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Astronaut authors

Stories with the right stuff

What was it like to fly to the moon, to be part of the U.S. space race of the 1960s? Journalists can interview, novelists imagine, and poets wax poetic, but to get the straight story, reach for these books penned by the astronauts of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo.
On March 23, 1965, astronauts Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom and John W. Young participated in the first crewed Gemini flight, Gemini III. (NASA/MSFC Archives)
On March 23, 1965, astronauts Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom and John W. Young participated in the first crewed Gemini flight, Gemini III. (NASA/MSFC Archives)

These books could be considered historic memoirs. As each astronaut was a unique personality—from Neil Armstrong’s cool demeanor to Pete Conrad’s fast Corvette style—each book has its own character and focus. Certainly, all include biographical details of the astronauts’ early family lives, their military and test pilot careers, and personal recollections of their space missions. Some are nearly a travelogue, such as Jim Lovell’s Lost Moon, the Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13. Some focus on the space program with a wider lens, for example, Deke! U.S. Manned Space: From Mercury to the Shuttle, by Deke Slayton.

Others tend to be more personal, including Buzz Aldrin’s book, No Dream Is Too High: Life Lessons from a Man Who Walked on the Moon, which explores his challenges in life after Apollo 11.

An unusual one is Apollo: An Eyewitness Account by Artist /Astronaut /Moonwalker Alan Bean, which is an art book of paintings by Apollo 12 lunar module pilot and moonwalker, Alan Bean.

To get even further out, into the mystical realm, read The Way of the Explorer: An Apollo Astronaut’s Journey Through the Material and Mystical Worlds by Edgar D. Mitchell or To Rule the Night: The Discovery Voyage of Astronaut Jim Irwin.

From Alan Shepard, America’s first man in space, to Gene Cernan, America’s last astronaut on the moon, there are many aspects of the space race era to explore from the comfort of your favorite easy chair. Sit back and blast off.

Apollo 7: First crewed Apollo mission.

  • All American Boys, An Insider’s Look at the U.S. Space Program
    By Walter Cunningham, Apollo 7 lunar module pilot
  • Apollo Pilot: The Memoir of Astronaut Donn Eisele
    By Donn Eisele, Apollo 7 command module pilot, and Francis French

Apollo 8: First crewed spacecraft to successfully orbit the moon.

  • Countdown: An Autobiography
    By Frank Borman, Apollo 8 commander, and Robert J. Serling

Apollo 10: The “dress rehearsal” for the first moon landing (Apollo 11).

  • We Have Capture
    By Thomas Stafford, Apollo 10 commander, and Michael Cassutt

Apollo 11: The three astronauts who made the first landing on the moon penned numerous books.Astronaut authors

  • First on the Moon: A Voyage with Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr.
    By Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin
    This is the only book (for adults) coauthored by Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 commander and first man to step on the moon.
  • Bok’s Giant Leap: One Moon Rock’s Journey Through Time and Space
    This is a children’s picture book written by Neil Armstrong.
  • Carrying the Fire
    By Michael Collins, Apollo 11 command module pilot
  • Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut’s Story
    By Michael Collins
  • Liftoff: The Story of America’s Adventure in Space
    By Michael Collins
  • No Dream Is Too High: Life Lessons from a Man Who Walked on the Moon
    By Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 lunar module pilot and the second man to walk on the moon, and Ken Abraham
  • Magnificent Desolation
    By Buzz Aldrin and Ken Abraham
  • Encounter with Tiber
    By Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes
    For a break from the historical, go into the future with what may be the only novel written by an Apollo astronaut.

Apollo 12: Recovered parts from the Surveyor 3 lunar probe that landed on the moon two years earlier.

  • Rocketman: Astronaut Pete Conrad’s Incredible Ride to the Moon and Beyond
    By Nancy Conrad and Howard A. Klausner
    OK, this was not written by Pete (Apollo 12 commander), but it’s an insider memoir by his wife, albeit number two; she knew him well.
  • Apollo: An Eyewitness Account by Artist/Astronaut /Moonwalker Alan Bean
    By Alan Bean and Andrew Chaikin
    A bit different than most astronaut books, this is a collection of paintings by the Apollo 12 lunar module pilot and moonwalker.

Apollo 13: The “Houston, we have a problem” mission.Astronaut authors

  • Lost Moon, the Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13
    By Jim Lovell, Apollo 13 commander, and Jeffrey Kluger
  • Never Panic Early: An Apollo 13 Astronaut’s Journey
    By Fred Haise, Apollo 13 lunar module pilot, and Bill Moore

Apollo 14: First to land on the lunar highlands.

  • The Way of the Explorer: An Apollo Astronaut’s Journey Through the Material and Mystical Worlds
    By Edgar D. Mitchell, Apollo 14 lunar module pilot and moonwalker, and Dwight Williams

Apollo 15: Three days of exploring the Hadley-Apennine region of the moon.

  • Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race
    By David Scott, Apollo 15 commander and moonwalker, and Alexei Leonov.
    Scott teams up with Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space, to recount their lives on opposite sides of the space race.
  • To Rule the Night: The Discovery Voyage of Astronaut Jim Irwin
    By Jim Irwin, Apollo 15 lunar module pilot and moonwalker, and William A. Emerson Jr. In addition to relating his journey to the moon, Irwin shares his journey to faith in God.
  • Falling to Earth: An Apollo 15 Astronaut’s Journey to the Moon
    By Al Worden, Apollo 15 command module pilot, and Francis French

Apollo 16: The tenth crewed mission and second “J mission” in which the module stayed for an extended period.

  • Forever Young: A Life of Adventure in Air and Space
    By John W. Young, Apollo 16 commander and moonwalker, and James R. Hansen
  • Moonwalker: The True Story of an Astronaut Who Found that the Moon Wasn’t High Enough to Satisfy His Desire for Success
    By Charles M. Duke, Apollo 16 lunar module pilot and moonwalker, and Dotty Duke

Apollo 17: Final mission of NASA’s Apollo program.Astronaut authors

  • The Last Man on the Moon
    By Eugene Cernan, Apollo 17 commander and last man to walk on the moon, and Donald A. Davis
  • Return to the Moon: Exploration, Enterprise, and Energy in the Human Settlement of Space
    By Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot, moonwalker, and geologist

If all these rocket men books aren’t enough for you, go back to 1927 and read Charles Lindbergh’s book, We, which describes his New York to Paris flight. It was written by Lindbergh immediately after his flight and rushed into print.





Dennis K. Johnson

Dennis K. Johnson is an aviation writer and pilot living in New York City.

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