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Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and beyond Hardcover – 24 Apr 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 415 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd (24 April 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743200799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743200790
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 3.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 821,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Amazon Review

In 1957, the Russians launched Sputnik and the ensuing space race. Three years later, Gene Kranz left his aircraft testing job to join NASA and champion the American cause. What he found was an embryonic department run by whizz kids (such as himself), sharp engineers and technicians who had to create the Mercury mission rules and procedures from the ground up. As he says, "Since there were no books written on the actual methodology of space flight, we had to write them as we went along".

Kranz was part of the mission control team that, in January 1961, launched a chimpanzee into space and successfully retrieved him and made Alan Shepard the first American in space in May 1961. Just two months later they launched Gus Grissom for a space orbit, John Glenn orbited Earth three times in February 1962, and in May 1963 Gordon Cooper completed the final Project Mercury launch with 22 Earth orbits. And through them all, and the many Apollo missions that followed, Gene Kranz was one of the integral inside men--one of those who bore the responsibility for the Apollo 1 tragedy and the leader of the "tiger team" that saved the Apollo 13 astronauts.

Moviegoers know Gene Kranz through Ed Harris's Oscar-nominated portrayal of him in Apollo 13, but Kranz provides a more detailed insider's perspective in his book Failure Is Not an Option. You see NASA through his eyes, from its primitive days when he first joined up, through the 1993 shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, his last mission control project. His memoir, however, is not high literature. Kranz has many accomplishments and honours to his credit, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but this is his first book, and he's not a polished author. There are, perhaps, more behind-the-scenes details and more paragraphs devoted to what Cape Canaveral looked like than the general public demands. If, however, you have a long-standing fascination with aeronautics, if you watched Apollo 13 and wanted more, Failure Is Not an Option will fit the bill. --Stephanie Gold

Review

"A rich, behind-the-scenes account of the experts who held the lives of America's first space explorers in their hands." -- Mark Carreau, "Houston Chronicle"

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Based on his experience as a flight director for the American space programme from Mercury through to the Apollo moon landings, Gene Krantz has written a gripping biography of those years. He takes us behind-the-scenes and we see the pressures faced by the controllers and everyone – not just the astronauts – connected with the programme. The resources involved are, quite literally, vast.

After 16 successful launches they overcame the death of three astronauts in the pad fire that destroyed Apollo 1. But, despite that disaster, the programme continued and we are given a gripping account of the moon landings, subsequent lift off and rendezvous. There’s also an near-light-hearted summary – remember the film? – of the way in which the astronauts put together that air scrubber using a fan, bits of cardboard and a fair amount of duct tape. But it worked and averted another near disaster.

At the end of the book Gene Krantz expresses – strongly – his views about the way in which the United States terminated that particular part of the space programme. But, of course, he was unaware of the way in which projects like the International Space Station and Mars explorations would ultimately follow. And that Russia, China and India would play a major joint role in ongoing space exploration.

In the book he also quotes the opening line (the title to my review) of the poem ‘High Flight’, written by the 19-year-old Canadian pilot John McGee, who was killed when his Spitfire 1 collided with a training aircraft close to RAF Cranwell on 11 December 1941. ‘High Flight’ is now the official poem of both the RAF at the RCAF and was quoted by President Reagan in his speech following the Challenger disaster on 28 January 1985.
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Brilliant. Takes you into the heart of NASA and the struggles to take America into the Space Race. The personalities of the astronauts and engineers who made it all possible.
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Gene Kranz was one of the original band of NASA flight directors, some readers may remember he was played by a white waistcoat-wearing Ed Harris in the film about Apollo 13. This book is for those of us that are slightly geeky with regards to the Space Race in as far as this is a technical and detailed account of what took place in the Mission Control Room while the mission was in progress. It is not a riveting read by any stretch of the imagination but it does offer the interested reader another take Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. Gene Kranz is unashamedly patriotic and God-fearing with a slight propensity to describe almost all of his colleagues as all American heroes. Nevertheless, afficionados of this era of space exploration will find a lot in this book.
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Ive read a few books on Americas space program and ive also read a bit on Russias space program. Some have been exellent and some have been bad written rubbish thats been told the same way over and over again with the same pictures and quotes. That is until I read Failure Is Not An Option!!
This to me is the gratest book EVER written on Americas journey to the moon.
Kranz starts off with the Mercury program in deatil then onto Gemini and finally to the greatest accomplishment of all time, stepping foot on the surface of the moon. It takes you through the high's and the low's of the program and takes each mission and explians it in great detail.
Gene introduces the astronauts as they really were,not how others or the press percieved them to be. Its truly remarkable to me how he can remember in such great detail each event in turn that happend with, say the armstrong gemini flight that nearly ended in disaster or the near fateful Apollo 13 mission.
Overall this is a must for fans of the space program or even if youve just seen Apollo 13 and want to know more. Reviewers who say its technical at times, are correct but Kranz does explain what abbreviations mean as you go through each chapter.
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Enjoyable read
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Eugene Kranz is an unsung hero. Maybe most people are familiar with Ed Harris's portrayal of him in Apollo 13 but the man was around from the beginning of the space programme. We've already forgetten, all too easily, what an astonishing achievement NASA completed with the space programme in terms of technology. We forget also that the staff there literally invented the rules as they went along. But apart from all the engineering and science, there is the incredible way that they stood up to the pressure not just on the Apollo 13 mission but in other situations. In the thick of it all is Eugene Kranz. These days people in the UK are stupid enough to vote Queenie and Robbie Williams as the most important Britains ever. As an antidote read this and focus on someone who deserves our admiration.
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ARRIVED IN GOOD CONDITION AND EXACTLY AS ADVERTISED
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...told in an utterly absorbing fashion.One gets the impression that Kranz is aware of how fortunate a working life he has had and tells us the story of it in compelling and gripping fashion.

He has been not only present but intrinsically important to some of the most seminal moments in not only scientific but human evolution and his story is one of intrigue and a burning desire to learn and grow.

He captures the blend of adrenalin, adventure and discipline that drove the extraodinary accomplishments of the era and turns a book that I had high expectations of into a must read addition to the genre.

Fantastic
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