In 1961 President John F. Kennedy challenged the United States to land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the decade. It seemed like an impossible mission and one that the Russians—who had launched the first satellite and put the first man into Earth orbit—would surely achieve before the Americans. However, the ingenuity, passion, and sacrifice of thousands of ordinary people from all walks of life enabled the space program to meet this extraordinary goal. This is the story of fourteen of those men and women who worked behind the scenes, without fanfare or recognition, to make the Apollo missions successful.
Billy Watkins is a features writer with the Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger, where his work has earned him more than forty regional and national awards. Fred Haise was the lunar module pilot on the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission in 1970, and he served on the backup crews for Apollo 8, 11, and 16. Haise also conducted test flights of the space shuttle Enterprise.
“Journalist Watkins takes advantage of decades of close attention as he recounts the stories of some of the thousands of men and women who made getting to the moon their daily work and uncanny passion. He includes the story of a publicist who lobbied for a television camera on Apollo 11, without which we would not have seen Neil Armstrong take that step, specialists on signal-jamming USSR submarines and lightning, and the lucky folks who got to design the Moon Rover. It is clear Watkins would like to acknowledge the efforts of all (picking just 14 must have been agonizing) but those appearing here are truly representative of a breed of scientist and engineer whose pie-in-the-sky thinking actually worked.”—SciTech Book News
"This book is 'new news' to all those who followed Apollo--including me. It not only captures the sense of team spirit and a desire to assure success, but it really brings out the human interest side of the program and highlights the contributions of those removed from the 'firing line.' It's a winner!"—Fred Haise, Apollo 13 astronaut
"Open up the pages of Watkins' in-depth view of the unsung heroes of the Apollo mission, and you will get a clear idea of why the Apollo Program was so successful. Meet the people behind the scenes of our journey to the moon as Billy Watkins magnificently portrays the human dedication of many people to achieve man's greatest adventure."—Jim Lovell, Apollo 13 astronaut
"Every story as a heart and a sould, and Billy Watkins hands these rich gifts to the reader with respect and perspective."—Lynne Russell
"I met Billy just prior to the Columbia tragedy. After one conversation I realized that this was not your typical 'hometown' reporter but someone who could ask me questions regarding Human Spaceflight three or four layers deep and from a historical sense knew more about NASA's accomplishments than I did. Over the years, Billy has become a trusted personal friend and someone I trust to tell the personal side of this highly technical business. I am sure you will enjoy this historical account of the Apollo era."—Bill Parsons
"After reading Apollo Moon Missions: The Unsung Heroes, you'll realize how little we all know about those who made the small steps and giant leaps possible."—Robert Pearlman, CollectSpace.com, member of the U.S. Space Walk of Fame Foundation Board of Directors
“Billy Watkins’s book is celebration of the devotion of those who worked on the Apollo program. It is a welcome reminder of a single-minded devotion to duty. Our thanks are due to all those who took America to the Moon. This book helps to spotlight some of their stories.”—Roger D. Launius, former NASA Chief Historian
“Watkins has done a great service to space history specifically, and this cultural experiment we call late 20th century America, by giving us fourteen glimpses into the lives of the unsung heroes behind the Apollo mission. . . . [H]igh marks and a must-read.”—Today in Space History Blog
“The book makes its point clear: that for each of the men skilled and fortunate enough to travel to the Moon, there were thousands more on Earth who made it possible but would never get the recognition the astronauts received. . . . This book offers a glimpse at who those unknown thousands working on Apollo were.”—Jeff Foust, Space Review