Reviewed by: Susan Raizer
Title: From the Earth to the Moon: The Miniseries Companion
Authors: Douglas G. Adler and Peter Bernstein
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Date: July 2020
Retail Price: $1.99
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“From the Earth to the Moon” was a twelve-part HBO mini-series which first aired on April 5, 1998. The series was produced by Bruce Glazer, Ron Howard and Tom Hanks and based on a book by Andrew Chaiken entitled A Man on the Moon that was published in 1994.
The authors of this book, Douglas G. Adler (a medical doctor) and Peter Bernstein (a radiologist), have a wide range of interests in many diverse fields. Dr. Adler has published over 400 medical works and more than thirty works of both fact and fiction in science, aviation (he is a pilot), aerospace, and space science, and is a Star Trek and Star Wars enthusiast. Peter Bernstein likewise has a diverse interest in science and aerospace. They are the co-hosts of a movie podcast entitled “Popcorn Drink Combo.”
The authors have been fans of the mini-series since it was first aired and felt that it would be a great tribute to the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon to discuss the mini-series on their podcast, and they invited Andrew Chaiken to join them on the podcast. Their discussion is included as the first chapter of this book. Mr. Chaiken provided a lot of background information from the series not evident to viewers.
The book is more than a written discussion of each of the twelve episodes. The miniseries presented the U.S. space program from the early development of rockets, through the Mercury and Gemini programs and through all the Apollo missions, finally touching on the shuttle and ISS programs. Most of the Apollo missions were presented from a wide perspective, including the astronauts, their wives, the NASA players and the media. The book further added how some of the actors captured the look and essence of the actual persons. The Apollo 1 disaster and its aftermath was reported.
As the authors reiterated numerous times, the episodes presented the facts in unique ways so as to keep the viewers engaged. For example, in Episode 8 about Apollo 13, the producers and writers did not want to copy the Apollo 13 movie starring Tom Hanks, which had come out three years before the miniseries aired. The episode was presented from the vantage point of the journalists, especially since the Apollo missions had become no longer newsworthy. The explosion in the Service Module became newsworthy again. However, old school reporters were losing their audiences to younger reporters who felt more sensationalism was what the viewers wanted. While it was evident that there was a difference in news reporting style, the book provided a discussion of how the reporting of events was changing.
Throughout all the episodic chapters, as well as the thirty-five pictures interspersed throughout the book, the reader is presented with the astronauts as real three-dimensional people. For example, Don Eisele, who was divorced during the lead up to his mission, was presented a tarnished person to the viewing public. Some episodes were presented against the background of the political and economic climate of the times, including a presentation of the Russian space capabilities.
Episode 10 presented the Apollo 15 mission which was the first one to have a rover. The last three missions were more science related, especially about the geology of the Moon. There were more samples returned and there were longer duration Extra Vehicular activities, allowing for more science to be performed.
Interestingly, in Episode 11, the role of the astronauts’ wives was explored. Most of the marriages disintegrated from the stress of preparing for each mission. While the wives were clearly presented in the episode, the book’s commentary provided a more in-depth presentation to their role in the process.
This reviewer recommends From the Earth to the Moon: The Miniseries Companion to National Space Society members for several reasons. Although the series aired in 1998, the authors have provided a modern spin on the Apollo and precursor space programs with their insightful commentary on each episode, providing a more three-dimensional representation of the historical figures. With more space missions coming up, including the testing of the hardware that will return astronauts to long-duration missions on the Moon, learning about the original Apollo missions is an important historical tool that can be read and re-read in a factual way in the Companion book.
© 2022 Susan Raizer
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