by Malcolm McConnell

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Library Journal
The rush to publish first-anniversary accounts of the Challenger disaster has produced two books that would have profited from more careful editing. Both examine the now familiar administrative shortcomings that placed launch schedule pressures ahead of flight safety. Trento takes the long view, examining NASA's management from its inception, the glory days of Apollo, and finally the shuttle era, when, in his view, politics overwhelmed sound engineering judgment. He makes good use of interviews with every past NASA administrator as well as with Apollo and Shuttle managers to detail the administrative drift and budgetary pressures that allowed political considerations to gain ascendancy in staffing the agency and, more importantly, in making program and technological decisions. Unfortunately factual errors regarding program names, technical details, dates, and misspelled names mar his account. McConnell focuses more on the particulars of the doomed mission. In New Journalism style, he attempts to reconstruct the details of the decision to launch. He draws heavily on Rogers Commission testimony for much of his narrative. However, some undocumented assertions (e.g., that tensions existed among the Challenger crew because the non-pilots were brought into the program for ``political considerations'' demand substantiation. The two accounts share complementary flawsTrento's access to first-hand sources is countered by factual inaccuracies; McConnell's detailed reconstruction of events and conversations, in addition to the insinuations of irregularities in Shuttle contract awards, lack proper documentation. Neither book provides the last word on the disaster; however, of the two, Trento's political examination of NASA's decline makes it the better choice. Thomas J. Frieling, Bainbridge Junior Coll. Lib., Ga.

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The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
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