In Pursuit of the Moon – The Hunt for a Major NASA Contract by Bill Townsend; iUniverse – a self-publishing imprint; 168 pages; 2019; Softcover; $13.99.

This is a tell-all story that’s rarely told. The author takes the reader deep inside the inner-workings of a real-life aerospace industry pursuit – vying for the ARES I Instrument Unit Avionics contract, released by NASA in 2007. Ares I was the crew launch vehicle that was being developed at the time by NASA as part of the Constellation program, a precursor to today’s Artemis adventure.

After forty-plus years with NASA, the author details his joining of Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado, in 2004, then taking thirty-five top-notch “Birkenstock-wearing engineers” to Huntsville, Alabama, to establish a new Ball Aerospace office designed to champion the chase for the contract. The competition was stiff – an entrenched cabal of aerospace contractors who had dominated NASA’s human space flight program for decades.

You can get a sense of the astronautical angst a person can go through just by noting the titles of this six-part book: “The Situation,” “Before the Storm,” “The Proposal,” “The Down Select,” “The Decision,” and “The Aftermath.”

“So, with the benefit of perfect hindsight,” what did we do well, and what could we have done better?,” Townsend writes.

This is an intimate look at how to work with a major government agency, NASA, and how the space agency behaves and conducts itself with its contractor base…sometimes in ways you would not anticipate.

For those not familiar with the aerospace industry, the author’s intent is to pry your eyes open to what really goes on. And for those in the aerospace industry, “perhaps there is a thing or two that you can learn from my telling of this story,” Townsend explains. Moreover, for those within NASA, he has some select words too!

Townsend has spent more than fifty years in the aerospace industry, a distinguished career with particular expertise in the management of major space flight programs. His reflections about the people, the places, and the paperwork makes it a worthy read for all those out there trying to shape a vibrant, yet-affordable space program for today.

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