Top positive review
8 people found this helpful
on 22 March 2013
I bought the kindle edition after seeing the BBC film "Challenger"- wanting to know more about Allan McDonald and his story. This book is as detailed as you would expect from an engineer whose care and rigour at his job is obvious. You are plunged right into the heart of the daily grapple with issues of the re-usable hardware in the solid rocket boosters (blowby, erosion, putty, tang clevis field joint and of course dreaded temperature issues). What is glaringly obvious as you see the teams (engineers of MTI NASA etc) working their socks off to meet the next launch review is just how hard they were all working. Two launches a month was never going to be achievable and you feel the ominous overload on man as well as the machines.
The contrast between engineering rigour and the corporate pressures is grindingly painful. A loyal employee starts to say and do things his bosses colleagues and key customer do not want him to. His confusion and pain is gripping stuff.
I would have given this 5stars but Allan's written style is clunky and long winded at times. But it his voice that your hear: picky, tenacious, professional, and above all a shining rigour to laws of physics and principles of good design. And if you don't have at least A- level science you will find much of this unreadable. But do stay with the detail (and the slightly lumpy sentence structures): you can immerse yourself in the intricacy and sheer complexity of the data and double speak arguments that came out after the event.
Being put in charge of the redesign of the rocket boosters after Challenger shows what an extraordinary man Allan is. No wonder his astronaut friends in the orbiter wanted him at launch control when in 1988, the shuttle took to the air again. A memoir that rings with integrity.