exploration.

The most enduring tire tracks in the universe lie not on any highway, remote desert trail, or indeed anywhere on Earth. They are found on the Moon, where fifty-six miles of car tracks lie nearly perfectly preserved, etched into the lunar landscape almost exactly as they were left nearly a half-century ago. The ends of these trails mark the farthest extremes to which mankind has ventured, the limits of a species that was born to wander.

The tracks were left by crews of the last three manned missions to the Moon — Apollos 15, 16, and 17. Over the decades since, the achievements of these astronauts have dimmed in the shadow cast by the first Moon landing, Apollo 11. But as Earl Swift brilliantly uncovers, in so many ways the earlier missions were but a prelude for the final acts; for while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin trod a chunk of flat lunar plain smaller than a football field, the final three Apollos each commanded a mountainous area the size of Manhattan — traveling miles across the broken, desolate lunar surface, conducting experiments, and collecting more than a quarter-ton of prized geologic samples. Often treated as little more than historical footnotes, they were the true explorers of the Moon. And they succeeded for one very American reason: they drove.

So-called "Moon cars" had been the stuff of science fiction since before the Wright brothers flew. But it was only after World War II that engineers and scientists took up the challenge of how to move astronauts and equipment across extraterrestrial landscapes. The result was the Lunar Roving Vehicle — a true engineering marvel that was developed piecemeal through the late 1950s and 1960s, deployed on the final three Apollo missions, and revolutionized the exploration of the moon.

In this fast-moving exploration of the lunar rover and the scientific discoveries it enabled, Swift puts the reader alongside the men who dreamed of the rover, designed it, troubleshot its flaws, and drove it on the lunar surface. Finally shining a deserved spotlight on these overlooked yet crucial missions and the fascinating characters involved in them, Across the Airless Wilds is a celebration of human genius, perseverance, and daring.

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Custom House (July 6, 2021)
  • ISBN-10: 0062986538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062986535


Posts: 525
From: Dumfries, VA, USA
Registered: Aug 2014

posted 07-17-2021 07:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jonnyed   Click Here to Email Jonnyed     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just came across this recently released book, but have not read it yet. It has great reviews and looks quite good but I'm reserving my final judgement until I finish it.

Anyone else read this yet? What do you think?


Posts: 200
From: Utrecht,NL
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 01-15-2022 01:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for BA002   Click Here to Email BA002     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To me the major miracle of Apollo is that it happened at all, and a minor miracle is that when it did happen it evolved so quickly from literally just a small step onto a flat part of the lunar surface to the scientific expeditions to majestic geological features as seen, live and in color, during the three J-missions. Instrumental in that development was the lunar rover and I personally felt that a book on that subject was long missing.

So I was very glad to see that gap being filled by this book. Broadly speaking, it first introduces to us some of the key players that were involved in getting the LRV to the moon.

Then it gives a detailed history of all the grandiose schemes that were dreamt up mostly in the 1960s of concepts such as the MOLAB. While I was familiar with some of those, I found it intriguing to see them in more detail, but also how they did play a role in the evolution of the one scheme that did make it to the moon.

However, because these concepts were all too grand, and money was getting tight after Apollo 11 had accomplished the primary goal as set out by Kennedy, at one point it seemed as if there would never be a lunar vehicle at all. But some of the key players kept dreaming, and finally came up with a concept that could possibly work within the very tight constraints of size and weight that the J-mission LMs could accommodate.

The book describes how NASA was convinced that it could be done and should be done. And after that the bidding process and the competing concepts and although we all know the outcome, reliving that part of the experience made me feel sorry especially for the Bendix people who worked just as hard and dreamed just as much about getting their vehicle to the moon as did the winners.

Then the winning concept had to be put into reality and the book gives a gripping description of the blood, sweat and tears that took, and also how close it came to being either cancelled entirely or too late to be used on Apollo 15.

And finally the book describes the actual use on the lunar surface, through both the eyes of the astronauts and its anxious makers back on Earth.

All in all a very good and interesting read and one that made me realize even more how so many things had to align at just the right time and place to create the miracles that brought us the J-missions.

Jurg Bolli

Posts: 1115
From: Albuquerque, NM
Registered: Nov 2000

posted 01-15-2022 09:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jurg Bolli   Click Here to Email Jurg Bolli     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I finally read this book, it is much better than I had anticipated, there are many things about the LRV that I did not know or had forgotten, lots of stories about the people involved, and the book is very well written. I enjoyed it.

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