• Across the Airless Wilds

  • The Lunar Rover and the Triumph of the Final Moon Landings
  • By: Earl Swift
  • Narrated by: Adam Verner
  • Length: 10 hrs and 7 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (85 ratings)

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Across the Airless Wilds

By: Earl Swift
Narrated by: Adam Verner
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Publisher's Summary

“Earl Swift lays out this great unsung saga with verve and magisterial sweep." (Hampton Sides)

In this astonishing rediscovery of the final Apollo moon landings, the acclaimed author of Chesapeake Requiem reveals that these extraordinary yet overshadowed missions - distinguished by the use of the revolutionary lunar roving vehicle - deserve to be celebrated as the pinnacle of human adventure and exploration.

December 12, 1972, 8:36 p.m. EST: Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt braked to a stop alongside Nansen Crater, keenly aware that they were far, far from home. They had flown nearly a quarter-million miles to the man in the moon’s left eye, landed at its edge, and then driven five miles in to this desolate, boulder-strewn landscape. As they gathered samples, they strode at the outermost edge of mankind’s travels. This place, this moment, marked the extreme of exploration for a species born to wander. 

A few feet away sat the machine that made the achievement possible: an electric go-cart that folded like a business letter, weighed less than 80 pounds in the moon’s reduced gravity, and muscled its way up mountains, around craters, and over undulating plains on America’s last three ventures to the lunar surface. 

In the decades since, the exploits of the astronauts on those final expeditions have dimmed in the shadow cast by the first moon landing. But Apollo 11 was but a prelude to what came later: While Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin trod a sliver of flat lunar desert smaller than a football field, Apollos 15, 16, and 17 each commanded a mountainous area the size of Manhattan. All told, their crews traveled 56 miles, and brought deep science and a far more swashbuckling style of exploration to the moon. And they triumphed for one very American reason: They drove.

In this fast-moving history of the rover and the adventures it ignited, Earl Swift puts the listener alongside the men who dreamed of driving on the moon and designed and built the vehicle, troubleshot its flaws, and drove it on the moon’s surface. Finally shining a deserved spotlight on these overlooked characters and the missions they created, Across the Airless Wilds is a celebration of human genius, perseverance, and daring.

©2021 Earl Swift (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about Across the Airless Wilds

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Insights into the development and use of the rover

This book does a good job of telling the story behind the development of the lunar rover. It also provides interesting background on many of the key players. If you have worked on challenging projects or are an engineer you will enjoy learning about the technical and business conflicts and challenges the program faced. The lunar rover development is an impressive example of a project done under intense time pressure with significant technical challenges.

The narration was good, but did seem to put some unnecessary/overdone inflection at times.

I would have added a star to the Audible Story if it had included the diagrams and images as it does for many other books. This book screams for visuals. The author does an impressive job of describing technical features but nothing beats a picture or a drawing. You can go to Amazon and view many of the pictures on the preview. It provides a much richer appreciation, particularly for the imaginative concepts early designers came up with.

5 people found this helpful

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History without comparison

Earl Swift has hit a home run with "Across the Airless Wilds". This is an unbelievable journey across not only the Moon, but our Earth history from the last century and the12 Americans who walked the surface of that Regolith. 49 years ago, we left the moon and have since not returned American's back to its surface. Our political & financial decisions have chosen not to continue that story with Apollo 17 being the last of the Apollo missions retuning to Earth on December 19th,1972.

I found this story amazing, detailed and highly accurate. The narrator, Adam Verner does an excellent job making you feel as much a part of the story and its major players. I felt like I was there, in the development labs, on the launch pad and yes even on the Moon with the Astronauts. The banter on the Moon and especially concerning the LRV 1, 2 & 3 make this a must listen to. I was so impressed, I not only listened to it more than once, but then purchased the book for the amazing photographs. After listening or reading this book, you will never look at another GM product the same.

The one historical fact that I appreciated the most was that Earl Swift the author did not cover up the fact that the only reason we got to Moon was for the science adapted from Hitler's Nazi rocket program and its designer and mentor Wernher Von Braun, who during World War 2 was a member of the notorious SS. Through a secret cover up program call "Operation Paper Clip", German engineering brought the V2 rockets to Texas after the war, as well as all of its1,600 scientists, engineer's & technicians placed around the US. These men were placed in top military & civilian facilities to continue the development of the ballistic missile program which eventually led to the creation on the mighty Saturn 5 that took us to the Moon on July 16th, 1969, with a first landing 4 days later. President John F. Kennedy's proposal to congress on May 25th, 1961 to safely land a man on the Moon and return safely to Earth before the end of the decade became the driving force for the entire nation an endeavor larger than the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb in 1945.

The story is how NASA and all the private contractors, created, tested and deployed the LRV's for Apollo 15,16 & 17. The author walks you through a now historical musem in Huntsville, Alabama the Davidson Center for Space Exploration, while in pursuit of the real LRV (Lunar Roving Vehicle) there on display. While there he is looking for one of its major creators Sonny Morea. To reiterate, again I felt like I was standing there with Earl & Sonny has he described this fantastic machine, much more than a rover, really a space vehicle. I give this author and narrator 5 stars in all categories. If you are interested in science and history and especially the geology of the Moon, then I know you too will give this a high rating. It is history without comparison!

1 person found this helpful

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A story well told

Wonderful narration, chock full of interesting information. Participants deserve our thanks and admiration. To think this was accomplished 50 years ago. Thank you to the author, I will be listening to your other works.

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Great Read!

I love history, especially space history. I'm so glad someone wrote such a great book about the Lunar Rover!

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Entertaining and under appreciated story

it is amazing how U.S engineers created this vehicle and made history. A great read.

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  • Peter Bondy
  • 07-15-21

Fascinating with only one fault

A very enjoyable look at the last 3 and most complex of the Apollo moon missions with particular focus on the often overlooked Lunar Rover.

The history behind the rover’s design and its construction is something I knew nothing about and is well explained, is fascinating and ads a whole other level of appreciation for the ultimate great success of the rover.

My only complaint with this audiobook is with the narrator. While the majority of the narration is acceptable his reading of in particular the astronauts quotes is annoyingly poor and distracting. Fortunately they are not frequent enough to ruin the book but when he quotes conversations, more often than not I cringed.

Still, if you are interested in the Apollo program and what made Apollo 15, 16 and 17 so successful this book is a must listen in my opinion. That said though, be prepared for the occasional annoyance with the narrator.