2019 year Reviews

Where Once We Stood - Stories of the Apollo astronauts who walked on the Moon

Christopher Riley & Martin Impey,

Harbour Moon Publishing, 128pp, softback

£19.99

ISBN 9781916062504

The philosophically-titled ‘Where Once We Stood’ is an astronaut history with a difference. It is written from actual mission transcripts, but embellished in the style of a novel and, instead of colour photographs, illustrated with drawings and paintings printed predominantly in blue. This makes for an unusual, possibly unique, experience in the world of space literature.

The author uses his storytelling experience as a filmmaker to bring the somewhat prosaic transcripts to life, while maintaining technical accuracy and adding his own thoughtful commentary to well-known quotes. A case in point is Aldrin’s famous description of the Moon, which was, in fact, a development of Armstrong’s thoughts:“ ‘…Isn’t that something!...Magnificent sight out here’. ‘Magnificent desolation’, replies Buzz, playing off Neil’s word. ‘Magnificent desolation’, he repeats to himself. It kind of sums it up nicely”.

The book itself is divided into six chapters (on Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17). The Apollo 11 chapter begins with a brief exchange between Armstrong and Aldrin as the former, on hands and knees, orients himself to exit onto the tiny platform at the top of that famous ladder to the Moon. “Blindly backing out of a narrow doorway, bum first, with his life support systems strapped to his back, is an undignified way to make his entrance onto the world stage”, suggests the author.

The style of the text provides a human perspective to a well-known story and, although the style of the illustrative artwork may not appeal to all, it complements the text perfectly.

Mark Williamson, Space Technology Consultant, Cumbria, UK

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