I ran across the book Team Moon by Catherine Thimmesh when I took my kids to the library.
The book’s subtitle is “How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon.” This children’s book focuses on the thousands of people who worked behind the scenes of Apollo 11. It highlights some of the things that went wrong or could have gone wrong. One of the early pages of the book quotes the speech that was prepared for President Nixon to read if the mission had failed.
Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace … These brave men, Neil Armstrong and [Buzz] Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.
Grim words for a children’s book. And yet without some explanation of the dangers they faced, it’s impossible to appreciate the astronauts’ bravery. When I was a child, I was puzzled by talk of brave astronauts. In my mind, astronauts simply got on board a rocket the same way I got in a car. What was brave about that? It didn’t occur to me that they might not return safely.
Team Moon reminded me of Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. The image of the Lewis and Clark expedition I had from childhood was about as naive as my image of astronauts. I pictured a couple men with coonskin hats in a canoe going on a little trip, not 33 soldiers on a three-year mission. (The name “Lewis and Clark” doesn’t help, implying that they were the expedition rather than the leaders of the expedition.) I didn’t appreciate the scope or danger of the voyage until I read Ambrose’s book as an adult. I hope someone writes a children’s book in the style of Team Moon about the expedition if there’s not already such a book.