July 16, 2009
If you wanted to replace the muffler on your Ford Mustang, you might logically turn to your handy copy of the Haynes Repair Manual. If you wanted to install a new space sextant in the Apollo 11 Command Module, you wouldn’t turn to the new Haynes Owners’ Workshop Manual, but you would have such a good time reading it, you would have to leave space sextant replacement to a colleague.
Though the book’s authors, Christopher Riley and Phil Dolling, may have toyed with the idea of creating a full repair manual for Apollo 11, they quickly realized that wasn’t very practical; the Saturn V rocket alone has more than five and a half million pieces. What they have created instead, though, would more than satisfy a space enthusiast.
The volume combines a good overview of the Apollo space program with a host of engineering details. Ever wondered how an Apollo astronaut shaved? Both wet and dry methods were tried, but at least one man, Harrison Schmitt, didn’t bother with either and returned from the moon with a beard.
But more is included than just personal hygiene (though, yes, the toilet is discussed in detail, complete with technical drawings). Space exploration has always been a bit of trial and error, and this book reflects that. For example, the authors discuss not only the stages that comprised the final Saturn V rocket but also the technical difficulties NASA engineers had to overcome during the design and building phases. There is also a fascinating chapter devoted to the evolution of the space suit.
What makes this volume truly special, however, is the multitude of original technical drawings. You might not be able to repair the original Command Module with this book, but you might be able to build a pretty fair model of one with it.
Forty years ago today, Apollo 11 took off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida and headed for the moon. (For an interesting take on the liftoff, read photographer David Burnett’s essay on the people who watched the event live in person, from across the river in Titusville, Florida.) Over the next few days, Smithsonian and our sister publication Air & Space (check out their Apollo 11 anthology and blog) will bring you more about the historic event, which culminated on June 20 with the first moon landing. What are your memories of that time?
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