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Long time ago I've read this book and I'm forgotten the title and author. Our hero is stranded on the surface of the moon. The technology is Apollo or Apollo-like. I think I read it in the early eighties.

I can only remember this particular event: He travels on the surface and discovers the Command Module has crashed into the ground (an Apollo Command Module is supposed to stay in orbit, not to land). To his surprise the commander of the CM has deployed its parachutes; of course this is useless in the vacuum of the moon. He concludes that the commander must have panicked.

Also I seem to remember that at a certain point he wants or needs a pencil but he hasn't got one. He makes mental note to himself that on next missions pencils should be part of the inventory.

Because of the Apollo technology I would expect there would be two astronauts on the surface but I can't remember that.

Also I think the book was written for teenagers, not for adults. Furthermore, I've read the book in Dutch but I'm pretty sure it was translated from English because there were not that many Dutch sci-fi writers.

Has anyone an idea which book this could be?

  • The Apollo crews did have pencils. – Buzz Jun 9 at 20:33
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    The Apollo crews had pens, not pencils. – JRE Jun 9 at 21:09
  • scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/103018/… might be handy. – FuzzyBoots Jun 9 at 21:17
  • Around when did you read it? An approximate date could narrow this down a ton. – Stormblessed Jun 9 at 23:28
  • @Stormblessed, it should be around 1982. – Xenan Jun 10 at 9:02
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With help of the The Internet Speculative Fiction Database I've found the answer: it is the book "Robinson Dello Spazio" (Space Robinson) from 1970, which I had read in the dutch translation "Noodlanding op de maan" (Emergency landing on the moon) from 1973. The author is Gianni Padoan. Apparently it has never been translated to English, only to Dutch and French.

The isfdb has a title and cover only, and I couldn't find a summary or synopsis anywhere on the Internet. But I was quite sure this was the book, so I looked if there were second-hand copies and yes, two second-hand book stores had a copy available. I ordered one and the results are here:

The technology is Apollo or Apollo-like

Yes, the technology is definitely Apollo. The craft the astronauts are traveling in is called Apollo X-3. They are not going to land on the moon, but to deliver an uncrewed LM with cargo for a future moon base. Fun fact: NASA really had plans to do that: LM Truck.

The story takes place after Apollo 11, somewhere in the "near future" (as of time of writing of the story), probably the first half of the 1970s.

He travels on the surface and discovers the Command Module has crashed into the ground (an Apollo Command Module is supposed to stay in orbit, not to land). To his surprise the commander of the CM has deployed its parachutes; of course this is useless in the vacuum of the moon. He concludes that the commander must have panicked.

Quote from the book (google translate, with edit):

The commander of the Apollo X-3 had tried to slow down the fall by also using the parachutes, which were usually opened a few thousand meters above the Atlantic. At the top of the ash mountain a piece of white with red dotted nylon appeared, a kind of flag; that piece of parachute had caught the attention of the major at the end of his debilitating journey; but of course it was no use to deploy a parachute in a world without an atmosphere, and the fact that Wayne had opened it proved how desperately he had defended himself, out of the urge to live, in the last moments of his tragic flight.

Furthermore:

Also I seem to remember that at a certain point he wants or needs a pencil but he hasn't got one. He makes mental note to himself that on next missions pencils should be part of the inventory.

Quote from the book (Google translate):

An even more violent shock from the "ark" broke the tip of his pencil against the table, which served as a desk and, no matter how convenient and perfect the accessories of the "bag with space tools" were, no one had come up with the idea to put a sharpener in it.

Actually I find it a bit implausible that no one came up with the idea to put a sharpener in the bag, knowing how meticulously the Apollo project was prepared. Probably that's why I remembered it as having no pencil at all.

Because of the Apollo technology I would expect there would be two astronauts on the surface but I can't remember that.

His companion didn't survive the emergency landing. Fun fact: the bail-out system MOOSE was not made up by the author, but was really designed by General Electric. It was designed for Earth-orbit however, and wouldn't have worked in this scenario.

Also I think the book was written for teenagers, not for adults.

It was definitely written for young people. It also says so on the blurb on the back side of the book.

And at last:

Furthermore, I've read the book in Dutch but I'm pretty sure it was translated from English because there were not that many Dutch sci-fi writers.

Well, it turned out to be translated from Italian, a surprise for me because al those books I have read in the 1980s where from authors like Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, so I supposed this one would be an English language writer as well.

Thanks to Occam Shave for leading me to www.isfdb.org.

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"... astronaut stranded on the moon with apollo like technology"

Depending on the vagaries of your memory, this may or may not be a match.

"The Man Who Lost the Sea" by Theodore Sturgeon

is about one lone man stranded on Mars, not the moon, but has the most definite, striking description of Apollo-like technology in all the science fiction I've read.

A giant cartridge, but watch: the lower four-fifths is Alpha—all muscle—over a million pounds thrust. (Snap it off, throw it away.) Half the rest is Beta—all brains—it puts you on your way. (Snap it off, throw it away.) And now look at the polished fraction which is left. Touch a control somewhere and see—see? it has wings—wide triangular wings. This is Gamma, the one with wings, and on its back is a small sausage; it is a moth with a sausage on its back. The sausage (click! it comes free) is Delta. Delta is the last, the smallest: Delta is the way home.

That, and a definite crash, are about the only matches: there is no parachute, mention of a writing instrument, or other commander in this (short, not a book) story.

Then the valley below loses its shadows, and, like an arrangement in a diorama, reveals the form and nature of the wreckage below: no tent city this, no installation, but the true real ruin of Gamma and the eviscerated hulk of Delta. (Alpha was the muscle, Beta the brain; Gamma was a bird, but Delta, Delta was the way home.)

And look at that, it was translated into Dutch! Who knew?

De Man die de Zee Verloor

Check it out if it seems like a possibility.

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    Giving this a yes for finding the Dutch translation. – Emsley Wyatt Jun 10 at 0:07
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    Thanks, it's not the book I'm looking for but now I know of isfdb.org/cgi-bin/index.cgi which is also great! – Xenan Jun 10 at 9:01
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    Thanks! It seemed like a long shot. (With or without Apollo stages, heh.) I'll watch the space (this one, not the one above the ionosphere, heh) to find out what the story you had in mind actually was. – Occam Shave Jun 10 at 18:14

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