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on 25 October 1999
Deke is the autobiography of Deke Slayton, one time grounded astronaut and the man who constructed the crews that enabled Kennedy's challenge to be fulfilled. For an Apollo enthusiast like myself, the opening chapters (about Deke's early life) were hard work but the book comes to life when Deke tells the story of his role in Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab. There are many anecdotes and facts I'd never come across before, and his views on some astronauts are revealing. There did seem to be a clique at NASA during the Apollo years of management favourites (eg McDivitt, Borman et al) and Deke! explains some of the reasons why.
Deke finally got into space on the Apollo-Soyuz Mission in 1975, and there is an enjoyable chapter on that subject.
Sadly, Deke died in 1993, and his name is not widely known, but he played as big a part as anyone in the greatest technological feat of the 20th century. A good choice for anyone following up an interest in the early years of space travel.
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on 3 May 2001
Slayton's time at NASA stretched from the early Mercury days through the heady Apollo missions right up to the commercial space shuttle flights, so a comprehensive insight into pretty much all the US manned space flight programme is provided. Of equal interest are the pages devoted to Deke's test pilot days and, earlier, his wartime experiences. The picture emerges of an unbelievably experienced and skillful pilot who remained at the cutting edge of aviation/space science for most of his life. This book should appeal to anyone with an interest in space, NASA, or aircraft.
The book reads very easily, with the author's chatty and informal style adding an element of modesty lacking in many other astronaut biographies. One minor criticism would be that the last chapter or so - dealing with commercial satellite operations - drags a bit, and seems rather boring and business-like in comparison with the rest of the book.
The saddest thing is that the author died before this excellent book was completed, never experiencing the satisfaction of seeing his life story in print.
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on 19 November 2002
DEKE! A great book filled with interesting and insider facts about America's space program.Written by one of the original seven who was unfairly denied his flight.
DEKE! goes further than other astro bio's by explaining further missions like Skylab and early shuttle development and testing.
Its one of those books that you just can't put down!
The only downside, and it's a small one, is that Deke goes into a lot of detail about his upbringing and past career as a fighter pilot in WW2. That aside though, its a great book well worth reading.
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on 5 June 1999
For anyone with a deep interest in Mercury/Gemini/Apollo, this book is a must read. It provides excellent insight into the test pilot perspective on the space program. Deke's comments on astronaut selection and who he wanted to be first on the moon are not to be found anywhere else. However this book is definitely not the first one to read on this era. A basic understanding of the architecture and operations of Apollo is assumed. But if you can appreciate why Deke notices every time Gene Kranz leaves the MOCR, this book is for you. For a scientist's perspective on this era, Don Wilhelms' "To a Rocky Moon" would make an excellent companion. Add the hard-to-find "Apollo: Race to the Moon" and you have a great education in Apollo.
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on 30 December 2007
I would have to say that this book, more than any other, is one I have read and referred to many times over. Covering the most astonishing era of science and exploration in our history, this is the story of the man who was not only a superb pilot and astronaut, but as their influential superior forged the careers of others, by determining who would crew crucial missions. It might have been a difficult thing to have said to Deke's face, but if he hadn't been grounded with a minor heart aliment in the early 1960s, he might only be remembered today as a fellow who flew the Delta 7 Mercury mission after John Glenn's unforgettable flight, and perhaps another one or two missions. But he was forced into taking the responsible position of Chief Astronaut, and in doing so became the perfect person for the job, and today we celebrate that accidental irony. Of course he finally got to make a space flight in 1975, so his NASA astronaut career had a happy ending after all.

Deke knew all of the other astronauts well, and understood better than most who would form the most compatible and best-performing crews for a particular flight. Put two guys together in a VW bug-sized spacecraft and whirl them around the world with little to do for two weeks and see them want to kill each other by mission's end. But that didn't happen on Deke's watch - he matched people and personalities perfectly, and the crux of this, his legacy, are the many highly successful space missions that operated under his pragmatic management.

It is a cracking good book as well, and Michael Cassutt managed to get the most he could from a gravely ill Deke Slayton, who sadly passed away before this book could be published. On behalf of all spaceflight enthusiasts and historians, however, thanks heavens for Michael's foresight in conceiving and carrying through with this book; for without it a veritable raft of questions about the space program and the astronauts will forever have remained unanswered. It is certainly a definitive and reliable source of information for me, and I am delighted that the story of a great man has been so eloquently and thoroughly told.
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on 16 March 1999
This is perhaps the finest book written by one of our astronauts. Deke was the unsung hero of the original seven but without hime their would have been no moonwalks. The book is filled with interesting personal thoughts, especially on the astronaut selection process, without a lot of bs. One gets the feeling when reading this book that Slayton is sitting in the chair next to you telling you his story. Wonderful book...
I also recommend Carrying The Fire by Mike Collins
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on 21 March 2006
Deke Slayton was involved in the NASA space program from the late 1950s until the early 1980s, so this biography covers a lot of ground: Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, when Slayton finally flew in space himself after years of selecting the crews.
The wide scope of the book necessarily means only brief descriptions of some missions, especially as the NASA chapters are sandwiched by descriptions of his early life and of his post-program years. Note that there are no photographs or illustrations at all in this book. Look elsewhere, though, and you'll often see Deke lurking in photos of Mission Control.
Although co-authored by a journalist, the book is written in the first person and, as such, succeeds in getting you inside Slayton's no-nonsense mindset. The simple language helps the reader understand some complicated concepts - not least his famous astronaut selection sequence.
Deke is mentioned in almost all the astronaut biographies, almost always in favourable terms, so it is very interesting to read his version of events, albeit not always returning the compliments.
The final pages are sad in that he clearly knew his days were numbered as he committed his memories to tape with co-author Cassutt. Shame. A great and much-missed character, well portrayed in this interesting read.
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on 16 March 1999
This is perhaps the finest book written by one of our astronauts. Deke was the unsung hero of the original seven; without hime their would have been no moonwalks. The book is filled with interesting personal thoughts, especially on the astronaut selection process, without a lot of bs. One gets the feeling when reading this book that Slayton is sitting in the chair next to you telling you his story. Wonderful book...
I also recommend Carrying The Fire by Mike Collins
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on 9 December 1996
Good biography of an often overlooked major player in America's race to the moon. Slayton shoots straight from the hip, telling the reader what he thinks -- calling a spade a spade. Of particular interest to Apollo fans is Slayton's descision making in selecting the crews for the different missions. Very intersting. Good coverage of the Apollo-Soyuz mission as well. Good history of what path Slayton took to become one of "The Seven". If you've read "Moon Shot", this is better.
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on 26 August 1998
Deke Slayton writes about NASA, the shuttle, and the moon with clarity, enthusiasm, and experience. I can't say I agree with his child-rearing ideas or his politics, but who cares? The book is fantastic. I'd highly recommend it to anyone interested in American space exploration.
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