You don't have to be a space junkie or nerd to enjoy this book. It's a great blend of the technical side of the Space Shuttle and the people behind the scenes making it happen. The history of how the Shuttle came about, the design choices, capabilities and limitations are all told here. The biggest challenge faced by NASA was finding a mission for the Shuttle that would capture the imagination & interest of Americans. In a twist of irony, the Shuttle's routine launches led to complacency with Americans. Indeed, as one Apollo astronaut observed, NASA was surprised when Apollo worked and Americans were surprised when the Shuttle did not.
Before the Apollo manned missions to moon ended, work began on designing a reusable space craft. This book does not attempt to cover every single mission, but does hit the special ones and of course, the tragedies of the Challenger and Columbia. Author Pat Duggins is not a scientist, but a news analyst for a public broadcast station in FL, so he can relay these stories in an easy, accessible way that is very enjoyable. He presents an honest appraisal of NASA, the problems and successes they've had over the years.
Final Countdown is more than just the history of the Shuttle. It is also about what happens next in the space program- perhaps more importantly, what is not happening now. Budget cuts are bad enough, but lack of a mission to generate public support is the real problem. I've always been interested in the Apollo Program; I was nine when we landed on the moon. This book catches the reader up on what happened in the 1980's and 90's, since many, like myself, did not pay attention. I'd recommend this to anyone who has interest in the Shuttle, NASA, and space exploration.