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Voices from the Moon

What it was like, in the astronauts’ own words.

gene cernan apollo 17
(NASA)

Published four decades after the first lunar landing, Voices from the Moon, by Andrew Chaikin with Victoria Kohl, opens with a quote by 76-year-old Dave Scott, commander on Apollo 15: "I cannot count the number of times somebody has said to me, 'What does it feel like to be on the moon?' I'm tired of that, Andy. I don't want to try and figure that out anymore. I've done my best."

Fortunately, Chaikin has spared him the trouble. This volume, composed entirely of quotes from the Apollo astronauts alongside artful arrangements of their photographs, may be the best single source for getting a vivid sense of the lunar landings as experienced by the astronauts.

Chaikin, author of the landmark 1994 history A Man on the Moon, went back to the interviews he conducted for that book nearly 20 years ago to bring out these gems, and the wait was worth it. See the gallery below for photos and excerpts from the book.

Reprinted by permission from Voices from the Moon, published by Viking Studio, 2009.

Pictured above: Gene Cernan, the last man on the moon, Apollo 17.

Ken Mattingly, Apollo 16 Command Module Pilot

None
(NASA)

I hadn’t been in the air an hour, and I knew I was in deep trouble. Because my mind was being overwhelmed with one extraordinarily impressive view, image, picture—and as soon as you got that and you said, “Look at that!” And then, shit, here came another one that was even more impressive! And I remember we were hardly out of Earth orbit when I said, you know, I’m in trouble. I can’t—I’m gonna—I’ve got days of this ahead of me, I’m gonna forget all this stuff. There’s only so much memory. And if they keep stuffing this memory into my brain, shit, stuff’s going to run out the bottom, and I will miss it! And I’ll never get it back. I remember that vividly, because it was this feeling of despair that, I can’t write fast enough, I can’t talk fast enough. I can’t take pictures that are going to capture this. But, shit, somebody ought to tell the world how absolutely spectacular this stuff is!

(Photo: Mattingly snapped this picture of Earth shortly after Apollo 16 headed for the moon.)

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