Countdown : 2979 Days to the Moon
By Suzanne Slade
Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
2,979 days after President Kennedy announced,
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth,”
this nation did just that. Not only did we achieve the goal, we did it all in the days before personal computers, cell phones, ATMs, and video games were invented. If you visit the historic Mission Control room in Johnson Space Center, you will be amazed at what was accomplished with the technology of the time.
In free verse poetry, Suzanne Slade recounts the extraordinary journey, both daring and dangerous, that culminated in the first humans to walk on the lunar surface.
“The men steal a last glance at their beautiful home,
then Borman begins the TLI countdown: “9,8,7,…”
With each passing second,
excitement builds at Mission Control.
No astronaut—American or Soviet—
has ridden a rocket beyond Earth orbit.
“3,2, light On. Ignition,” Borman announces.
“Ignition,” Lovell confirms.
The third-stage engine reignites,
sending the craft on its long trek to the Moon.
As Apollo 8 screams into space,
Borman, Lovell, and Anders
become the first humans
to fly above Earth orbit.”
The text is presented against a backdrop of illustrations in pastel, colored pencil, and airbrush. Gonzalez has created a delicate balance of realism and magic. The artwork is recognizable as images seen in news media of the era, and yet, it is elevated with a patina of enchantment. The resulting combination is stunning.
Between chapters, there are two pages detailing each Apollo mission, which include photos, astronaut bios, and mission statistics, e.g., dates, duration.
Extensive back matter includes more information on Apollo 11, and Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note, Selected Bibliography, Sources for Quotations, and Photo Credits.
As the nation contemplates manned missions to Mars, it is fitting to look back on the sacrifices and triumphs of an earlier space-traveling generation.
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