Across the Airless Wilds: The Lunar Rover and the Triumph of the Final Moon Landings


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$28.99  $26.96
Custom House
Publish Date
6.2 X 9.3 X 1.2 inches | 1.46 pounds

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About the Author

Journalist Earl Swift has written seven books and hundreds of major features for newspapers and magazines, all distinguished by evocative language and deeply immersive reporting. Since 2012, he has been a fellow of Virginia Humanities at the University of Virginia. Swift has a 26-year-old daughter, Saylor, who is his neighbor in the Blue Ridge mountains west of Charlottesville.


For the origins and history of the Apollo lunar rover, there is no better guide than Earl Swift's beautifully written book. It details two decades of rover concepts, followed by two frantic years of building one for Apollo on a ridiculous schedule and an inadequate budget. But it paid off in three spectacular landings that used the rover for science--Apollos 15, 16, and 17. Swift also profiles the people who accomplished this feat; they are as fascinating as the machine itself."--Michael J. Neufeld, Senior Curator, Space History Department, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and author of Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War
"The literature of lunar exploration has tended to focus on the earlier Apollo missions, with scant attention paid to the extraordinary achievements of the later rover expeditions--which were, in many respects, scientifically bolder and taught us a great deal more about our moon. Earl Swift lays out this great unsung saga with verve and magisterial sweep. After reading Across the Airless Wilds, you'll begin to think of NASA's true golden age not in terms of 'one small step, ' but as a series of cosmic car rides.--Hampton Sides, author of In the Kingdom of Ice
"An expert account... An overlooked achievement in the initial series of moon landings gets a well-deserved spotlight."--Kirkus Reviews
"In Across the Airless Wilds, Earl Swift skillfully tells the remarkable story of how vision, ingenuity, and some pretty fine engineering transformed lunar and planetary exploration. A rare and compelling celebration of the human spirit." --Andrew H. Knoll, professor of Earth and Planetary Science at Harvard University; member of the science team of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover mission; and author of A Brief History of Earth
"This is not just a book about the lunar rover--it's also a book about humans, and the great things they can do when inspired. There are people here who jump off the page--and sometimes, off the moon's surface. Vividly written, engaging, and fascinating. I started it one day and finished it the next, and I'm not a fast reader. I just didn't want to stop."--James Donovan, author of Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11
"Swift details the story of the development of the lunar rover, focusing in particular on three pioneering engineers who made the craft a reality. ... Swift ably outlines their achievements in technology and project management, clarifying complex issues in layperson's language. Even those who think they already know plenty about America's space program will find deeper insights here." --Booklist (starred review)
"Swift relays the awe-inspiring story of Apollo 17 and the lunar vehicle in a way that makes it all feel brand new. From the sheer human ingenuity of the moon missions to the deeply human figures inside the space suits, this book is a brilliantly observed homage to the human spirit."--Newsweek