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Unsung Champions of the Space Race

If we want kids to grow up to be engineers, shouldn't we tell them about the engineers who put a man on the moon?

1 min read

This is part of IEEE Spectrum's Special Report on IEEE SPECTRUM'S 2009 Holiday Gift Guide

T-Minus: The Race to the Moon

By Jim Ottaviani; illustrated by Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon;
Aladdin, 2009;
128 pp.; US $12.99;
ISBN: 978-1-4169-4960-2

T-Minus: The Race to the Moon takes a behind-the-scenes look at the engineers and scientists on both sides of the Iron Curtain who made the U.S./USSR space race happen. What’s more, it’s a graphic novel.

Written by Jim Ottaviani of G.T. Labs in Ann Arbor, Mich., and illustrated by Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon (unrelated) of Big Time Attic, a Minneapolis illustration studio, the book shows youngsters how to take part in space exploration without being an astronaut or cosmonaut.

“There are, oh, a million and three books on the astronauts and politicians involved and only a handful—if that—which focus on the engineering,” says Ottaviani, who has a master’s in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan. “Four hundred thousand people worked on the U.S. space program and didn’t go to the moon. It’s well past time for a book on those folks.”

Separately and together, the three have published numerous science-themed graphic novels. Other joint projects include Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards: A Tale of Edward Drinker Cope, Othniel Charles Marsh, and the Gilded Age of Paleontology (G.T. Labs, 2005) and Fallout: J. Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard, and the Political Science of the Atomic Bomb (G.T. Labs, 2001). The books are available at and

About the Author

Susan Karlin, based in Los Angeles, writes frequently for Spectrum. The youngest engineers in the household might be interested in her June 2009 article, "The Design and Engineering of Superheroes."

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