Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, view some of the research materials that Norman Mailer compiled for Of a Fire on the Moon, his work that chronicled the trajectory to the moon.

From the Vietnam War to capital punishment, Norman Mailer engaged the important intellectual and social issues of his time. So it should come as no surprise that Mailer chronicled America's space program and the 1969 journey of Apollo 11 in a three-part article for LIFE Magazine. Portions of the piece ultimately became Mailer's book Of a Fire on the Moon (Little, Brown, 1970).

As Mailer stated in a letter to Neil Armstrong on February 26, 1970, "I've worked as assiduously as any writer I know to portray the space program in its largest not its smallest dimension." In Of a Fire on the Moon, Mailer searches for the moral and philosophical meaning of landing on the moon.

Below are some of Mailer's handwritten manuscripts, research materials, NASA photographs, and notes concerning Of a Fire on the Moon, all from Mailer's archive at the Ransom Center. The collection, which includes materials associated with all of Mailer's literary projects, whether completed or not, contains more than 1,000 boxes of materials and is available to researchers, students, and the public.

Mailer's Of a Fire on the Moon is being reproduced by Taschen Books in a limited edition Norman Mailer, MoonFire: The Epic Journey of Apollo 11, a publication that commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with Mailer's non-fiction writing and photographs from various sources.


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Souvenir of Apollo 11 Lunar Landing touts "America's Space Program Benefits All Mankind," including better color television, new paints and plastics and an earthquake prediction system.
Norman Mailer collection. Harry Ransom Center.


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Some of Norman Mailer's press materials relating to Apollo 11.
Norman Mailer collection. Harry Ransom Center.
Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.



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Norman Mailer's Kennedy Space Center press pass relating to Apollo 11.
Norman Mailer collection. Harry Ransom Center.
Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.


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Some of Norman Mailer's notes for Of a Fire on the Moon are on 3x5 index cards.
© Estate of Norman Mailer. Norman Mailer collection. Harry Ransom Center.
Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.



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CAPE KENNEDY, FLORIDA
16 July 1969
APOLLO 11 LIFTOFF--- The huge, 363-foot tall Apollo 11 (Spacecraft 107/Lunar Module 5/Saturn 506) space vehicle is launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center at 9:32 a.m. (EDT), July 16, 1969. Aboard the Apollo 11 spacecraft were Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. Apollo 11 is the United States' first lunar landing mission.
From NASA caption, photo no. AS11-69-39526


Photograph. Click to enlarge.

CAPE KENNEDY, FLORIDA
16 July 1969
APOLLO 11 LIFTOFF---The huge, 363-foot tall Apollo 11 (Spacecraft 107/Lunar Module 5/Saturn 506) space vehicle is launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center at 9:32 a.m. (EDT), July 16, 1969. Aboard the Apollo 11 spacecraft were Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. Apollo 11 is the United States' first lunar landing mission.
From NASA caption, S-69-39529



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One of Norman Mailer's notebooks concerning the Apollo 11 mission, July 1969. On page 9, Mailer recounts one of Edwin Aldrin's jokes.
© Estate of Norman Mailer. Norman Mailer collection. Harry Ransom Center.


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Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas
16 July 1969
APOLLO 11 VIEW OF EARTH---This view of the Earth was photographed from the Apollo 11 spacecraft during its translunar journey toward the Moon. The spacecraft was already about 10,000 nautical miles from Earth when this picture was taken. Aboard Apollo 11 were Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. Portions of the land mass of North America and Central America can be seen.
From NASA caption, photo no. AS11-36-5337



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Several of the notebooks that contain Norman Mailer's handwritten notes for Of a Fire on the Moon.
© Estate of Norman Mailer. Norman Mailer collection. Harry Ransom Center.
Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.


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Apollo 11 mission commentary with Norman Mailer's handwritten notations. Dated July 20, 1969.
© Estate of Norman Mailer. Norman Mailer collection. Harry Ransom Center.



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Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas
July 1969
APOLLO 11 VIEW OF MOON---An Apollo 11 oblique view of the lunar farside in the area of International Astronomical Union crater No. 312, which is about 30 statute miles in diameter. The center of the photograph is located at 164 degrees west longitude and 8 degrees south latitude. The sharp shadows indicate that the picture was taken at a low sun angle.
From NASA caption, photo no. AS11-42-6248


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Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas
20 July 1969
APOLLO 11 LM VIEWED FROM CSM---The Apollo 11 Lunar Module, in a lunar landing configuration, is photographed in lunar orbit from the Command and Service Modules. Inside the LM were Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, commander, and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. Astronaut Michael Collins, command module pilot, remained with the CSM in lunar orbit while Armstrong and Aldrin descended in the LM to explore the lunar surface.
From NASA caption, photo no. AS11-44-6598



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Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas
20 July 1969
APOLLO 11 LM INTERIOR---An interior view of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module showing some of the displays and controls. Mounted in the LM window is a 16mm data acquisition camera which has a variable frame speed of 1, 6, 12, and 24 frames per second.
From NASA caption, photo no. AS11-36-5389


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Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas
20 July 1969
APOLLO 11 ON THE MOON---Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, is photographed during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity on the Moon. He has just deployed the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package (EASEP). Good view of deployed equipment. In the foreground is the Passive Seismic Experiments Package (PSEP); beyond it is the Laser Ranging Retro-Reflector (LR-3); in the center background is the U.S. flag; in the left background is the black and white lunar surface television camera; in the right center foreground is the 35mm stereo close-up camera; in the far right background is the Lunar Module. Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander, took this picture with a 70mm lunar surface camera.
From NASA caption, photo no. AS11-40-5948



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Norman Mailer's handwritten notes for Of a Fire on the Moon on a sheet, noting characteristics of astronauts, including eye color, height, weight, marriage status, number of children and education. 1969.
© Estate of Norman Mailer. Norman Mailer collection. Harry Ransom Center.


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Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas
20 July 1969
APOLLO 11 ON MOON---Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, walks on the surface of the Moon near the leg of the Lunar Module during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity. Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander, took this photograph with a 70mm lunar surface camera.
From NASA caption, photo no. AS11-40-5903



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Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas
20 July 1969
APOLLO 11 ON THE MOON---The flag of the United States, deployed on the surface of the Moon, dominates this photograph taken from inside the Lunar Module. The footprints of the Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. stand out very clearly in the lunar soil. In the far background is the deployed black and white lunar surface television camera which televised the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity.
From NASA caption, photo no. AS11-37-5480


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Norman Mailer's handwritten notes for Of a Fire on the Moon on a legal sheet, noting astrological signs of astronauts. 1969.
© Estate of Norman Mailer. Norman Mailer collection. Harry Ransom Center.



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Astronaut on the Moon with the American flag.
From NASA photo no. AS11-40-5875


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Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas
21 July 1969
APOLLO 11 VIEW OF MOON---This outstanding view of a full moon was photographed from the Apollo 11 spacecraft during its trans-earth journey homeward. When this picture was taken the spacecraft was already 10,000 nautical miles away. Aboard Apollo 11 were Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr.
From NASA caption, photo no. AS11-44-6665



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First manuscript draft of "The Psychology of Astronauts" by Norman Mailer, 1969.
© Estate of Norman Mailer. Norman Mailer collection. Harry Ransom Center.


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Several of the pages of the first manuscript draft of "The Psychology of Astronauts" by Norman Mailer, 1969.
© Estate of Norman Mailer. Norman Mailer collection. Harry Ransom Center.
Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.



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Norman Mailer received this preliminary sketch for the jacket of Of a Fire on the Moon in February 1970.
Norman Mailer collection. Harry Ransom Center.
Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.


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In a February 13, 1970 letter to Norman Mailer, Little, Brown & Company Senior Editor Larned G. Bradford discusses "...your getting involved in the ad copy for 'Of a Fire on the Moon' and to start the ball rolling." Bradford provided Mailer with the proposed ad copy that was to run in Publishers Weekly March 16 issue. Mailer made his suggestions and edits of the backside of the proposed copy.
© Estate of Norman Mailer. Norman Mailer collection. Harry Ransom Center.
Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.



 
 
 

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