Apollo 13 Owner’s Workshop Manual: An Engineering Insight Into How NASA Saved the Crew of the Failed Moon Mission, by Dr. David Baker

My Copy: 9780760346198 (image from Goodreads.com)

I thought it was a joke at first, with the Haynes cover and all. I thought of Haynes as the fix-your-own-car guide, the source of all wisdom for all wannabe do-it-yourselfers (Boy, I miss those days).

I thought it was a funny idea, silly to have a book like this. That it had to be some silly thing for kids and not a serious work.

And of course, being a space nerd, I snatched it right up.

And the detail inside surprised the hell out of me.

The Apollo 13 Owners’ Workshop Manual is an engineering history of the Apollo 13 disaster (or rather, “the successful failure”). The book is chock-full of interesting diagrams (some of which you’ve probably seen before) and others that are very, very detailed about different panels and sections of the ship.

I’m a native Houstonian and a science nut since birth. One of my favorite things in Houston to see is the Rocket Park at the Johnson Space Center–heck, I’d give small tours there when I was asked in my substitute teaching days (boy I miss those days now). The Apollo Rocket is fantastic to see up close. But this book lets you go inside, deep inside.

The Apollo 13 Owners’ Workshop Manual is probably 50% text, 50% diagrams and images. Now, this book isn’t for the easily distracted, if you’re not up on your NASA or engineering/mathematical lingo. I had to step back occasionally to get my bearings about what exactly Dr. Brown referred to and what time this event took place. There is some explanation of the jargon and how to tell time through NASA means in the beginning, but be prepared for a slow read.

You should take your time with this one to really get it right and make sure you understand what it’s talking about. It’s really technical.

I recommend this book to anybody who wants to get a good engineering history, or any space nerds or wannabe engineers out there (or heck, actual engineers could enjoy the hell out of this book). It’s a great read if you really wanna understand what the crew had to work with, the tasks and difficulties of the contractors and mission control.

Also, if you’re a fan of the incredibly accurate Academy Award-winning film from the 1990s (like me), be aware that even that film could only show a small part of the engineering problems experienced by the crew. No one book–of film–will have the full story, but from an engineering standpoint, unless you’re reading the final report and all the transcripts straight from NASA, you’re not going to get much better than this.

Worth a shot.

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