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Unsung Heroes of the Space Race


On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did the impossible. They landed a spacecraft on the Moon and took a step that will be forever remembered. However, their monumental accomplishment would not have been possible without the collective efforts of many thousands of people.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, we have assembled a list of books about the lesser known heroes of the space race. They might not have taken the historic small step, but they made giant leaps possible.

Margaret and the Moon by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Lucy Knisley – The story of Margaret Hamilton, a mathematician who worked for NASA and wrote the code used by the computers on the Apollo program. Preschool-Grade 3

Hidden Figures: the True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman – It takes lots of math to launch astronauts into outer space. This is the story of four black women mathematicians who were responsible for NASA success. Preschool-Grade 3

The Man Who Went to the Far Side of the Moon: the Story of Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins by Bea Uusma Schyffert – Michael Collins is the Apollo 11 member you don’t hear much about. But without him, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin wouldn’t have been able to come back home after landing on the Moon. Grade 3-7

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone – This is the story of 13 women who trained to be astronauts during the early days of NASA. In many respects, they were even tougher than the men who would eventually launch into space while they were forced to stay grounded. Grade 5-8

Reaching for the Moon: the Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson by Katherine G. Johnson – A Hidden Figures mathematician tells her story in her own words. Grade 5-8

Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh – 400,000 people! This is an epic account of one of the most collaborative endeavors in the history of humankind. Grade 5-8

Rise of the Rocket Girls: the Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt – From the very beginning, women have been the spark that has propelled the US space race. This is their story.

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