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Countdown: An Autobiography [Hardcover]

Frank Borman , Robert J. Serling
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Silver Arrow; 1st Edition edition (Oct 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688079296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688079291
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.8 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 124,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BORMAN REVIEW 8 Aug 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a great book... However, this book is about Frank Borman.. not just Apollo!! It moves into the world of FB after Apollo... Which for me was very interesting. So much so i have even bought and read a couple of follow on books about FB career.

A man is more than a moon shot!! FANTASTIC BOOK
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a good read 2 Dec 2010
Frank Borman is best remembered as the commander of Apollo 8 which circled the moon with Jim Lovell and Bill Anders. He also set a record 14 day flight in Gemmini 7.

The book is well written and gives a good insight into the determined and stubborn character necessary to make it as an astronaut.

I have read most of the astronaut biographies and I found myself liking Borman very much and enjoying the writing style. Well worth a read if you like the Apollo space programme.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Frequent Flier Dilemma 9 July 2002
By Thomas J. Burns - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have yet to see a better and more credible depiction of the upside/downside of astronaut persona. In his modest and understated way Frank Borman describes his career through the military, the astronaut program, and the private business sector. A genuinely honest man who embodied the best values of middle America, Borman commanded two of the most visible and critical flights of the early manned space program: the epic endurance flight Gemini 7 in 1965 and the stunning circumlunar Apollo 8 adventure of Christmas Eve 1968. Widely respected in NASA and government circles, he was selected to lead the investigation of the Apollo fire which killed his comrades Grissom, White, and Chafee. He was, in every respect, an upright military man who embraced the challenge of the space race with dogged tenacity.
So why, with every page, does the reader feel like he is moving inexorably toward a train wreck? Perhaps because Borman's candor compels him to chronicle the downside of his single-minded determination and doggedness. It is hard to say if the author intended to give us this psychological two-edged sword, or whether it is simply the fruit of honesty. In either case the clues are there: with every career choice, with every renewed commitment to NASA, Borman etched his name on the honor roll of American space heroes. And, in the process, insulated himself from family and society, with painful consequences.
Borman's personal world begins to unravel, ironically, at the time of his greatest triumph, the Apollo 8 mission to the moon. His wife Susan, already stretched thin by years as a dutiful military wife in the spotlight and totally unnerved by the Apollo 1 fire, drifted into the murky world of alcoholism. Borman admits that, totally absorbed as he was with the Apollo Program, he was completely out of touch with her drinking, relieved that at least his wife was not using prescription tranquilizers, then in vogue among astronaut wives. [Andrew Chaikin's "A Man on the Moon" describes Susan Borman's problems during Apollo 8 in much greater detail than Borman could bring himself to describe.]
Sadly unaware of the unfolding tragedy at home, Borman retired from the Air Force and proceeded to make the grand-daddy of all bad career choices, particularly considering the choices at hand. It is not clear from the text whether the author truly understood the complexities of Eastern Airlines' financial difficulties, or the character of the people he would need to do business with. Borman does concede that he knew next to nothing about unions, which would be his undoing at Eastern along with deregulation and a sagging economy. Despite his earnestness and hard work-and no one worked harder-the book ends at February 23, 1986, the night of the Eastern bankruptcy, a broken ex-astronaut crying in his wife's arms.
It is a troubling ending. It is also a reflection of the conundrum of the race to the moon. The United States would never have overtaken the Russians in the space race without men like Borman who sacrificed everything for the goal of national success. But this work reveals another side of the space race: how the race to the moon collected men like Borman, took those assets of steely self-determination, and turned them against the astronauts themselves. This is a cost of the Apollo Program that is rarely discussed, and we, like the dazed author at the end of the book, have to decide for ourselves if the cost was worth it.
This philosophical twist, perhaps unexpectedly, is the author's biggest contribution to space literature. Borman's account of his missions reveals little new material, and he remains too private a man to titillate the reader with his uncensored thoughts about, say, Jim Lovell, with whom he spent an eternity in the closest of quarters. As a narrative of the race to the moon, this is a superficial work from one so intimately connected to the space program. But my guess is that Borman's real interest in writing his autobiography was less about space hardware and more about figuring out just what the hell happened to him.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars America needs more people like Frank Borman 29 Jan 2000
By A Customer - Published on
No nonsense Frank Borman has written a fantastic book on his two lives as an astronaut and President of Eastern Airlines. In this book, Mr. Borman goes into great depth explaining his Gemini 7 and the Apollo 8 mission which many regard as the greatest flight of Apollo. Those two flights would be accomplishments that would satisfy most people, but it was only the beginning for Frank Borman. Mr. Borman reveals the same intensity and tenacity at Eastern Airlines that endeared him with NASA officials such as Bob Gilruth, Deke Slayton and Chris Kraft. Frank Borman has lived a life of achievment that most people can only dream about. The book reveals Mr. Borman to be a man of solid character and true dedication to his family and country. Afterall, Mr. Borman could have been the first to walk on the moon, but retired from NASA after Apollo 8 to spend more time with a family that had become secondary to his astronaut duties. By the time the book is finished, the reader wishes that America had more people like Frank Borman. Frank Borman has been accused of being a tightly wound and no nonsense individual. If the book is any indicator, Mr. Borman is a man with a great sense of humor. Like the other reviewers, I loved this book. It is out of print now, but if you can get your hands on it, read it. It is a prized book in my library that I have read many times over. If anyone has an interest in Apollo or Gemini, this is a book that you will need. Thank you Mr. Borman. I don't know you and probably never will, but I really admire you for what you have done. A great book!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Honest, Common Sense, Ethical, No Frills Management Style 6 Aug 2002
By D. McSherry - Published on
One reason I picked up Countdown at Half-Price Books was because I remember Frank Borman doing commercials for Eastern Airlines when I was a kid. Although I expected more of his book to be about the Apollo days, I was by no means disappointed. This book is actually three books: One about Borman at West Point, the other about Borman in the Air Force, and the one about Borman at Eastern Airlines. The one I liked the best was about Eastern Airlines.
Like Frank Borman, I am an engineer myself (I grew up on NASA's back gate) and I really enjoyed his "tell it like it is" and get "back to basics approach" at Eastern. When Borman became President of Eastern in 1975, he got rid of the private jets, the fancy cars, the plush office furniture, and said "get to work." He also streamlined the middle-management and got rid of the "deadwood" and implemented a lot more "common sense." He thought Eastern buying SST's would be ludricrous on the Miami to New York route (because they would have to begin descent too soon), got rid of planes that were fuel inefficient (especially after looking at maintenance logs and finding that repairs were costing three times of what new planes were), and I don't know of any corporate president that had enough class to negiotiate leasing four Airbus aircraft at no cost. Leasing Airbuses was an awesome and risky move that paid off. Several airlines today use Airbus (Northwest, USAir, United) and Borman helped pave the way for America to buy these. Being a pilot and an engineer, Borman would even fly some of these planes himself. These are three examples of why engineers today are needed in higher management positions.
Borman also made the people of Eastern unite after he became President. He would visit them at airports and fly on planes with them, looking at "lets all work together and accomplish the mission. We have to earn our wings every day." Borman was always honest with his fellow employees about what was going on (no bulls--- )and followed through with "Duty, Honor, Country". Eastern Airlines profited more from 1976 to 1980 under Borman's leadership. What killed Eastern in my opininion was Airline Deregulation and the unions fighting against Eastern, primarily the IAM. Borman tells much of this story.
One thing that threw me off as I read this was how many airlines were in business when I was a kid that aren't there anymore (Braniff, Piedmont, Pan Am, People's Express, Air Florida, etc.) I know Braniff was an example of executives taking care of their own interests (fancy cars, meals, penthouse office suites,etc.) Frank Borman always had his head and his heart in the right place -EASTERN. I learned a great deal from Countdown-we need more executive officers like Frank Borman.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? 27 April 2001
By Mark Harju - Published on
Borman's "Countdown" tells the riveting tale of his boyhood, his Air Force days, his immense contributions to the space program, and his airline career. His participation in the Apollo 1 fire investigation and subsequent Senate testimony were instrumental in getting the moon program back on track, for to everyone concerned - astronauts, Congressmen, and the press - Borman's integrity was unquestionable. This comes across immediately to the reader through Borman's narrative, but not through self-serving "Boy Do I Love Me" puffery. Indeed, Borman's sincere modesty immediately reassures the reader that this is a man who lives the motto "To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth".
Some of the ugly, goofball politics of the time come up as Borman and his crew are humiliated by Cornell students egged on by none other than Carl Sagan. I never really thought much of Sagan before reading Borman's book, and I think far less of him now; though in the interest of fairness I will say that Sagan's motivations were more selfish than political (he always objected to the expense of manned spaceflight, and instead advocated unmanned exploration as the best way to obtain the hard science he insisted on - this came up in a lecture Sagan gave in Seattle shortly before his death while undergoing cancer treatment), he comes across as the petty, self-serving geek he really was, not the "Mr. Friendly Scientist" he portrayed himself as in his works. Borman and his men deserved far better.
The wanton destruction of Eastern Airlines by the active sabotage of the Machinists Union is also well documented. Borman's no-nonsense, high-speed, low-drag leadership style was lost on the proto-human union bosses. It's really too bad Eastern went under, but having read what was truly going on, I now know that it wasn't Borman's fault. It speaks volumes for Borman's character that despite some bitterness and finger-pointing on his part (though his points were well-made), he accepts responsibility for his mistakes and shortcomings in the loss of Eastern, displaying the same integrity with which he has led all of his life. It's a really good book by a fine man. As another reviewer said, we desperately need more men like him. Sadly, in this politically correct, touchy-feely age, Borman's kind are a vanishing breed, and his book answers the question that titles this review. The battle to save Eastern was foretold decades ago by Ayn Rand. Borman didn't want to shrug, but was forced to. I hope the Machinists are happy now.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Book! 16 Nov 1999
By Gordon Reade - Published on
In my opinion Apollo 8 was an even more important flight than the moon landing. 8 was the first flight ever by humans to another world. True they didn't land but that doesn't detract form the drama. COUNTDOWN is an absolutely wonderful book written by Frank Borman the man who commanded that flight.
But the book is much more than just Apollo 8. It's also a very interesting look at late 20th century history. Borman was privileged to travel to some fascinating (and now nonexistent) places such as the Soviet Union and I found his observations of the people he met to be most intriguing.
If the book has any fault at all it might be that at times Borman seems to use it as a vehicle to settle some old scores. In the case of Carl Sagan Borman's criticism serves a purpose. Those of us who are interested in science should have some idea what Sagan was like. But Charlie Bryan? Come on Frank you're Frank Borman! You duh Man! They'll be reading your book a thousand years from now. Charlie Bryan is nobody.
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