One Giant Leap by Charles Fishman

Rate: 4/5

Medium: Audiobook

Overview (Spoilers Abound)

In grade school we were taught about the Apollo 11 moon landing, along with the three astronauts who were sent on the groundbreaking mission. Other than the the most general of facts, no additional time was spent learning about this complicated and remarkable achievement. Fishman does a fantastic job detailing the complex choreography of landing on the moon with the technological advances and political events that lead to this successful mission. Spanning approximately a decade, there are so many various players with unique motivations and hurdles, both scientifically and politically that had to be overcome, but Fishman weaves each moving component into a coherent and engaging story. Initially, the jumping around of the story line causes some confusion because it is laid out similar to the ESPN’s The Last Dance, which I needed a cheat sheet to keep up with. In One Giant Leap, Fishman would highlight crucial that happens in Apollo 11’s mission, such as the astronauts climbing down the ladder to the moon. And then he spends the rest of the chapter discussing the research and scientists responsible for the decisions to use a ladder instead of a rope or some other means of exiting the lunar module. Examples of mission components expounded upon are the flag, computer, glass, actually flying to the moon, and the rockets used. In similar formatting he would talk about the politics surrounding the moon mission from Kennedy’s role and ambitions, as well as Johnson’s true passion for the project. Kennedy’s different speeches and private White House tapes were dissected to glean his true leanings and thoughts on space flight. Alongside the US race to the moon, the Russian achievements are also discussed, especially with regard to the reactions of the public and politics at the time of the Cold War.
It was interesting to learn about how lukewarm the public was with regard to going to the moon. Fishman spends significant effort to paint the mood of the public, with regard to both the space mission, as well as the civil unrest of the 1960s. My favorite part of One Giant Leap though was learning about the scientists behind our remarkable feat of going to the moon. I loved hearing about the internal debates between various camps within NASA regarding everything from computers to what rockets to use. Also, it was fascinating to hear how much of the space ships were hand made, from the parachutes, to spacesuits, the heat shield, and most surprisingly the computer memory circuitry that was hand woven by women. Overall, in One Giant Leap, Fishman has complied taken the highly complex and multifaceted race to the moon and organized it into a detailed and organized story about the people behind this monumental feat.


  1. I was surprised by your comment about a “lukewarm” response to the Moon project. I wasn’t aware of that, probably because all my life to date (late 1960s) I had dreamed of space travel becoming a reality. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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