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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Best Seller

The riveting inside story of three heroic astronauts who took on the challenge of mankind's historic first mission to the moon, from the best-selling author of Shadow Divers.

"Robert Kurson tells the tale of Apollo 8 with novelistic detail and immediacy." (Andy Weir, number one New York Times best-selling author of The Martian and Artemis)

By August 1968, the American space program was in danger of failing in its two most important objectives: to land a man on the moon by President Kennedy's end-of-decade deadline and to triumph over the Soviets in space. With its back against the wall, NASA made an almost unimaginable leap: It would scrap its usual methodical approach and risk everything on a sudden launch, sending the first men in history to the moon - in just four months. And it would all happen at Christmas. 

In a year of historic violence and discord - the Tet Offensive, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago - the Apollo 8 mission would be the boldest, riskiest test of America's greatness under pressure. In this gripping insider account, Robert Kurson puts the focus on the three astronauts and their families: the commander, Frank Borman, a conflicted man on his final mission; idealistic Jim Lovell, who'd dreamed since boyhood of riding a rocket to the moon; and Bill Anders, a young nuclear engineer and hotshot fighter pilot making his first space flight. 

Drawn from hundreds of hours of one-on-one interviews with the astronauts, their loved ones, NASA personnel, and myriad experts, and filled with vivid and unforgettable detail, Rocket Men is the definitive account of one of America's finest hours. In this real-life thriller, Kurson reveals the epic dangers involved and the singular bravery it took for mankind to leave Earth for the first time - and arrive at a new world.

"In 1968 we sent men to the Moon. They didn't leave boot prints, but it was the first time humans ever left Earth for another destination. That mission was Apollo 8. And Rocket Men, under Robert Kurson's compelling narrative, is that under-told story." (Neil deGrasse Tyson)

"Rocket Men is a riveting introduction to the [Apollo 8] flight.... Kurson details the mission in crisp, suspenseful scenes.... [A] gripping book." (The New York Times Book Review)    

©2018 Robert Kurson (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Spectacular... [Rocket Men] carries on in great style through 350-some pages of 'daring, adventure, risk-taking' and so much more.... Kurson's portraits of the men, as well as their wives, their families and space-program colleagues, are intimate and artfully drawn." (Chicago Tribune)

"Immersive...absolutely riveting... A gripping tale, well told." (Booklist)

"Kurson effectively recreates the era, recalling the tumult of a changing nation, as well as the tension felt by those involved both on Earth and in space, of a mission with little margin for error.... Fans of explorers and adventurers will enjoy Kurson's vibrant, accessible history." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Gillian
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • 04-04-18

The Men Who Saved 1968

Okay, so Rocket Men isn't actually a full 5-stars--after all, to me it wasn't a cover-to-cover listen... at first. Once it hit its stride, however, I couldn't stop listening. I was but a toddler in '68, was just a little kid snuggled with my brothers and sister, all of us clad in pajamas, as we watched later space launches, never knowing the complete and utter hell that went on behind the scenes. If I had known how much could go wrong, I think I would've had nightmares rather than daydreams.
Enter Rocket Men--where almost anything can go wrong... and it usually does. I had no idea. And I was thrilled with that.
Juxtaposed against Vietnam, riots at home, women threatening to burn their bras, the revelation that 10 million Americans suffer hunger, the assassinations of MLK and RFK, simply one person mistrusting or outright hating another, the three astronauts and the crews at mission control brought absolute peace, absolute sunshine (or maybe moonshine would be a better word?) to a world, a country, dark with despair and anger. They brought a sense of patriotism to young v. old, to left v. right (where, oh where, is OUR Apollo 8? We could very much use something).
Here is a book of the men who carried it all out, of the wives and children who stood beside them the whole way. It is heavy on humanity with an in-depth look at the social and political environment it took place in. While it is chock full of heroes, there are no villains here (no, not even the Soviets)--individuals, groups, were just caught up in huge sweeping tides, and it's tough to swim against the current.
Mostly, you'll find yourself cheering, even if you're of an age that actually remembers the actual orbiting of the moon. There's so much here, you'd never guess.
So here, where our country feels so terribly fractured, so red v. blue, it's such a nice thing, such a blessed relief, to look back and remember such cooperation, such courage.
Such hope.

23 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • JG
  • Vernon Hills, IL USA
  • 04-06-18

Incredible story about real American heroes

If you could sum up Rocket Men in three words, what would they be?

They saved 1968. This story about the Apollo 8 mission - the first to go to the moon - is about so much more too. The country was in turmoil, we were losing an existential battle to our biggest adversary, great leaders were being assasinated, we were in the midst of an unpopular war... it seemed like the country would never be the same. Enter “Rocket Men”. I don’t want to give away too much, but you will be amazed by this story, and so drawn to these heroes (and all the others surrounding them)

Who was your favorite character and why?

Completely impossible to choose a favorite character.

What about Ray Porter and Robert Kurson ’s performance did you like?

The reading was top (top) notch! I felt like Porter was enjoying the story along with me. His pace was fantastic. I’m not certain, but it felt like he slowed down a teeny bit for the somewhat technical details to help absorb the concepts which was great (I must note however that Kurson did a phenomenal job in explaining the technical stuff at exactly the right level - not too complicated, but with great detail)

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Yes - I laughed and cried at different times.

Any additional comments?

I listened to this book with my husband, and it was such a fun way to hear the story. We stopped the audio so many times just to look at each other and say “can you believe they did that?” I recommend this book as high as I possible can. You won’t be disappointed.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Robert Kurson Has Done it Again

Master researcher, storyteller and writer Robert Kurson vividly tells the amazing and surprisingly somewhat forgotten story of Apollo 8, man’s first trip to the moon. Apollo 8 came to be overshadowed by Apollo 11, the expedition that put men on the moon but was the most daring Apollo of them all and laid the groundwork for everything that came after. This is a story of audacity, heroics, science and how the mission brought together a country that in 1968 was tearing itself apart. The story of the men and women who made this happen will keep you reading well into the night. Kurson’s third book, like the first two, is a winner.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • Vail, AZ, USA
  • 04-15-18

A rousing tale--even if you know how it ends

Would you consider the audio edition of Rocket Men to be better than the print version?

This is a terrific tale, whether you read it or listen to it. History has already told us how Apollo 8 fared, nevertheless the story has an edge-of-your-seat quality to the writing and the performance that makes this a terrific read. Even though you know how the mission ended, there were moments where you almost want to double-check the record just to be sure.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The crew of Apollo 8, of course. Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders had their own motivations for becoming astronauts, and they meshed well together as a crew, and in the midst of the Space Race. All of the figures in the book were compelling for their own reasons, but the trio going where no human had ever been were great to be with, if only for a short time.

What does Ray Porter and Robert Kurson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Ray Porter does an excellent job teasing out the characters in the story, changing his voice to render Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, for example, satisfyingly close to their actual voices. Also, his rendering of Robert Kurson's written word made for a nice performance all around.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Of course it was! But, I parceled it out over a few days, as long as I could...

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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I thought it was going to be boring..I was wrong!

No detail was spared in this exciting account of Apollo 8. Robert Kurson did an outstanding job of telling this story from every angle, and from the viewpoint of everyone involved. Everyone remembers Apollo 11 (first lunar landing) and Apollo 13 (near disaster), but few know much about Apollo 8, the mission that won the space race. I was 14 in 1968, so I don't remember much about it. I mostly remember the assassinations, the politics and the music of the day. It was a great history lesson for me! And, much more thrilling than I thought it would be when I started listening. And, of course, you cant' go wrong with Ray Porter!!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Outstanding !

Would you listen to Rocket Men again? Why?

YES! This story of the Apollo 8 is one I could listen to several time.

Who was your favorite character and why?

All characters were a major part of this story.

Which scene was your favorite?

So many good ones, but the re-entry was the best.

Any additional comments?

Robert Kurson did an outstanding job gathering all the information and interviewing the astronauts and NASA staff along with going through all the info he could find on this mission. I felt like I was right there on that flight with them. Robert Kurson has done a great job on all of his books as he does one thing so well...research!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Unexpected Delight

I have no idea why I chose a book about Apollo 8 or space exploration,it is not a topic I normally an interested in (until now). Thanks to audible for curating this book into my recommended queue. Of all the historical books I have listened to, this was by far my favorite not only because of the story telling but the amount of detail and attention to accuracy. The timing of this story could not be more perfect, wonderful book and am looking to listen to more from this author. I’ve spent days retelling what I’ve heard to anyone willing to listen and would recommend this book to anyone interested in American or any history.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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The best book I’ve read in a long time!

I loved this book. At times I wept from the horrific chaos that was 1968, and which threatens again in 2018. I used to have a poster of Earthrise on my wall, and revisiting its history gives me hope. I dreaded finishing the book, because it was so compelling, but it turned out to have a lovely, soft landing. I recommend it to all!

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Amazing Journey

Easily one of the best books I’ve ever read. If you were alive in 1968, just be prepared I will ask you if remember where you were Christmas Day. And then I will recommend that you must read this book. Brilliant in so many ways. Chills, tears, smiles, and pride to be felt throughout.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Garret
  • Temecula Ca.
  • 09-07-18

An excellent endeavor

A very good book. Worth your listen, great extensive research as well. Highly recommend. Valuable

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Angus Fitton
  • 08-09-18

Best Apollo book I've listened to

You know those audiobooks that, within a few minutes, you just know you'll listen to it more than once? This is one of those. Packed with information, really well researched - it doesn't forget the human side and is accessible.

The tension, the context, the characters - all superbly written and treated with great care. Recommended.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • I M.
  • 04-29-18

the greatest moon shot

a remarkable telling of an overlooked mission, comprehensively researched, totally engaging and superbly told, this book should serve as testiment to the bravery and commitment to the people involved in this incredibly dangerous objective. This is the standout reference work to any Apollo mission, take a bow
Robert Kurson

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-20-18

Out of this world

That was a great read/listen even though I haven’t read any space books and am not familiar with NASA history. What struck me was the character of the astronauts and the challenging circumstances that made them who they are. I was also impacted by the astronauts decision to read from Genesis 1 when filming the ‘earth rise’ - it speaks volumes that 250,000 miles from earth, the reality of God and his creation was impressed upon those three men. I’m sure I’ll come back to this book again.

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  • M. K. Slaughter
  • 05-16-18

a fascinating insight into the Apollo program

having been a young boy in the 1960s, I can recall watching the Apollo 11 moon landings on the TV at strange hours of the day, and I'm aware of the story of Apollo 8, but this book is a fascinating insight into the build up to the moon landings and the preparation and the whole Apollo program. Both well written and told, this book gives a good insight into not only the technological facts that will behind the Apollo program but also the personal stories of the three astronauts on Apollo 8. I recommend it it's a fantastic book.

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  • Beau
  • 07-30-18

Mindblowing!!!

Never has my stomach been twisted in anxiety as much as listening to the brave souls out there pushing our species to the stars! Epic book and makes you proud to be human!!!

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  • Peter
  • 05-13-18

A familiar story, well told

The insignia for Apollo 8 was the infinity symbol: the Saturn 5 took the three astronauts into earth orbit then took them on a trajectory looping round the moon and back to earth. Issues during the flight were minor and cleared the way for the lunar landing flights the next year, in 1969. The Apollo 8 flight program was cobbled together at very short notice, for fear the Soviets would beat the US to a round the moon trip. The Saturn rocket had never flown with men aboard before, and the flight broke numerous records including the first lunar orbit injection and the first human transit of the far side of the moon. The risks of curtailing the Apollo program in this way were huge: NASA itself put the odds of a complete mission and safe return at no better than 50%. Kurson tells this story with extreme clarity and vigour, though it appears to be based entirely on popular, published sources. He is good on setting the voyage into the context of US and world events in the key year of 1968, and there is plenty of human detail about the astronauts and their families: too much for me, as in truth apart from their incredible bravery the men were not in truth very interesting people. The account is very thin, even for the layman, on the technical and engineering side of the mission.