The Far Side of the Moon: The Story of Apollo 11’s Third Man by Alex Irvine

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We’ve all heard of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first people to walk on the moon.  But what about Michael Collins? The famed Apollo 11 mission was made up of three men, two who would land the “Eagle” lunar module on the surface of the Earth’s moon, and one, Michael Collins, who would man the capsule that would bring Armstrong and Aldrin back to earth after their walk.

The Far Side of the Moon: The Story of Apollo 11’s Third Man, written by Alex Irvine and illustrated by Ben Bishop, is a graphic novel history of Michael Collins and the United States space program.  I love historical fiction or nonfiction about parts of history that are not-so-well known.  The details of Collins’s life, the race to the moon, and the Apollo 11 mission are fascinating, especially packaged in the graphic format so popular with middle grade readers.

Michael’s Collins resume is impressive. He attended West Point, flew planes in the Air Force, and joined NASA’s astronaut training program. He specialized in spacesuit design and spacewalking, and he was the first astronaut to spacewalk to another orbiting vehicle as part of the Gemini 10 mission.  Due to surgery for a neck problem, he was reassigned from his original mission to the Apollo 11 team, this time as the command module pilot. The CM pilot stays in the command module and orbits the moon while the lunar module lands, and is in charge of the re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

While astronaut teams had orbited the moon on earlier missions, Collins was the first to do it alone, and he did it fourteen times. He would lose radio contact with Earth for forty-five minutes while on the far side of the moon. As he is quoted in the book, “I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life.”

The book also presents a history of the flights and steps that allowed engineers and scientists to figure out how an astronaut could land and walk on the moon. Mentions of the first American in space, the first orbit of earth, even the tragic Apollo test launch that killed three astronauts just a few years before Apollo 11, show the time and hard work given to accomplish the moon landing. A detailed timeline that includes more current events is also included at the end of the book.

I struggled with the small, all-capital font used in this book, but, once I got past that, I found this book to be informative and entertaining. The purple, white, and black illustrations were well-suited to the text and the graphic format will draw in even more readers. Even kids who wouldn’t normally choose a book about the space program will be captivated by the story of Michael Collins and the Apollo 11 mission!

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