I had the pleasure of reading this book recently. Here is the review I wrote.
Behind Every Event in History are Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things – A Review of Sara Howard’s “Something Funny Happened On The Way To The Moon” By William Speir, Author of “Knights of the Saltier – Book 1 of the Order of the Saltier Trilogy”
Coming from a family of strong and successful women, I am always pleased to read about women doing extraordinary and groundbreaking things. Combine that with a book about the United States Space Program and the Apollo Missions, and you have a book that I couldn’t wait to read.
I was born during the time that the space race began, and the Apollo program inspired me to study engineering in college. I have had the pleasure of meeting Dr. von Braun and several Apollo, Skylab, and Shuttle astronauts and mission controllers, but I never had a chance to meet or know anything about the thousands of technicians, engineers, and assembly workers who built the flying machines that took our astronauts into space.
Sara Howard’s book, “Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Moon” is the first time I’ve been able to learn about those nameless, faceless, and unsung heroes who worked in Top Secret installations around the country to build the greatest machine ever conceived by humans: the Saturn V rocket. For years, I have had a 1/200 scale model of the Saturn V on my desk. Now, I also have the book written by one of the engineers who actually helped build this amazing piece of history.
Sara Howard’s book, which is written conversationally, chronicles her involvement at the Louisiana facility where the first and second stages of the Saturn V were assembled. Sara Howard was part of the team responsible for the first stage, the largest and most powerful rocket system ever built. But rather than a technical dissertation of the mechanics and physics involved in lifting a 7 million pound rocket into space, Sara Howard lets us in on the very human aspect of what it took to take von Braun’s vision for a launch vehicle and translate that into something that would fulfil his vision.
Sara Howard chronicles the events in her life that led her to eventually be one of the first rocket-women in the world, and what happened after the Apollo missions were over. But most of the book is focused on what it was like working on the greatest endeavour mankind has ever undertaken – sending humans to another celestial body and returning them safely home. Reading this book provides unparalleled insight into those amazing days in the mid-1960’s when we proved that “impossible” is simply a state of mind. Using technology that seems primitive by today’s standards, these engineers, assemblers, testers, supervisors, managers, administrative staff, and transportation specialists built fourteen rockets that did what no machine has done since. They did the impossible because they believed it was possible, and history has proven that they were right.
Sara Howard’s book pays tribute to those true heroes who were never thanked, never acknowledged, never even remembered for their efforts, but who are the reason we went to the moon and returned safely home. Without rockets, there are no astronauts, and while we remember the astronauts because they were the most visible members of the team, Sara Howard reminds us of the invisible members of the team who made the Apollo missions possible and paved the way for the future of the United States space program.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about the people who changed history and built the most beautiful rocket and the greatest machine ever conceived by human beings.