Book Review: "I Was A Teenage Space Reporter" by David Chudwin
I Was A Teenage Space Reporter, released last month, is a book-length exploration of one man’s journey through spaceflight journalism and enthusiasm. David Chudwin has written a detailed and inspiring work that reads splendidly for all audiences, even those who are not space aficionados.
As the only college student who was accredited media at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Chudwin was there when Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin left Earth for the Moon, covering the entirety of Apollo 11 from Cape Canaveral. He sat next to Norman Mailer at the press briefings. He was at the famed Cocoa Beach NASA hangout “The Mousetrap.” He saw Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin just hours before launch with his own eyes. He was in the VAB when the Apollo 12 and 13’s Saturn V rockets were being stacked. And he was there as a young journalist - as an outsider looking in. His involvement did not end in 1969. He went on to meet almost all the Apollo astronauts, and those interactions are told in the book as well.
It has three sections. The first is Chudwin’s journey through growing up as one of the first NASA geeks to covering Apollo 11, which includes a masterfully woven timeline of US spaceflight’s crucial moments. The second is lessons learned from Apollo and reflections on the impact of the program. The third, just as important to Chudwin, is an outline and analysis of spaceflight’s future. He provides apt, informed, and appropriate characterizations of the current players in the space industry, what they want to do, and how they are changing the game.
Most importantly, Chudwin has written a fresh and unique perspective on what it means to be a young person watching the beginning of the space age - a necessary achievement. He contributes to the concept of spaceflight as a cultural institution, which science fact has yet to achieve on the level of science fiction.
His writing immerses the reader in each of these historically memorable moments, giving them a relatable connection to what happened 50 years ago. It feeds a desire to know these characters in history were real people doing real things, not only the astronauts and the scientists, but the journalists and onlookers as well. This is cemented by the inclusion of primary sources like scans of the original press documents, handwritten notes, typewriter rolls, and original photographs. To be clear: this is not a history with a lengthy bibliography - it’s a factual personal story from the past. A historical memoir.
As a spaceflight historian and journalist currently in my early-20s, this book resonated on a personal note. It’s fascinating to read about what has changed, but what is still the same as well. I believe we have improved in technology and efficiency, but spaceflight journalism and publicity have lost a certain dedication to thorough, complete content and access to worthwhile press activities.
If you are new to spaceflight, it’s a perfect introduction to the history and value of the field. If you are involved in journalism, especially if you are under 35, it’s a keen insight into professionalism and dedication to your coverage. Ultimately, I Was a Teenage Space Reporter is a pertinent contribution to the Apollo narrative.
Images and videos courtesy of the Author, except where noted otherwise.
Cover image - cover of I Was a Teenage Space Reporter (Image: LID Publishing/Matthew Renaudin)
Chudwin, David. I Was a Teenage Space Reporter: From Apollo 11 to Our Future in Space. London: LID Publishing, 2019.