Artfully curated by James R. Hansen, A Reluctant Icon: Letters to Neil Armstrong is a companion volume to Dear Neil Armstrong: Letters to the First Man from All Mankind, collecting hundreds more letters Armstrong received after first stepping on the moon until his death in 2012. Providing context and commentary, Hansen has assembled the letters by the following themes: religion and belief; anger, disappointment, and disillusionment; quacks, conspiracy theorists, and ufologists; fellow astronauts and the world of flight; the corporate world; celebrities, stars, and notables; and last messages.
Taken together, both collections provide fascinating insights into the world of an iconic hero who took that first giant leap onto lunar soil willingly and thereby stepped into the public eye with reluctance. Space enthusiasts, historians, and lovers of all things related to flight will not want to miss this book.
James R. Hansen is professor emeritus of history at Auburn University in Alabama. An expert in aerospace history and the history of science and technology, Hansen has published a dozen books and numerous articles covering a wide variety of topics, including the early days of aviation, the history of aerospace engineering, NASA, the Moon landings, the Space Shuttle program, and China's role in space. In 1995 NASA nominated his book Spaceflight Revolution for a Pulitzer Prize. His book First Man, which is the only authorized biography of Neil Armstrong, spent three weeks as a New York Times Best Seller in 2005 and 2018 and garnered a number of major book awards. Translations of First Man have been published in more than twenty languages. A Universal Studios film adaptation of the book hit the silver screen in October 2018, with Academy Award winner (La La Land ) Damien Chazelle directing the film and actor Ryan Gosling starring as Armstrong. Hansen served as coproducer for the film.
Over the years Hansen has served on a number of important advisory boards and panels, including the Research Advisory Board for the National Air and Space Museum, Editorial Advisory Board for the Smithsonian Institution Press, and Advisory Board for the Archives of Aerospace Exploration at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He also is a past vice president of the Virginia Air and Space Museum in Hampton, Virginia. For the past ten years he has served on the National Air and Space Museum Trophy Selection Board. His experience as an academic and public speaker has been wide-ranging both topically and geographically; he frequently serves as keynote speaker, panelist, and lecturer on a wide variety of topics in the history of science and technology.