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The Man Who Knew the Way to the Moon

Length: 3 hrs and 32 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (2,766 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The story of John C. Houbolt, an unsung hero of Apollo 11 and the man who showed NASA how to put America on the moon.

Without John C. Houbolt, a mid-level engineer at NASA, Apollo 11 would never have made it to the moon.  

Top NASA engineers on the project, including Werner Von Braun, strongly advocated for a single, huge spacecraft to travel to the moon, land, and return to Earth. It's the scenario used in 1950s cartoons and horror movies about traveling to outer space. 

Houbolt had another idea: Lunar Orbit Rendezvous. LOR would link two spacecraft in orbit while the crafts were travelling at 3,600 miles an hour around the moon. His plan was ridiculed and considered unthinkable. But this junior engineer was irrepressible. He stood by his concept, fired off memos to executives, and argued that LOR was the only way to success. 

For the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11, hear the untold story of the man who helped fulfill Kennedy’s challenge to reach the moon and begin exploring the final frontier.

©2019 Audible Originals, LLC (P)2019 Audible Originals, LLC.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Caveat Emptor: Bone to Pick

Overall, this book was an interesting catalogue of an often overlooked event. However, as the book wore on it increasingly became about pointing fingers and making sure justice was served. It was just a bit too much on the nose for me with how aggressively it wanted to defend the subject of interest. It felt like a married couple bursting into an argument in the middle of a dinner party they're hosting.

I'm a big NASA fan and studied aerospace engineering, but even I found it uncomfortable working my way through this production.

137 of 149 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Call me a nerd... But darn-it, I still love learning about the history of NASA 🚀

To be truthful... We've heard this story before (albeit not specifically Mr Houbolt's story). It took thousands of engineers and scientists to put just two men on the moon, but the stories of those unsung minds are just as amazing as those who walked on the moon. In recent years we've finally leaned many of those stories. This entry into that history of NASA is a worthy addition into that amazing mass of stories that culminated in the moon landing. The telling of Mr Houbolt's story is top notch, both from a written point of view, and an audiobook production. Sprinkled through the story are actual clips of speeches and interview. In many ways it plays out like a classic Ken Berns PBS documentary (at least an audio only version). But what is very interesting in the approach that Todd Zwillich takes to construct this story, is actually more of a profile of TWO individuals. It becomes a human drama between two visionary men: JFK and Mr Houbolt. One who had the vision and one (of many) who helped to make it happen. As a listener you find yourself immersed in the state of world surrounding these two individuals,as much as leaning the events themselves. Although a bit needlessly long, and sometimes a little sanctimonious, this fascinating untold story held my attention with little distraction.

91 of 99 people found this review helpful

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Way too long for what it is

The story in itself is interesting, but is quite obvious after 30 mins. After that, it becomes repetitive and pointless.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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A lot of bemoaning from Haubolt

This book felt mostly like an attempt for a bitter man to get recognition from NASA and the world at large. I applaud John Haubolt's efforts in making his superiors at NASA see the logic behind his work, but he spent a lot of time in his life being bitter that he wasn't put on a pedestal like a god, so I struggled to get through the book. The technical information about the Apollo 11 mission was excellent (and I'm far from an engineer), and I thought the author did a good job putting that into layman's terms.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Who is this supposed to be about again?...

Interesting but there is not enough character development on the main character, especially because he is a real guy. I want to care about him but he is just presented as a pushy guy that wasn't well liked and wouldn't take no for an answer, I feel like I learned more abought Von Braun as a person than about John Hobart as a person and this isn't about him. Hobart's story is interesting but I don't think this piece does him justice, it comes off whiney and scattered. It's all over and around Hobart without making him a person you root for in any way... It says his name a million times so you will never forget it but you won't feel like you "know him" at all. I wish I liked this more, sorry.

30 of 36 people found this review helpful

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  • Teresa
  • NAMPA, ID, United States
  • 07-09-19

Wasn’t the end result not good enough?

This story was very informative, on how much a John Holbert was unliked, that nobody wanted to listen to him. Sure, he was persistent and sometimes a hammer can get the job done, but what was broken in the process. I feel this story was only one sided and that John Holbert came off whiney and felt he deserved things that maybe there was a reason he didn’t get it. And since the LOR was not his actual idea, how do we know that it wouldn’t have come to fruition without him. It is possible that the idea wasn’t looked at because he was such a turd about the presentation. I know people like this. I think the story was going for a favorable angle for John, but I felt like he was the type who would never be satisfied with the fact that we made it to the moon, only that he got recognition for it. Was he the only one involve? How many others were part of the team that didn’t get rewards and still wasn’t crying about it? The best part was the actual facts but the story had some incorrect facts that I could google to find real answers, how do I know what is factual and what is false, if the writer won’t do any fact check? I’m not sure the writer/ narrator intended this story to come off this way, probably the opposite and maybe it was the delivery that left a sour taste in my mouth. Not sure. Good thing it was free.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Great book

I loved this book! I had never heard this story before. I do disagree at the end where they discuss the merits of doing it the right way. We as individuals, companies. countries, etc have to look at the cost. We have to comprise. We are not going to spend trillions to get to Mars. The economy tanks and we comprise. Theory is nice but we live in reality. So much of our every day lives benefit from going to the moon. Just think of the cell phone I'm using to type this can be traced back to NASA needing to make chips smaller, last longer, use less power, have better batteries, etc. How long might have all this taken if we did not race to the moon.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Poor John....

Had to stop listening. Mostly just a sob story. Could have been a good 30 minute read but with all of the repeating of how bad they treated this man it is over 3 hours. smh. I'm glad I didn't pay for it.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Interesting background

This really puts the space race into perspective, as well as pointing out the lack of follow up exploring. many of the recordings are almost impossible to comprehend.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Heath
  • Cincinnati, OH
  • 07-06-19

Great story of many successes

Loved this audio short! will listen again. loved the history! loved the performance! loved the never-give-up effort that lead to success... loved the lessons that go along with the unrelenting effort, and how the political resistance, bias of others, and backlash of aggressive assertiveness can overshadow best intentions. The results were achieved... The credit though was maybe lost a bit in the mix of good reasons.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful