by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian
On July 20th, 1969, humans first set foot on the moon. On this 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, we celebrate the giant leap that Neil Armstrong helped to make with his one small step.
Do you remember watching the moon landing on television? I wasn’t born yet, so I should watch the library’s new DVD, Apollo 11. It’s a documentary put together from a newly-discovered batch of 65mm raw footage and 11,000 hours of previously uncataloged audio recordings. Whether you were glued to the live event back in 1969 or you want to see how amazing that occasion really was, this movie can help you find new wonder in this pivotal moment in history.
For a dramatized version of those events, pick up First Man, an award-winning biopic of Neil Armstrong. Ryan Gosling plays the legendary astronaut in this movie based on the book of the same name by James R. Hansen, which the Litchfield library also has. The movie and book show the victories and the tragedies of Armstrong’s life.
Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon is a recent book about one step in the Apollo program. Author Robert Kurson shares the stories of astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders and their families as NASA raced to beat the Soviets to the moon without taking the time to be careful and methodical. Litchfield Library has this book on audio, but it’s available to order in print from other libraries.
Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon is another take on that step of the space race. Author Jeffrey Kluger co-wrote the book that the movie Apollo 13 was based on. In Apollo 8, readers learn about the context of this risky but ultimately inspiring launch: three American astronauts burned to death in a spacecraft the year before, the Cold War intensifying, and a year filled with assassinations and war.
Hidden Figures is both an award-winning movie and a popular nonfiction book about a group of gifted black female mathematicians who calculated trajectories and other essential numbers for planning space flight. The book by Margot Lee Shetterly tells the story of four women in the West Computing group at Langley, who helped America get to space over the course of three decades of their careers; naturally it goes into more detail than the movie can.
If you’re looking to share information about the moon landing with your children, pick up Moon Landings by Shoshana A. Weider or Apollo 11 Launches a New Era by Thomas K. Adamson, two recent nonfiction books in the Litchfield library collection. The first is an easy reader about the Apollo missions to the moon. The second is a part of the “Events That Changed America” series; it focuses on the Apollo 11 mission with a timeline and reflection on the significance of the moon landing.
If thinking about the moon landing has got you thinking about the night sky, check out the National Geographic Pocket Guide to the Night Sky of North America by Catherine Herbert Howell. This manual is a short handbook on viewing the stars, the moon, the planets, comets, meteors, and asteroids, complete with charts.
There’s a plaque on the moon to commemorate that landing 50 years ago. It says, among other things, “We came in peace for all mankind.” May that landing inspire us still today.