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Rocket Men book launch with crew of Apollo 8 - Chicago, April 2018


“Riveting…Kurson details the mission in crisp, suspenseful scenes. A gripping book.”

— New York Times


By August 1968, the American space program was in danger of failing in its two most important objectives: to land a man on the Moon by President Kennedy’s end-of-decade deadline, and to triumph over the Soviets in space. With its back against the wall, NASA made an almost unimaginable leap: It would scrap its usual methodical approach and risk everything on a sudden launch, sending the first men in history to the Moon—in just four months. And it would all happen at Christmas.
In a year of historic violence and discord—the Tet Offensive, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago—the Apollo 8 mission would be the boldest, riskiest test of America’s greatness under pressure. In this gripping insider account, Robert Kurson puts the focus on the three astronauts and their families: the commander, Frank Borman, a conflicted man on his final mission; idealistic Jim Lovell, who’d dreamed since boyhood of riding a rocket to the Moon; and Bill Anders, a young nuclear engineer and hotshot fighter pilot making his first space flight.
Drawn from hundreds of hours of one-on-one interviews with the astronauts, their loved ones, NASA personnel, and myriad experts, and filled with vivid and unforgettable detail, Rocket Men is the definitive account of one of America’s finest hours. In this real-life thriller, Kurson reveals the epic dangers involved, and the singular bravery it took, for mankind to leave Earth for the first time—and to arrive at a new world.


Praise for Rocket Men

“Kurson’s instinct for what needs explaining and in how much detail is unerring… Rocket Men is close-to-the-bone adventure-telling on a par with Alfred Lansing’s “Endurance” and Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air.” It’s as close to a movie as writing gets.”

Washington Post

“Riveting … Kurson details the mission in crisp, suspenseful scenes. A gripping book.”

New York Times

“Kurson's first-rate account of this remarkable spaceflight starts by reminding us what a gamble it was, a revelatory wake-up nudge for anyone who thinks moon flights were routine…There are many pieces to the Apollo 8 story, but Kurson brings them together effortlessly.”

USA Today


“Spectacular…[Rocket Men] carries on in great style through 350-some pages of daring, adventure, risk-taking, and so much more…Kurson’s portraits of the men, as well as their wives, their families and space-program colleagues, are intimate and artfully drawn.”

Chicago Tribune

“Kurson tells the behind-the-scenes story of Rocket Men with the pace of a thriller and the sensibility of a screenwriter  … With his focus on the astronauts’ young families, Kurson holds readers rapt to the heartwarming finale.”

Vanity Fair

“Engrossing…Kurson's conception-to-splashdown reporting had the cooperation from the astronauts and their wives, giving him invaluable details of what happened inside the astronaut's capsule and in their homes below…Kurson builds suspense around a mind-bendingly complex and dangerous journey.”

Associated Press


Kurson reminds readers of the days when America’s dreams and goals lay far beyond Earth’s surface [and] effectively recreates the era, recalling the tumult of a changing nation, as well as the tension felt by those involved both on Earth and in space, of a mission with little margin for error. Fans of explorers and adventurers will enjoy this vibrant, accessible history.

Publisher's Weekly


“Apollo 11 grabbed the glory, but Apollo 8 was the mission that proved humans could travel to the Moon, and its crew (Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and William Anders) captured the landmark photo of Earthrise over the lunar horizon. This is the story of their mission, told in cinematic detail.”

NBC News

“Immersive … Absolutely riveting… A gripping tale well told.”


“A gripping account of Apollo 8, the first manned spaceflight around the Moon. The story of the dangerous mission that laid the ground for the Moon landing has not been told in such detail until now.”

The Economist

“Spellbinding…An inspiring reminder of Apollo 8’s achievement, as well as a story richer than mere Cold War competition. [Rocket Men tells] how, with ingenuity, three admirable individuals achieved an unequaled triumph.”

American History Magazine

Rocket Men is one of the best descriptions of an Apollo flight I’ve ever read. Kurson’s account let me relive all the thrilling moments from this historic mission, which proved to be a major turning point in the Space Race and in President Kennedy’s commitment to land men on the Moon and return them safely to Earth. I highly recommend this book to the “space cadet” – which I consider myself to be. Rocket Men is as good as it gets.”

— Chris Kraft, Director of Apollo Flight Operations, NASA

“An account of what could be America’s most stunning achievement: Apollo 8 and the world’s first journey to the Moon. This is a great story ... The best book I’ve read this year.”

— Jim Bridenstine, Head of NASA

“Robert Kurson tells the tale of Apollo 8 with novelistic detail and immediacy, expertly capturing the urgency and suspense behind the mission that gave America the lead in the Space Race.”

Andy Weir, author of The Martian

“In 1968 we sent men to the Moon. They didn’t leave boot prints, but it was the first time humans ever left Earth for another destination. That mission was Apollo 8. And Rocket Men, under Robert Kurson’s compelling narrative, is that under-told story.”

— Neil deGrasse Tyson


“Kurson takes us on mankind’s first trip to the Moon, in 1968, another time when it seemed America was tearing itself apart. But on Christmas Eve, we raised our eyes skyward and were inspired by the bravery and eloquence of the three Apollo 8 astronauts as they orbited the Moon and reminded us of our common humanity.”

— Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger


Rocket Men is a timely and thrilling reminder of a heroic American achievement—three dashing astronauts and the first rendezvous with the moon. It has it all—suspense, drama, risk, and loving families. We could use those days again.”

— Tom Brokaw


“This is the story of the most consequential and daring voyage since those in the era of Columbus, the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon. The tale is told with the care and clarity, and the heart-banging drama, that Robert Kurson’s legion of readers have come to expect from him.”

— Scott Turow


“As a Rocket Woman myself, I know very well the story of Apollo 8, and yet I couldn’t put this book down. I was transported—along with NASA, the public, and the crew and their families—on this first-of-its-kind journey. Kurson presents not only the challenges, risks, ambition, and success of Apollo 8, but a story of human spirit. As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 8, this incredible journey and the stunning memory of Earthrise can set us on the trajectory for an awe-inspired future.”

— Nicole Stott, NASA ISS Space Shuttle Astronaut

“Apollo 8 was perhaps the most aggressive, audacious, and dangerous mission devised by NASA in its race with the Soviet Union to land humans on the Moon. It demanded courage and a crew that had to stay focused on the mission, yet flexible enough to adjust to real-time changes. Rocket Men tells the thrilling story of this historic mission through the eyes of its remarkable crew, three men who had the admiration and support of the entire astronaut corps.”

— Joe Engle, X-15 Test Pilot, NASA Astronaut, and Space Shuttle Commander