A few years back I got around to The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman. I liked it but I swear, all I can remember is something about the Schlieffen Plan, and then the description of the German officer who spent his nights drinking wine and eating sausages. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother reading books.
I just finished Reaching for the Moon: A Short History of the Space Race by Roger D. Launius. I’m pretty sure this is what I’ll remember:
[Pete] Conrad’s sense of humor became legendary at NASA… when a psychologist showed him a blank white card and asked him to describe what he saw, he replied that it was upside down.
The scientific community worked with the Apollo astronauts to prepare them for geological fieldwork… flight crews underwent formal education roughly equivalent to a master’s degree in geology.
In May 1974 the Kremlin shut the whole program down… government officials directed that the remaining hardware be destroyed to validate the Soviets’ continuing denial that the USSR had ever intended to engage in a race to the Moon.
Gagarin was surprisingly calm and confident. He relieved himself on the side of the carrier before entering the capsule at the top of the rocket; that became a ritual engaged in by all cosmonauts ever after.