Andy Saunders, Apollo Remastered: The Ultimate Photographic Record. New York, NY: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishing. Hbk. 443 pp.
Reviewed by Dr Brian Laslie
This review represents the fourth in a series of crewed space exploration photographic records. Previously, I have reviewed Picturing Apollo 11(2019) and Picturing the Space Shuttle(2021), both out of the University Press of Florida and Photographing America’s First Astronauts(2023), out of Purdue University Press. All three of these books were authored by J.L. Pickering & John Bisney and represented something of a trilogy of books. The success of these books and others, including Apollo VII-XVII (2018) by authors Floris Heyne, Joel Meter, Simon Phillipson, and Delano Steenmeijer, demonstrate that there is a powerful attachment to both the early astronauts, photographs taken from space, and a seemingly never-ending desire to reflect on those who have slipped the surly bonds of Earth.
In Apollo Remastered, Andy Saunders, one of the foremost experts on NASA digital restoration, has combed through the NASA collection of 35,000 photographs. These pictures ‘securely stored in a freezer, to help maintain [their] condition’ have recently been ‘thawed, cleaned, and digitally scanned to an unprecedented resolution.’ (p. 1) Saunders presents the reader with a truly amazing collection of photographs, many never before seen, rendered in absolutely fantastic detail.
Each mission has a full-page layout showing the mission patch and covers the details, the crew, the mission and, most notably for this book, the photography. Yes, the photos are familiar but not found together in any other published collection. In each photograph, Saunders not only gives necessary explanatory details but also lists the photographer, the type of camera, the lens used to take the shot, and the NASA ID number, essentially ‘footnoting’ every photograph.
Rather than a detailed description of the book, I have herein chosen to detail a few of the photographs from various Apollo missions that caused me to pause and reflect during my journey through Apollo Remastered:
Apollo 7: A photo taken by Walter Cunningham showing the ‘whole Florida peninsula lit up by sunrays.’ (p. 47)
Apollo 8: It would be easy to state the best photo for this mission is the world-famous ‘Earthrise’ photograph taken by Astronaut Bill Anders and recreated in the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon, but instead, I found myself drawn to a two-page spread of the Sea of Fertility and the Goclenius Crater. (pp. 60-1)
Apollo 9: Another full-page spread (pp. 82-3) taken by lunar module pilot Rusty Schweickart. On the left of the photo, Earth takes up the entirety of the background, while the blackness of space is on the right. Command module pilot Dave Scott stands in the open hatch of the Command Module, the Service Module extending behind him toward Earth. From Schweikart’s position on the Lunar Module’s porch, one can make out its quad thrusters and one of the foot pads and Lunar surface contact sensors. However, what makes the photo all the more striking is a single dot in the blackness of space while the Moon, some 250,000 miles away, awaits.
Apollo 11: The most iconic mission of the Apollo program and the one fulfilling the first half of Kennedy’s desire ‘that this nation should commit itself to achieve the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.’ Picking one picture from this mission proved difficult. In the end, I believe the one my eyes looked at the longest was the photo Michael Collins captured of the returning lunar module carrying Armstrong and Aldrin with the Moon below and Earth in the background. As Saunders notes, Collins ‘is the only person alive, or has ever lived, who is not in the frame of this photograph.’ (p. 178)
Apollo 13: After the accident that ended any hope of landing on the Moon, a photograph shows Apollo 13 as it enters the shadow of the Moon, a photo with just a sliver of the Moon tantalizingly close as Saunders notes that Commander Jim Lovell ‘is the only person to visit the moon twice and not walk on its surface.’ (p. 217)
Obviously, there were hundreds of other photos in this wor. The book was an absolute pleasure to sit and go through each image page by page and reflect on the legacy of Apollo. This book makes the reader and myself contemplate what the moon landings meant then and our next journey from the Earth to the Moon.
This book is undoubtedly the most magnificent collection of Apollo photographs available for purchase. Those interested in the golden age of space flight will spend hours poring through this collection. However, as I looked through these photographs, now 50-60 years old, I pondered the next set of photos we would see in only another year. It was not lost on me that I began reading this book on the same day that NASA named which Astronauts would fly to the Moon on Artemis II, and I wondered what photographs that mission would give to posterity and us.
Header image: ‘Earthrise’ is a photograph of Earth and some of the Moon’s surface taken from lunar orbit by astronaut William Anders on 24 December 1968, during the Apollo 8 mission. (Source: Wikimedia)
J.L. Pickering and John Bisney, Photographing America’s First Astronauts: Project Mercury Through the Lens of Bill Taub. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2023. Images. Bibliography. Hbk. 340 pp.
Reviewed by Dr Brian Laslie
In 2019, I wrote a book review for From Balloons to Drones, where I began the review by saying:
A different type of book necessitates a different type of book review. Herein you will not find an author’s argument or a critique thereof since the book being discussed today is a collection of photographs and an extremely fine one at that.
Pickering and Bisney’s newest work, Photographing America’s First Astronauts: Project Mercury Through the Lens of Bill Taub, from Purdue University Press, claims to be the ‘most complete photographic account of Project Mercury ever published.’ With more than 600 photographs across 340 pages, it is hard to argue that they have not accomplished this. This is the sixth space-related photography book from Pickering and Bisney, which is clearly a life-long passion for both. Pickering has explored the photos of the US crewed space program for nearly 50 years, and journalist Bisney, a retired national news correspondent, covered the US space program for more than 30 years. Their combined 80+ years of experience is clearly demonstrated in how they choose their photos and, more importantly, in how they describe every image providing a photographic journey and an excellent history.
There can be little doubt that Project Apollo has garnered more photography books than Project Mercury or Project Gemini – Apollo Remastered: The Ultimate Photographic Record (2022) and Apollo: VII – XVII (2018) are two recent excellent examples. However, it is refreshing to see a new approach to a space photography book and the documentation of the Mercury 7 program. This book features the photography of William (Bill) Taub, NASA’s first staff photographer. Previously Taub served as a photographer for NASA’s predecessor organisation, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Taub travelled extensively with the Mercury astronauts. Taub followed the astronauts on many of their travels, capturing thousands of photographs of the Mercury 7 between 1959 and 1963. These photos are both official and candid from an individual who was truly a fly-on-the-wall of Project Mercury from start to finish.
Where many might claim to be publishing ‘never-before-seen images,’ in this case, it is true, as the authors gained access to Taub’s collection of photos, slides, and negatives after his passing. What they discovered and published is – without fear of hyperbole on my part – truly the greatest collection of photos of America’s first crewed space program and its famous seven members. Herein, each of the Mercury 7 get their own chapter, but the supporting cast is not ignored either, as the NASA leaders and support members also find themselves highlighted. Chapters one and two focus on the ‘Steps to Space’ and ‘The People of Mercury,’ (it was a great pleasure to see Astronaut Nurse Lieutenant Dee O’Hara highlighted). Chapters three through nine are dedicated to the originals themselves: Alan Shepard/Mercury-Redstone 3, Gus Grissom/Mercury-Redstone 4, John Glenn/Mercury-Atlas 6, Deke Slayton/Destiny Delayed, Scott Carpenter/Mercury-Atlas 7. Wally Schirra/Mercury-Atlas 8, and Gordon Cooper/Mercury-Atlas 9. Although a photographic record of the astronauts and Project Mercury, Pickering and Bisney also included many family photos as well continuing the tradition of the focus on the ones who remained on the ground and supported the astronauts the most: Louise Shepard, Betty Grissom, Annie Glenn, Marge Slayton, Rene Carpenter, Lo Schirra, and Trudy Cooper and their children.
Photographing America’s First Astronauts is another stunning success in a series of works that will undoubtedly be found on the bookshelf of everyone who loves the golden age of spaceflight. Since the authors have so adroitly covered the first astronauts, might this reviewer suggest a book on the NASA Astronaut Group 8 which included the first female and minority astronauts?
Header image: The Mercury Seven astronauts with a US Air Force Convair F-106B Delta Dart aircraft at Langley Air Force Base. From left to right: Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton, 26 January 1961. (Source: Wikimedia)
Since the establishment of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1915, it had worked closely with the United States Navy. Not only had the US Navy partnered with NACA, but the creation of the latter was also a rider to the former’s funding bill. This history of NACA has been overshadowed by its successor, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), into which the former was absorbed in 1958. Thus, much of the critical work by NACA has been overlooked. Indeed, if NACA is remembered at all, it is for using wind tunnels in aeronautical research, but there was much more that it was responsible for. This article redresses this deficit by examining how NACA used water tanks in seaplanes’ aeronautical and hydronautical advancements after the First World War. It also highlights the people and agencies involved in the research and the means of conducting the research.
The United States Navy, Seaplanes, and the First World War
The US Navy, realising that aircraft would play a vital role in any future war, recognised that something had to be done to improve its readiness and improve its fleet of seaplanes The US Navy partnered with NACA to investigate and perform research on its aircraft, including seaplanes and flying boats. These planes would be critical in defence and coastal patrols. As a part of the first line of defence against German U-boats, the seaplanes would be a priority for the US Navy. The seaplane was considered a fixed-wing aircraft with a fuselage designed for floatation and containing a hull. However, because it realised that aviation was still a technology in its infancy, the US Navy requested that NACA help make the naval seaplanes as efficient as possible. NACA, in supporting the tasking of the US Navy through its work on seaplanes, ensured a long and productive close bond with the Navy.
By the end of the First World War, the US Navy had several seaplanes with varying hulls, float types, and missions. These seaplanes operated from bases on shores because the US Navy did not have aircraft carriers or capital ships to launch such craft. The prevailing view then was that if the enemy were to attack, it would be by submarine, so it made sense to send patrols out from the shore to search for submarines. Several kinds of seaplanes were designed and used by the US Navy during the First World War. In 1919, Commander H.C. Richardson, the Superintending Constructor of Naval Aircraft for the US Naval Buffalo district in Buffalo, New York, who had also been Secretary to NACA’s main committee on formation in 1915, explained that:
[t]he principal work was done with two types of seaplanes, namely, the HS-2, the single-motored plane developed from the HS-1, and the H-16, a copy of an English seaplane.
These two seaplanes were used because they were the most readily available. This shows how poorly the US Navy seaplane fleet was in 1919. However, according to Richardson:
The Navy Department fully appreciate[d] the desirability of experimenting to improve existing types and the development of new types of seaplanes and airplanes, directed to the solution of those problems which have arisen in the war and, more particularly, to the development of seaplanes or airplanes for operation with the fleet.
Richardson was an active proponent of seaplanes for the US Navy. Therefore, because of the efforts of those such as Richardson, the US Navy was on track to update its seaplane fleet.
Unfortunately, the seaplanes of this period were unscientifically constructed. Their range was not that far, and their stability in flight left much to be desired. Actual aerodynamic testing was needed to ensure that any aircraft was worthy of combat and that the seaplanes were no exception. Richardson wrote in 1919 that:
[t]he problem confronting the Navy was largely determined at the time the United States entered the war  by the fact that the operations of the German and Austrian fleets had been reduced principally to minor raids […] and the only real sea-going operations comprised the activity of submarines.
This would be the primary mission of the seaplanes for many years: the patrol of waters in search of submarines. The submarines’ effect in the First and Second World Wars should not be taken lightly. The amount of cargo tonnage that could be destroyed by an undetected submarine could be immense.
Richardson’s 1919 article is crucial as he addressed the US Navy’s needs and how the seaplanes could aid it. His outline reads almost like a ‘wish list’ that NACA would eventually find itself working on. First, Richardson felt that performance, first and foremost, relied upon horsepower. He argued that:
[t]he performance in power flight is determined by the horsepower required and the horsepower available, and of course, the latter must always exceed the former or power flight is not attainable.
Considering that Richardson wrote this in 1919, he seems to have firmly grasped the needs of seaplanes. However, the power plants of any aircraft currently were still in an age of infancy. As such, Richardson’s idea that seaplanes were reliant on horsepower was unfortunately ahead of the technology that would make the machines efficient.
Richardson also understood that lift was an essential component of flight. He explained that:
[t]he lift of an airplane surface and its resistance to advance are determined by the lift and drift factors, which vary with the type of section used and also with the angle of attack at which the surface is presented to the relative stream of air.
The US Navy realised, however, as much as Richardson showed advanced thought on the subject, that the research involved was outside the Service’s scope. NACA, set up as an agency that was available to help government and civil agencies in aeronautics research, would be the agency to help the US Navy address the fundamental science of seaplane aeronautical research.
The Importance of NACA’s Research
While often overshadowed by NASA, the work of NACA deserves examination because of the enormity of its contribution to aeronautics. As NASA historian James Schultz explained:
[t]hroughout its history, with research and applied engineering, the Center [Langley] has been responsible for some of the 20th century’s fundamental aeronautical and aerospace breakthroughs. The Nation’s first streamlined aircraft engine cowling was developed at Langley Laboratory […] the tricycle landing gear; techniques involving low drag-producing flush riveting; [and the] development of the sweptback wing.
Similarly, historian Michael Gorn asserted:
[t]he proliferation of wind tunnels [about thirty had been built at Langley up to the 1950s] reflected the NACA’s true institutional identity: it concentrated on aeronautics.
While Gorn is correct, NACA could not have focused solely on aerodynamics and prospered. Aerodynamics was just one piece of what NACA did. It was established to investigate all flight modes, and hydrodynamics was a crucial part of NACA’s work. While not as aerodynamically sophisticated as land planes, seaplanes and flying boats needed hydrodynamical studies to meet the needs of the US Navy. It is a mistake to overlook this field that so many within NACA worked on.
Once NACA started its research on hydrodynamics, it did so without any presumptions and began its research by looking at the fundamentals of the aircraft. George W. Gray, in his early history of NACA, explained this adeptly. He stated that:
[a] large part of the effort of the hydrodynamic staff at Langley has been expended upon the twin problems: trying to effect a seaplane body that will combine low water resistance with low air drag.
Even before this, however, the question was whether seaplanes could even take flight. Then, again, the problem was that of power plants. As Gray pointed out, the studies:
[h]ad yielded some disappointing surprises: new designs that would not take off at the speeds planned or that would not lift the desired loads at any attainable take-off speed.
With the water tanks of NACA, however, the guesswork was taken out of the equation. However, none of this would have been possible, at least in a reasonable amount of time, without some organisation to make it happen.
Langley and the Water Tanks
Langley, located at Hampton Virginia, was NACA’s research centre, established in 1917. It focused primarily on aeronautical research but would eventually be used to test space equipment such as the Apollo lunar module. However, the first ten years at Langley comprised only the testing of aeroplanes. There was no work at all done on seaplanes. To do this work, NACA had to have something other than a wind tunnel to test the seaplanes.
The drag tank also called a tow tank, drag tunnel, or even the drag basin, was the solution to the research needed. Gray stated that:
[m]any of the studies in wind tunnels were applicable to seaplanes, and they in common with landplanes benefited from improvements in wings, propellers, engine cowlings, and other developments of the 1920s.
The study variables were applicable, but these were still seaplanes, and there was a need to test them in water. Gray elaborated that NACA knew that it needed a better way to test the seaplanes:
[i]t was recognised that the airplane on the water has problems that are not shared by the airplane in the air or on the landing strip, and in 1929 the Committee in Washington decided to enlarge the organisation and equipment at Langley to provide for research in hydrodynamics.
It was then that hydrodynamic research began at Langley.
Langley constructed two tanks: tank number one and tank number two. Tank number one became operational on 27 May 1931 for $649,000. Its purpose was ‘to study the hydrodynamic resistance and other performance features of water-based aircraft.’ A vital design team member was Starr Truscott, who published numerous studies based on research from tank one. A few additions were made to the tank, including a new higher-speed (80-MPH) carriage (a rail that the aircraft being tested sits on) installed in 1936-1937 and a tank extension of 900 feet to 2,960 feet in 1936. Eventually, the need for another tank would arise, leading to the construction of tank two.
Tank number two, operational on 18 December 1942, again had Truscott, along with John B. Parkinson and John R. Dawson, on the design team. The basin was 1,800 feet long by 18 feet wide and 6 feet deep. It also had a 60-MPH carriage. The express purpose of tank number two was ‘to test models of floats for seaplanes and hulls for flying boats by dragging them through seawater.’ According to Gray, the significance of tank two was that:
[r]esearchers experimented with radical departures from accepted hull design, trying to find the specifications for a seaplane body that would combine freedom from porpoising and skipping, low water resistance, and superior performance in the air. Out of these experiments came a novel design known as the hull with a planing tail.
Every step in the building of the tanks, from the basin to the tires on the towing carriage, had to be carefully thought out to ensure the best product for research use. Truscott, one of the designers of both tanks, realised that using NACA tanks required certain necessary features solely for use with the seaplanes.
Truscott related that the tank located at Langley was:
[o]f the Froude type; that is, the model which is being tested is towed through still water at successive constant speeds from a carriage spanning the tank. At each constant speed, the towing pull is measured, the trim and the rise, or change of draft, are recorded and, if the model is being towed at a fixed trim, the moment required to hold it there is measured and recorded.
The tank itself was covered by an enclosure meant to protect it from the water itself (so that turbulent water after a test could settle more quickly), wind, and the weather, rather than to provide any comfort to the engineers.
Pneumatic tires were installed and were ‘each driven by an independent electric motor through a single-reduction herringbone pinion and gear. The […] tires are high-speed bus or truck tires, with smooth treads.’ The carriage had to have the means to propel itself, which was achieved using ‘our electric motors propelling the car […] nominally of 75 horsepower, but for short periods they may be safely called upon to deliver 220 horsepower each.’ ‘Finally, the device used electrical braking to break the current for regenerative braking.’
Given the construction of the tanks, much work had to come together to test seaplanes. Of course, the whole purpose was to test the seaplanes for fundamental problems that could inhibit the aircraft’s performance. Resistance, porpoising, skipping, and performance were why the tanks existed. Solutions to these problems were needed for a more efficient aircraft. NACA engineers sought to reduce resistance; the force encountered when a plane is in the air moving forward or a seaplane in water, to help with take-off and landing.
Porpoising, a dangerous event that often occurs in the water, is something that NACA was tasked to find a solution to. According to Kenneth Davidson and F. W. S. Locke, Jr., writing for the Stevens Institute of Technology in 1943:
[p]orpoising is a self-sustaining oscillatory motion in the vertical longitudinal plane [… ] and can originate in an instability of the uniform longitudinal motion in smooth water […] in the words of one test pilot, it is always unpleasant and it may be catastrophic.
Essentially a seaplane will move up and down in the water out of control of the pilot. So it is easy to understand why the US Navy was interested in the dynamics of porpoising and what needed to be done to eliminate it. If left unchecked, not only could the seaplane not fly, but it could also be damaged, or worse yet, the pilot injured or killed.
Performance was made up of several things. Engine performance, aerodynamics, and propellers were factors in all aircraft, but with the seaplane, there was a demanding service life on the water. In addition, s were composed of thousands of rivets, so corrosion was a considerable fear. It could be disastrous if the corrosion worked through a rivet at the wrong time. The hull of the seaplane was another vital factor. The construction, what it was made of, the aerodynamics, and how to prevent porpoising and skipping of the aircraft were things that NACA still needed to work out.
With the tow tanks available, miniature models could be constructed of the hulls or floats of the seaplanes, put upon the carriage, and pulled at the desired speed. If the results did not achieve the desired results, costly mistakes could be prevented. This opened new doors for aeronautical research that paid huge dividends in the coming years. While NACA was still beginning its seaplane research, progress would come more rapidly with the tow tanks at hand.
In 1935, NACA found itself in a position to make future research easier. Engineer Antonio Eula performed tank tests on seventeen different hulls and floats. Eula purposely picked a random number of floats that had been tested in the laboratory over the last few years. He did this because:
[i]t affords an opportunity to draw some general conclusions regarding seaplane floats of given weight, given wing structure, any given position of the center of gravity.
Another reason is that not much data existed to make work easier for future engineers. His most important conclusion drawn from the tests was that ‘the best models have a maximum relative resistance not exceeding 20 percent of the total weight.’ Just that information itself was enough to help any future engineers working with the drag tanks to give them a starting point from which to work.
Along with porpoising, skipping continued to be a problem with seaplanes. During the Second World War, the problem of skipping was considered a significant enough problem that needed further research. In 1943, John B. Parkinson at NACA addressed the problem. He began by defining just what skipping was. He reported that ‘skipping is a form of instability encountered in water take-offs and landings, so-called because of the resemblance of the motions of the seaplane to those of a skipping stone.’ Rising out of the water before the seaplane achieved flight was hazardous. A plane entirely out of the pilot’s control can lead to injuries, if not death.
One of the critical problems with the testing up to this point was that scientific testing had not occurred. Parkinson explains that ‘investigations of skipping have been mainly qualitative and the data have been based on the impressions of pilots or observers.’ Using models and even full-size aircraft for testing, Parkinson established that instability caused most problems. Using measurements taken from the fore and aft of the step-in hull helped determine where the problem for each type of seaplane was located. Once that was established, the engineers could make the corrections. Of course, it could never eliminate all problems because any seaplane on the water is prone to unpredictable water. However, it did go far in helping establish methods to solve the skipping problems.
It was realised that the research had to be compiled to make it easier for future engineers to find the information they were looking for. So, in September 1945, engineers James M. Benson and Jerold M. Bidwell released a bibliography containing information about seaplanes. In this bibliography, many details covering everything from conventional hulls and floats to floating and handling were written about in a way that compiled the common information in past reports. Not only would this make it easier for future researchers, but the bibliography also pointed out areas in which more work needed to be done. Examples such as this are one of the reasons that NACA was able to achieve the success that it had.
NACA Water Tank Research and its Impact on Second World War Seaplanes
The Consolidated PB2Y Coronado is an example of how this research aided in Seaplane use during the war. In its original design, when fuelled for a long-range mission, this seaplane had a gross weight of 46,000 pounds of which 3,000 pounds was the payload. The US Navy wished to increase the payload. Using models of the Coronado in Tank No. 1, the NACA changed the line of the step of the hull and installed ducts for ventilating the bottom area aft of the step. This increased the gross weight to 68,000 pounds, of which 12,000 pounds was payload. It’s stability was so assured that the plane, during its war service in the Pacific Islands was repeatedly used to make landings on dark nights when the seeing is poor, and the craft must descend on a steady glide path until water is touched, a more hazardous procedure than daylight landing.
The success of NACA was based on hard work and dedication to research. Working alongside government agencies such as the US Navy and even civilian aircraft manufacturers, NACA helped the United States evolve from a country far behind Europe in aeronautical research to the world’s leader in aeronautical research. The research conducted on seaplanes, long overlooked, helped refine the seaplanes, and even today, seaplanes are still in use.
Jay C. Shaw graduated with a bachelor’s in history from Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri, in 2016. He began work on his PhD in History with the University of Missouri – Columbia in 2022. He retired in 2016 from the US Air Force as an Aerospace Ground Equipment Craftsman in support of both the C-130 Hercules and the B-1B Lancer airframes. He volunteered at the Army Engineer School History Office at Fort Leonard Wood for over a year, where he worked more than 350 hours proofing sources for a book on the history of the Army Engineer School.
Header image: Digging the channel for Tank No. 1. In the late 1920s, the NACA decided to investigate the aero/hydro dynamics of floats for seaplanes. A Hydrodynamics Branch was established in 1929 and a special towing basin was authorized in March of that same year. (Source: Wikimedia)
 While modern definitions of seaplanes, flying boats and float plane are more clearly defined. At the time NACA was formed, the language used was less clearly defined. As evidence by Richardson’s article cited beloew, it is clear that the types of aeroplanes discussed would, by modern defintion be considered flying boats. However, he refers to them as seaplanes.
 H. C. Richardson, ‘Airplane and Seaplane Engineering,’ SAE Transactions 14 (1919), p. 334.
 Richardson, ‘Airplane and Seaplane Engineering,’ p. 365.
 Richardson, ‘Airplane and Seaplane Engineering,’ pp. 333-4.
 Richardson, ‘Airplane and Seaplane Engineering,’ p. 338.
 Richardson, ‘Airplane and Seaplane Engineering,’ p. 338.
 James Schultz, Crafting Flight: Aircraft Pioneers and the Contributions of the Men and Women of NASA Langley Research Center (Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2003), p. 25.
 Michael H. Gorn, ‘The N.A.C.A. and its Military Patrons during the Golden Age of Aviation, 1915-1939,’ Air Power History 58, no. 2 (2011), p. 25.
 George W. Gray. Frontiers of Flight (New York: Knopf, 1948), p. 67.
Geoffrey Bowman, A Long Voyage to the Moon: The Life of Naval Aviator and Apollo 17 Astronaut Ron Evans. Lincoln, NE: University Press of Nebraska, 2021. Foreword. Images. Sources. Hbk, 377 pp.
Reviewed by Dr Brian Laslie
Ronald E. Evans is not a household name. Names such as Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, and Neil Armstrong remain more or less recognisable to the wider society. Indeed, even later Apollo astronauts, such as Pete Conrad, Alan Bean, Jim Lovell, or John Young, might still trigger images or recognition to a particular generation or those interested in the history of space flight. However, Evans has been significantly overlooked. That is what being the last person to do something will get you: obscurity. Evans was a member of Apollo 17, the last crewed mission to the moon. As such, he was the last Command Module Pilot to fly as part of the Apollo program. Evans also holds several other auspicious accolades. He holds the record for the most time spent in lunar orbit; he was the last man to orbit the moon alone and was the last man to conduct a deep space extravehicular activity. Indeed, Evans was one of only three individuals to have ever done a deep space extravehicular activity. In addition, he remains one of only 24 individuals to ever journey beyond Earth’s orbit into deep space and travel to another celestial body.
After reading the above, it should be apparent that being the last person to do something does not mean your name should end in relative obscurity, placed in a footnote, or known only to those with a passion for all things space. The omission of an Evans biography has finally been corrected by author Geoffrey Bowman and his recent book A Long Voyage to the Moon: The Life of Naval Aviator and Apollo 17 Astronaut Ron Evans which comes out of the University Press of Nebraska stables as part of their absolutely stellar Outward Odyssey Series.
Bowman successfully highlights the contributions of Evans to the US Navy as he flew missions over North Vietnam before his selection to NASA and his steady progression as a member of various support crews and backup Command Module Pilot on Apollo 14 before landing in a prime spot as the Command Module Pilot for Apollo 17. Moreover, Evans is unique among the Apollo astronauts as the only ‘moon man’ and Vietnam combat veteran. Throughout the narrative, Bowman pulls together the words and remembrances of Evans’ fellow astronauts and the astronaut wives. The use of the recollections of astronaut’s wives is something missing in older histories of the Apollo program. One of the primary contributors to Bowman’s research was a series of interviews with Evan’s wife Jan, and the author makes excellent use of her perspective throughout the narrative. That being said, when Bowman settles into Evan’s training for and flying Apollo, the author’s ability takes flight. Bowman proves he is much more comfortable with who Evans is and his contributions to the Apollo program.
Much like Evans himself, Bowman has worked doggedly to produce this history, and the author and press should be proud of the result. However, as a historian more bent toward academic endnotes, the lack of sourcing continues to be a problem in an otherwise magnificent series. While the Outward Odyssey series is the single best multi-volume series on the complete history of crewed spaceflight, it is sometimes frustrating not to know where a particular quote came from, but that is a relatively minor gripe. As I own all the books in this series, it has clearly not stopped me from continuing to purchase these books.
Ultimately, this work will appeal to those who simply cannot read enough about the history of crewed space flight. We should all be thankful that Bowman has written this book and shined a light on this historic aviator and space traveller.
Dr Brian Laslie is an Air Force Historian and currently the Command Historian at the United States Air Force Academy. A 2001 graduate of The Citadel and a historian of air and space power studies, he received his PhD from Kansas State University in 2013. His first book, The Air Force Way of War (2015), was selected for the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s and the Royal Air Force’s Chief of the Air Staff professional reading lists. He is also the author of several books on air force and air power history. He lives in Colorado Springs. He can be found on Twitter at @BrianLaslie.
Header image: Eugene Cernan on the Moon during the Apollo 17 mission, 12 December 1972. (Source: Wikimedia)
J.L. Pickering and John Bisney, Picturing the Space Shuttle: The Early Years. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2021. Hbk. 240 pp.
Reviewed by Dr Brian Laslie
A couple of years ago, in a book review for From Balloons to Drones, I started by saying:
A different type of book necessitates a different type of book review. Herein you will not find an author’s argument or a critique thereof since the book being discussed today is a collection of photographs and an extremely fine one at that.
That book review was for J.L. Pickering and John Bisney’s Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments. The same authors have followed up that superb effort with the recently released Picturing the Space Shuttle: The Early Years.
As the title suggests, the authors undertake to produce a pictorial history of – and to look at the development of – the reusable Shuttle Transportation System (STS), the Approach and Landing Tests (ALT), the astronaut class of 1978 (the ‘Thirty-Five New Guys,’ or TFNGs) and the first four STS missions that made up the test program for the new shuttle. Pickering and Bisney have again accomplished just that and produced a unique look at the early days of the space shuttle program, using rare, never-before-published photographs from the late 1970s and early 1980s. The book opens with a forward from STS-1 pilot Robert L. Crippen, who stated that he hoped the book ‘will increase your appreciation for what a remarkable accomplishment the Space Shuttle was.’ Crippen need not worry; the book does precisely that.
Although ostensibly a book of photographs, there is also enough background here to keep the layman and the historian happy with the development of the program. However, it is the photos that stand out. From Maxime Faget’s original model of a reusable space shuttle to the numerous designs, concepts, and artists’ renderings as they developed into the recognizable shuttle design that went into production, there are enough photographs in the first chapter alone to make the book worth the purchase.
Some of the great gems are the photos that show the transition from the Apollo era to the shuttle era. Nowhere is this more clearly displayed than the chapter detailing the Shuttle Enterprise’s Approach and Landing Tests. Here, Apollo mission veteran Fred Haise (Apollo 13) is joined by Gordon Fullerton, Joe Engle, and Richard Truly to test the flying characteristics of the new shuttle. Dave Scott and Deke Slayton in very late-1970s garb also make appearances in these pages (pp. 38-9). This transition is completed in the next chapter with the introduction of NASA’s next astronaut class, the ‘TFNGs,’ which introduced America and the world to the names of Guion Bluford, Anna Fisher, Robert Gibson, Steven Hawley, Sally Ride, and many others. The book includes a complete montage of the 35 Group 8 astronauts, the TFNGs (p. 71). Many of them are also pictured testing out Apollo-era spacesuits, marking the transition from old to new. If you had a favourite shuttle-era astronaut, there is a good chance they were represented in this class, and I was pleased to see photos of some of my heroes herein: Rhea Seddon, Frederick Gregory, and Shannon Lucid (65-71).
Obviously, the book really takes off (pun completely intended) with a section devoted to the first four shuttle missions, all of them aboard the Columbia. After that, the book moves from construction at Palmdale to delivery to Kennedy. The woes of Columbia’s heat-ablative tiles are adequately covered and, although the shuttle is a brand-new ship, it looks the worse for wear in several photographs (pp. 104-5). However, these problems overcome, there are some truly terrific ‘behind the scenes’ shots as Columbia is mated to the stack and rolled out to the pad. Here, there are some iconic photographs of the shuttle sitting on the pad with the setting sun turning the clouds a stunning orange and lifting into bright clear-blue Florida skies, but also some great shots ‘on orbit’ and the crews returning safely to Earth along the tanned lakebed of Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Picturing the SpaceShuttle is another masterwork. It is truly a tour de force and a compelling collection of photographs that should be on the bookshelf of everyone who considers themselves a shuttle aficionado. One hopes that Pickering and Bisney continue to comb through the photographic archives of later shuttle missions. It has been 40 years since Columbia lifted into the sky for the first time and, perhaps even more amazing, a decade since the last shuttle returned safely to earth. As time marches on and the shuttle program recedes into memory, Pickering and Bisney have given us a reason to remember what Astronaut John Young called the ‘world’s greatest flying machine,’ the Space Shuttle.
Header image: The Space Shuttle Columbia glides down over Rogers Dry Lake as it heads for a landing at Edwards Air Force Base at the conclusion of its first orbital mission on 14 April 1981. (Source: NASA)
Bruce McCandless III, Wonders All Around: The Incredible True Story of Astronaut Bruce McCandless II and the First Untethered Flight in Space. Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2021. Illustrations. Notes. ARC. 247 pp.
Reviewed by Dr Brian Laslie
It is a picture that seems to hang somewhere in every elementary school and library in America. For that late Gen-X group born in the last half of the 1970s, it hung on the walls of our bedrooms next to baseball heroes Dale Murphy and Mike Schmidt. Space Historian Emily Carney has dubbed it simply ‘the poster.’ The image is so ubiquitous as to be almost forgettable, not because it is forgettable but because you see it everywhere: from museum walls to commercials. It is inescapable. It is easily as memorable as any photograph that came out of America’s early space program, and it remains one of NASA’s most requested pictures. The image is of an untethered astronaut floating alone in the blackness of space, feet dangling above a blue and white Earth. Even as I write this review, a version of the famed photo hangs in my office, a hand-painted copy by my oldest daughter, herself a budding STEM and space lover.
The astronaut in the photograph is Bruce McCandless II, hardly a household name; but you have heard his voice, and you have seen his face in the old B-rolls of the floor of mission control where he served as a CAPCOM (capsule communicator) on the Apollo 10, 11 and 14 missions. McCandless served as CAPCOM for the first lunar extravehicular activity (EVA), and said “Okay, Neil, we can see you coming down the ladder now.”
Hardly a household name, yet he was at the epicentre for two seismic events in the history of crewed spaceflight: the first steps on the moon and the man behind the mask in the first untethered EVA. That untethered EVA and his first ride into space was a long time in coming. Half of his astronaut class flew to the moon, including Jack Swigert, Al Worden, Stu Roosa, Ron Evans, and Ken Mattingly as Command Module Pilots, while classmates Edgar Mitchell and Charlie Duke walked on the surface of the moon. Fred Haise served as the Lunar Module Pilot for the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, another of McCandless’s astronaut class. Much of his class served on Skylab, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, and the early shuttle flights.
McCandless, and classmate Don Lind, was considered more a scientist than a pilot in his astronaut class. This undoubtedly hurt him in crew rotation and mission assignments. One need look no further than Astronaut Walter Cunningham’s book, The All-American Boys, to know that Deke Slayton did not look favourably on anyone who was not a test pilot. Cunningham aptly noted:
If an astronaut had been in space, he was a star. If he was on a crew, he was a prospect. If he was not yet in line, he was simply a suspect. He hadn’t really made the team. (Cunningham, p. 84).
Cunningham also noted that amongst all astronauts, ‘At the very bottom of the pile were the hyphenated astronauts, the scientists’ (Cunningham, p. 87). McCandless II almost became the astronaut the world forgot despite his presence in the famous photo.
In his new book Wonders All Around: The Incredible True Story of Astronaut Bruce McCandless II and the First Untethered Flight in Space, this omission is being corrected by his son, Bruce McCandless III. This book focuses on the astronauts of the Apollo era who doggedly hung on at NASA through the early Space Shuttle program. Also unusual is that Wonders all Around is the third book to either be authored or co-authored by a son or daughter of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo Astronauts, the others being Rosemary Roosa’s To the Moon: An Autobiography of an Apollo Astronaut’s Daughter, and Kris Stover’s For Spacious Skies, written with her father Scott Carpenter. All three bring a different perspective to the golden age of spaceflight.
The author traces the early journeys of his father but does not fall into the trap of taking too long to tell it. For Bruce McCandless, ‘the real joys of his life: reading, thinking, and engineering.’ This demonstrates that McCandless II was a man at home inside the cockpit and a textbook (p. 40). McCandless’ selection to NASA might not have come with a rapid assignment to a flight, but it did place him in the middle of the action, most notably with his selection serving as a CAPCOM. The author notes this assignment came with a bit of a letdown when he states:
It’s like being the backup quarterback who relays plays from the sidelines; you’re part of the action, but no one’s going to remember you after the game. (p. 62).
Nevertheless, McCandless II soldiered on through Apollo, Skylab, and Apollo-Soyuz, all without a flight assignment and grimly hung on through the intervening years waiting for the shuttle to come online. McCandless endured, and he could be seen ‘wandering the halls of Building 4, haunted by the ghosts of cancelled Apollo missions,’ even as newer generations of astronauts began to take their place in line for shuttle assignments (p. 134).
McCandless III sets about telling his father’s story and the societal, political, and cultural events that occurred along the way. He also delves into the family life of McCandless II at home, and, in this case, ‘dad’ comes across as a work-at-home, distant, slightly standoffish figure, that many in my generation can identify with.
Wonders all Around is the perfect transition book for those looking into the late-1970s lean years as NASA moved from the Saturn V to the Space Transport System. McCandless III notes that his dad was part of the transition from the all-male, test pilot atmosphere to the shuttle era’s more inclusive and scientific period. McCandless was there to see it all, still hoping for his first rocket launch and all along the way continuing his work on the piece of machinery that would solidify his place in the history of photography: the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU).
Of course, the book inevitably leads to McCandless’ first flight, his piloting of the MMU up to 300+ feet from the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1984, and ‘Hoot’ Gibson taking the now-iconic photo, but neither of the McCandless’s story ends there. Instead, McCandless II continued to stick it out at Houston and flew one more time on a possibly more famous mission, STS-31, which deployed the Hubble Space Telescope (I would be remiss here if I did not recommend Astronaut Kathryn Sullivan’s magnificent biography Handprints on Hubble).
As new and forthcoming astronaut biographies continue to be published each year, our understanding of NASA as an organization continues to grow as well. McCandless III’s biography of his father adds to our understanding. McCandless II clearly had the ‘Right Stuff,’ but he had more than enough of the ‘Scientific Stuff’ to make him a legendary astronaut, and this biography cements the name of McCandless alongside Shepard, Armstrong, and Ride.
McCandless II said of that famous photo that “I have the sun visor down, so you can’t see my face, and that means it could be anybody in there. It’s sort of a representation not of Bruce McCandless, but mankind.” That may be true, but the author has lifted that visor and allowed the sun to shine on the face of his father at last. Wonders All Around is a powerful biography, history, and love letter to an organization, an event, a photograph, and an individual.
Dr Brian Laslie is a US Air Force Historian and currently the Deputy Command Historian at North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM). He is also the Book Reviews Editor here at From Balloons to Drones. A 2001 graduate of The Citadel and a historian of air power studies, he received his Masters’ from Auburn University Montgomery in 2006 and his PhD from Kansas State University in 2013. He is the author of Architect of Air Power: General Laurence S. Kuter and the Birth of the US Air Force (2017) and The Air Force Way of War (2015). The latter book was selected for the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s 2016 professional reading list and the 2017 RAF Chief of the Air Staff’s reading list. He can be found on Twitter at @BrianLaslie.
Header image: Astronaut Bruce McCandless, II tests a the manned maneuvering unit during a test involving the trunion pin attachment device he carries and the shuttle pallet satellite (SPAS-01A), partially visible at bottom of the frame. The space shuttle Challenger was flying with its aft end aimed toward the Earth. (Source: Wikimedia)
Editorial Note: Led by our Editor Dr Mike Hankins, From Balloons to Drones produces a monthly podcast that provides an outlet for the presentation and evaluation of air power scholarship, the exploration of historical topics and ideas, and provides a way to reach out to both new scholars and the general public. You can find our Soundcloud channel here. You can also find our podcast on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.
In the latest entry in our podcast series, we interview prolific and celebrated author Jeff Shesol about his latest book Mercury Rising: John Glenn, John Kennedy, and the New Battleground of the Cold War. In this episode Shesol talks about John Glenn, who captured the hearts and imagination of many Americans as the first US astronaut to orbit the earth. We not only talk about Glenn’s place in the history of the Cold War, but also in deeply personal terms.
Jeff Shesol is the author of Mercury Rising, most recently, as well as Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court and Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and the Feud That Defined a Decade, both selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year. He is a former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and is a founding partner of West Wing Writers. A Rhodes Scholar, he holds degrees in history from Oxford University and Brown University and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The New Yorker News Desk.
Header image: The Mercury Seven astronauts with a NASA Langley Research Center Convair F-106B Delta Dart aircraft at Langley Air Force Base, 20 January 1961. From left to right: Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton. (Source: Wikimedia)
There has been no cooling in the publication of space-related material in the aftermath of the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary. Partially in response to NASA’s returning astronauts to space from American soil this year and partially in response to an undeniable zeitgeist, NASA is enjoying renewed popular support. This provides an excellent opportunity for the publication of further scholarship about the history of the organisation. Academic presses (Florida, Nebraska, and Purdue) have been working hard to expand, and further our understanding of not only crewed exploration of the cosmos, but also the choices made in advance of rockets leaving the launch pad. To that end, Purdue University has recently published John Houbolt: The Unsung Hero of the Apollo Moon Landings by William F. Causey. Causey’s Houbolt examines NASA’s decision-making process through the lens of an individual. This approach places emphasis on the members of NASA–this is their story and not the story of the astronauts riding rockets. That being said, Causey’s book is no less amazing than the stories of the astronauts themselves and by pulling back the curtain, Causey deftly reveals the backstory and offers a fresh look at how NASA ultimately decided the method that would lead to footprints on the moon.
My introduction to the mind of John Houbolt, and I would wager some our readers as well, came in the form of the HBO mini-series From the Earth to the Moon (based in part off the book A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin). In the episode ‘Spider,’ Houbolt is shown as the ‘voice in the wilderness’ who bravely stood against senior NASA leaders to preach the gospel of Lunar Orbit Rendezvous (LOR) as the preferred method of sending astronauts to the moon.
Causey’s work demonstrates that the history of LOR is richer than just Houbolt’s contributions and the entire work is as much a history of NASA’s early years and its decision-making process as it is about Houbolt himself. This is a book about how we got to the moon, or rather, about how NASA decided how we would get to the moon. Causey’s work covers the period from roughly 1957 to 1963 and represents a comprehensive and readable history of NASA’s early years, but one that still brings a fresh and nuanced perspective to a familiar story.
This is a vital book as it refocuses attention on the thousands of people who aided our ascension to deep space for the first time. While the written record has generally favoured the importance of the astronauts themselves in numerous books, biographies, and autobiographies, the recent trend in focus on the individuals behind the scenes has improved our understanding of the golden age of NASA and crewed spaceflight. Causey’s biography of Houbolt now sits alongside other recent publications including Sonny Tsiao’s Piercing the Horizon: The Story of Visionary NASA Chief Tom Paine, Richard Jurek’s The Ultimate Engineer: The Remarkable Life of NASA’s Visionary Leader George M. Low and Rick Houston and Milt Heflin’s Go, Flight! The Unsung Heroes of Mission Control, 1965-1992. This is important for several reasons, but perhaps most of all because these books continue to expand our understanding of NASA as an organisation composed of thousands and not as one whose principal employees are those at the end of propellant-fueled rockets.
Causey writes with a deftness and a flair that keeps the narrative moving forward even when the subject matter is the Space Task Group, the Goett Committee, the New Projects Panel or any number of other bureaucratic organisations in the NASA hierarchy. This work never feels like you are reading the history of an organisational board meeting, but adroitly describes how the workers at the various levels of NASA made the important decisions necessary that made the entire Apollo program possible. If you are picking up this work, there stands a good chance you have more than a passing understanding of NASA’s history and organisation, and while you might be familiar with the LOR story, Causey’s telling through the lens of Houbolt is worth a read even if you think you have read it all already and neither the scholar nor the buff will be disappointed. This is an essential and much-needed addition to the history of the Apollo Program. Causey’s John Houbolt: The Unsung Hero of the Apollo Moon Landings is a critical and stimulating look at the individual of John Houbolt, but also at NASA writ large.
Dr Brian Laslie is a US Air Force Historian and currently the Deputy Command Historian at North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM). A 2001 graduate of The Citadel and a historian of air power studies, he received his PhD from Kansas State University in 2013. His first book The Air Force Way of War (2015) was selected for the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s and the Royal Air Force’s Chief of the Air Staff professional reading lists. He is also the author of Architect of Air Power: General Laurence S. Kuter and the Birth of the US Air Force. He lives in Colorado Springs. He can be found online at www.BrianLaslie.com
Header Image: A view of the Apollo 11 lunar module Eagle as it returned from the surface of the moon to dock with the command module Columbia. A smooth mare area is visible on the Moon below and a half-illuminated Earth hangs over the horizon. The lunar module ascent stage was about 4 meters across. (Source: NASA)
Rebecca Siegel, To Fly Among The Stars: The Hidden Story of the Fight for Women Astronauts. New York, NY: Scholastic Focus, 2020. Bibliography. Hbk. 340 pp.
Academic book reviews, at least those found in the back two-thirds of academic journals, tend to follow a predictable pattern. The good: ‘The author deftly demonstrates…’ Followed by the not so good: ‘What the author misses though is…’ Finally, the wrap up: ‘In the end, this work…’ It is, to a certain degree, the nature of the ‘business’ of academia, the manner in which one professional must praise and critique the work of a peer to the wider audience of colleagues. Removed from this predictable outline of reviews are more personal opinions. One will likely not find the phrase, ‘I enjoyed….’ I have often lamented to friends that nothing will ruin your love of history like the professional study of it. So, it is with great pleasure that every so often a book lands on my desk that is at the same time a well-written history and a thoroughly enjoyable book. Rebecca Siegel’s To Fly Among the Stars: The Hidden Story of the Fight for Women Astronauts is just such a book. For something a bit different here at From Balloons to Drones, I will follow the predictable pattern not so often found on blog posts.
The Good. The author deftly demonstrates that the search (and desire) for women astronauts has been almost entirely overlooked. In this book, written for the upper Middle Grade to Young Adult audience, Siegel weaves the well-known story of the Mercury 7 alongside the contemporaneous story of the virtually unknown ‘Mercury 13’ – the moniker was never official and added much later. This is not to say that the study of these pioneers has been entirely overlooked, and I would encourage our readers to get their hands on the following works: Martha Ackmann’s The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight and Margaret A. Weitkamp’s Right Stuff, Wrong Sex: America’s First Women in Space Program. Do not allow the fact that this is a book written for a younger audience, dissuade you from its importance and what will surely be great impact. For starters, this is a good book. Even scholars of the field will likely find something new – and dare I say something to enjoy – in these pages. Siegel has not only done her homework, but she provides avenues for a new generation to do theirs: her bibliography, the place where the next generation scholars and scientists will turn, is diverse and exhaustive. Considering, the age group this book is intended for, the bibliography is the equal of scholarship on the subject.
The not so good. What the author misses though is…not much. Weaving the familiar with the lesser-known demonstrates the state of cultural and gender backwardness that was accepted as normal practice in the latter half of the 20th Century. Siegel presents a refreshing take on a familiar space story. Most female pilots struggled to find work and acceptance in the air, but for a select few being a pilot was not enough. While the names Shepard, Grissom, Glenn, Carpenter, Cooper, Slayton, Schirra remain (more or less) recognisable, the names Cobb, Dietrich, Steadman, Sloan, Funk and others are not. Siegel’s timely work coincides not only with the 50th anniversaries of the Apollo flights but with a modern NASA seeking to inspire an American public as it sets its sights once again on deep space travel. It was only 37 years ago that the first American female astronaut launched into space, the first female shuttle pilot 25 years ago, and the first female shuttle commander 21 years ago. In the 60+ year history of crewed American spaceflight, these exploits and successes were built upon lesser-known figures whom Siegel brings to light for a younger audience.
In the end, this work will appeal to a wide audience: across specialties, across interests, across genders and across generations. To steal from another space-themed genre, this work will be the spark that lights the fire in the next generation of space explorers. We are all better for this book having been written.
Dr Brian Laslie is a US Air Force Historian and currently the Deputy Command Historian at North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM). A 2001 graduate of The Citadel and a historian of air power studies, he received his PhD from Kansas State University in 2013. His first book The Air Force Way of War (2015) was selected for the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s and the Royal Air Force’s Chief of the Air Staff professional reading lists. His second book was Architect of Air Power: General Laurence S. Kuter and the Birth of the US Air Force. He lives in Colorado Springs. He can be found on Twitter at @BrianLaslie.
Header Image: Exuberant and thrilled to be at the Kennedy Space Center, seven women who once aspired to fly into space stand outside Launch Pad 39B neat the Space Shuttle Discovery, poised for liftoff on the first flight of 1995. They are members of the First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATs, also known as the ‘Mercury 13’), a group of women who trained to become astronauts for Americas first human spaceflight program back in the early 1960s. Although this FLATs effort was never an official NASA program, their commitment helped pave the way for the milestone Eileen Collins set: becoming the first female Shuttle pilot. Visiting the space center as invited guests of STS-63 Pilot Eileen Collins are (from left): Gene Nora Jessen, Wally Funk, Jerrie Cobb, Jerri Truhill, Sarah Rutley, Myrtle Cagle and Bernice Steadman. (Source: Wikimedia)
Editorial Note: From Balloons to Drones is pleased to announce our new podcast series. Led by Assistant Editor Dr Mike Hankins, this series aims to build on the success of From Balloons to Drones and provide an outlet for the presentation and evaluation of air power scholarship, the exploration of historical topics and ideas, and a way to reach out to both new scholars and the general public. You can find our Soundcloud channel here.
In our latest podcast, we interview Dr Roger Launius about the history, legacy, and memory of the Apollo program and the moon landing, at the 50th anniversary of Armstrong’s famous steps for all mankind. Looking back after all this time, what does the Apollo program mean for us today?
Dr Roger Launius retired from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in 2016 as Associate Director for Collections and Curatorial Affairs having previously served in several other positions. Before that, he had been Chief Historian for NASA. As well as being a specialist in the history of air and space power, he has also written on 19th century American history. You can find his website here.
Header Image: A photograph of the Apollo 11 crew just after they had been selected for the mission. Left to right, are Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., the lunar module pilot; Neil A. Armstrong, commander; and Michael Collins, command module pilot. They were photographed in front of a lunar module mock-up beside Building 1 following a press conference in the MSC Auditorium, c. January 1969. (Source: NASA)