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Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond

Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond

4.2 51
by Gene Kranz, Danny Campbell (Narrated by)

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A fascinating inside look into the space program of the 1960s from former NASA Mission Control flight director Gene Kranz.


A fascinating inside look into the space program of the 1960s from former NASA Mission Control flight director Gene Kranz.

Editorial Reviews

Eugene Kranz joined the NASA Space Task Group in 1960 and served as the Assistant Flight Director for Project Mercury, the original manned space missions. At the time of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, he was NASA's flight director. For his work leading the Apollo 13 teams, he received a Presidential Medal of Freedom. His autobiography, as energetic as it is authoritative, belongs in the library of anyone who ever dreamed upward.
Houston Chronicle
A rich, behind-the-scenes account.
Baltimore Sun
An important addition to the chronicles of America's early space program.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When the heroic American astronauts of the '60s and '70s inquired, "Houston, do you read?" it was often Krantz's team who answered from the ground. Veteran NASA flight controller Krantz (portrayed by Ed Harris in the film Apollo 13) has written a personable memoir, one that follows his and NASA's careers from the start of the space race through "the last lunar strike," Apollo 17 (1972-1973). Krantz's story opens in the world of the first U.S. space scientists, of exploding Mercury-Atlas rockets, flaming escape towers and "the first rule of flight control": "If you don't know what to do, don't do anything!" Its climax is Apollo 13, with Krantz serving as "lead flight director" and helping to save the trapped astronauts' lives. His account of that barely averted disaster evokes the adrenalized mood of the flight controllers and the technical problems ("gimbal lock," oxygen status, return trajectories) that had to be solved for the astronauts to survive. Elsewhere in these often-gripping pages we learn of the quarrels that almost derailed Gemini 9A's spacewalk; "the best leaders the program ever had," among them George Mueller, who revived NASA after a 1966 launchpad fire; the forest of internal acronyms and argot ("Go-NoGo," "all-up," EVA, the Trench, CSM, GNC, FIDO, RETRO, GUIDO); and the combination of teamwork and expertise that made the moon landings possible. Plenty of books (and several films) have already tried to depict the space program's excitement; few of their creators had the first-person experience or the attention to detail Krantz has, whose role as flight control "White" his readers will admire or even wish to emulate. Eight b&w photos. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Eugene F. Kranz was just another frustrated and air-struck boy in the 1940s, too young to fight in WW II yet keenly aware of the dynamic world of aviation and the exciting possibilities that were already developing around him. One of his schoolboy essays, "The Design and Possibilities of the Interplanetary Rocket," could have been written by thousands of his classmates, and probably was. By the time Kranz finally took off in his first jet fighter the Korean War had come and gone, and he found himself in a frustrating aviation limbo where pilots were many and combat opportunities were few. But a new president had just committed the U.S. to an unusual and exciting quest that no one could foresee the end of. Almost before he knew it, a new outfit called the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had hired him over the telephone, and he found himself in Langley, Virginia, trying to figure out what his new job was all about. At first, no one helped him much. NASA was beginning its frenetic and most energetic era when the first Mercury missions were being planned at a dizzying pace and anything seemed possible. Creativity and energy took precedence over organizational structure and budgets in the drive to create new technologies and integrate them into mankind's climb into Space. Kranz liked what he saw, stayed with the agency and rose to become flight director of the Apollo 11 moon-landing mission. At heart, though, Kranz remained a pilot and an engineer, and his life story is told in just the way one might expect: linear, straightforward, and full of descriptive detail. The style admirably fits the subject, making this a pleasurable and a satisfying read. Even if it were not,the subject matter alone would justify this book. The author was the ultimate "insider" during all of NASA's glory days, and he took part in all of the critical episodes of the early space era: the tragic electrical fire that killed three astronauts, the heart-stopping Apollo 13 mission, and of course man's first footsteps on the surface of the moon. In the present time, when NASA has lost its synergistic edge and evolved into a cautious bureaucracy, it is good to remember the days when the very stars seemed within grasp. Category: Biography & Personal Narrative. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Berkley, 415p. illus. index., Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Raymond L. Puffer; Ph.D., Historian, Edwards Air Force Base, CA
Kranz, a former Air Force fighter pilot, was NASA's flight director from the start of the Mercury program. He worked on each of the Apollo missions, including the fatal Apollo 11 launch; the 1995 film portrayed how Kranz led the rescue efforts of that crew. This trade paper reprint of Kranz's best-selling memoir comprises his own telling of the Apollo 13 story and much more from the space program's earliest years. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Robert C. Cowen
With penetrating insight, straight-talking Kranz, tells it like it was for the mission control and planning teams upon whom the astronauts were utterly dependent.
The Christian Science Monitor
John Noble Wilford
An engaging behind-the-scenes memoir, a welcome contribution to the history of space flight. More than any previous book, it gives the view of that history as lived by the brotherhood of Mission Control.
New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher
"Plenty of books (and several films) have already tried to depict the space program's excitement; few of their creators had the first-person experience or the attention to detail Krantz has, whose role as flight control "White" his readers will admire or even wish to emulate." ---Publishers Weekly

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Tantor Media, Inc.
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MP3 - Unabridged CD
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5.30(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: The Four-Inch Flight

"Houston, we have a problem."

At some time in the hours that followed that terse announcement from Apollo 13, many of us in NASA's Mission Control Center wondered if we were going to lose the crew. Each of us had indelible memories of that awful day three years before when three other astronauts sat in an Apollo spacecraft firmly anchored to the ground. Running a systems test. Routine. In terms of the distances involved in spaceflight, we could almost reach out and touch them.

Moments after the first intimation that something had gone terribly wrong, technicians were up in the gantry, desperately trying to open the hatch. It took only seconds for an electrical glitch to ignite the oxygen-rich atmosphere of the cabin, creating a fire that was virtually a contained explosion. In those few seconds, the men inside the capsule knew what was happening -- and they must have realized, at the last moment, that there was no escape. We simply could not reach them in time.

Now, three equally brave men were far beyond us in distance, far out in the vast absolute zero world of space, the most deadly and unforgiving environment ever experienced by man. We could measure the distances in miles. But with so many miles, the number was an abstraction, albeit one we had become used to dealing with in matter-of-fact fashion.

We could reach them only with our voices, and they could speak to us only through the tenuous link of radio signals from precisely directional radio antennas. This time they were truly beyond our reach. Time and distance. So close were we in the Apollo fire that claimed the first three Americans to be killed in a spacecraft.

Now we were so far, so very far, away.

Once again, technology had failed us. We had not anticipated what happened back then, on Earth. We had not anticipated what had happened this time. In fact, it would be hours before we really understood what had happened. There was one big difference in this case. We could buy time. What we could not accomplish through technology, or procedures and operating manuals, we might be able to manage by drawing on a priceless fund of experience, accumulated over almost a decade of sending men into places far beyond the envelope of Earth's protective, nurturing atmosphere. All we had to work with was time and experience. The term we used was "workaround" -- options, other ways of doing things, solutions to problems that weren't to be found in manuals and schematics. These three astronauts were beyond our physical reach. But not beyond the reach of human imagination, inventiveness, and a creed that we all lived by: "Failure is not an option."

That was not true in the beginning of the space program. There had been many early failures back then -- because we hadn't learned enough about the perilous business in which we were engaged.

Would it happen again -- the loss of three men? We had failed our crew in Apollo 1. This time we had a few hours to do something. But did we have the wisdom? And could we somehow build not just on our own years of experience but the courage and resourcefulness of three astronauts far, far from home?

Sociologists and engineers call it "the human factor." It's what we must depend on when all the glittering technology seems, suddenly, useless.

For me, and others sitting safely in Mission Control in Houston, we could depend only on a learning curve that started at a place that wasn't more than a complex of sand, marsh, and new, raw concrete and asphalt. It wasn't even Kennedy Space Center then. But it was our first classroom and laboratory. And all we had learned since those first, uncertain years would be what we had to work with to figure out what had happened -- and what to do about it.

November, 1960

As a former Air Force fighter pilot, I am not usually a nervous passenger, constantly staring out the window to make sure a wing hasn't fallen off or monitoring the noise of the engines. But for once, on that fateful day, November 2, 1960, I couldn't wait to get on the ground.

East Coast Airlines had only one flight a day from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia to South Florida, using creaky, old twin-engine Martins and Convairs. How long the flight took on one of those old prop aircraft on any given day depended on the size of the bugs that hit the windshield and slowed it down.

This time my eagerness had nothing to do with the condition of the aircraft. This was my first trip to Cape Canaveral, Florida, the launching site for the infant American space program. During the brief flight on the shaky Convair, I was absorbed in thoughts about the new battle in which I had elected to play a part. As an American, I hated to see our nation second in anything -- and I had no doubt we were second in space. I had seen an example of what Soviet technology could do as I watched MiG aircraft making contrails high in the sky over the demilitarized zone in Korea, higher than our F-86 fighters could climb. Now the Russians had utterly surprised us by launching the space race. This was a race we had to win and I wanted to be part of it. In a matter of weeks, I had given up my exhilarating work in aircraft testing to take a job with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), officially coming on board on October 17. Two weeks later I was on my way to the Cape, and my family -- my wife, Marta, and our two young daughters -- was camping out at a motel near Space Task Group headquarters at Langley. My instructions were pretty simple: get to Mercury Control and report for work.

Well, I thought, here I am, looking around for launch towers and gantries -- but all I could see looked like a regular old Air Force base. It turned out that my knowledge of the local geography was just a little bit hazy. We had landed at Patrick AFB and I literally did not know whether we were north or south of my destination. After the plane rolled to a stop and a couple of guys from base operations rolled a metal stairway out to the aircraft's door, a shiny new Chevrolet convertible wheeled to a halt just beyond the wingtip. An Air Force enlisted man popped out, saluted, and held open the car's door for a curly-haired guy in civilian clothes, a fellow passenger who deplaned ahead of me. That was unusual -- a nonmilitary vehicle cruising around the ramp of a military base. As I stepped onto the tarmac, I looked around for the man my boss had said would meet me. I didn't see anyone who seemed to be looking for me, so I started searching for a taxi or any form of transportation. I felt like a foreigner in a strange land.

The plane's baggage was being offloaded next to the operations building when the tall, thin, curly-haired guy now driving the Chevy yelled out, "C'mon, I bet you're going to the Cape." I suppose my military-style crew cut and ramrod-straight posture gave me away. As I nodded, he said, "Climb aboard."

After clearing the plane, he peeled into a 180-degree turn and raced along the ramp for 100 yards, my neck snapping back as he floored the Chevy. I had never driven this fast on a military base in my life. I was thinking I had hitched a ride with a madman, or at least someone who apparently had no concern about being pulled over by the Air Police for speeding and breaking every regulation in the book. This feeling was reinforced as we took a few hard rights and lefts, then roared toward the gate, momentarily braking as an Air Force military policeman snapped a salute and waved us through. I took a closer look at the stranger behind the wheel. He was hatless, wearing a Ban-Lon shirt. There was no gold braid on him. I wasn't accustomed to seeing a guy in a Ban-Lon shirt rate salutes.

Hitting the highway, he made a wide turn and a hard left, burning rubber. In no time, he had the needle quivering between eighty and ninety miles an hour. After a joyful cry of "Eeeee hah," he turned and offered his hand, saying, "Hi, I'm Gordo Cooper." I had just met my first Mercury astronaut. As I soon learned, if you saw someone wearing a short-sleeved Ban-Lon sport shirt and aviator sunglasses, you were looking at an astronaut. We humble ground-pounders wore ties and white shirts, and yes, those nerdy pencil-holding pocket protectors.

I thought of that handshake often in the many years that followed. Mercury worked because of the raw courage of a handful of men like Cooper, who sat in heavy metal eggcups jammed on the top of rockets, and trusted those of us on the ground. That trust tied the entire team into a common effort.

I took it as a good omen that Cooper, taking pity on a befuddled stranger, offered me a lift to the base. He was one of the seven former test pilots selected for the first class of astronauts. They had been introduced, unveiled like sculptures, in April of 1959. Instantly the media compared them to Christopher Columbus and Charles Lindbergh. Today, I wonder how many of them the average American could name. They were John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom, Wally Schirra, Donald K. (Deke) Slayton, Scott Carpenter, and Cooper. They were similar in size and build, partly because the design of the capsule ruled out anyone over five-foot-eleven.

All of them were white, all from small towns, all middle-class, and all Protestant. This was not the result of deliberate discrimination, but because at the time that was the kind of man who became a military test pilot. At this period it was hard for Americans from any minority to get into flight training. But the military, like the rest of the country, grew up and lived up to its fundamental commitment to equality, thanks in large measure to the civil rights movement that, like the space program in the same era, demanded conviction and courage.

That day when I arrived in Florida I stumbled into the future. I didn't have enough time even to learn the recently coined space jargon before the Mercury flight director, Chris Kraft, gave me the task of writing the operating procedures for Mercury flight controllers. Without knowing much about anything, I was telling people how to do everything, writing the rules for the control team that would support the Mercury-Redstone launch. Not only had I never laid eyes on the Mercury Control Center, I had never even seen, close up, any rocket big enough to carry a human payload.

I did not really research the program before I joined. I knew that it was called the "man in space project." Lyndon Johnson, then the Senate majority leader, was given the job by President Dwight Eisenhower of determining how we should respond to the Soviets' launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957. The impact of the first orbiting satellite, visible to the naked eye as it passed through the night sky over America, was profound. Sputnik was a shock to national pride -- Russian science had put the first object in outer space, giving Americans both an inferiority complex and a heightened sense of vulnerability in what was then the most intense phase of the Cold War. Out of this was born the "missile gap" between ourselves and the Soviet Union.

Years later we would discover that this "gap" was an intelligence myth. But the Soviet Union was indeed ahead in a space race that this tiny, rather primitive satellite had effectively initiated. Our adversary had developed rockets with greater thrust and throw weight -- for the military this meant ballistic missiles that could "throw" a heavier warhead a greater distance than anything in our arsenal.

The reverberations of that little sphere emitting its "beep-beep" radio signal as it sailed unrestricted through space were far reaching. Among other things, it would spark a massive federal education funding program, significantly called "The National Defense Education Act," to stimulate better teaching of math and science as well as foreign languages to more students throughout the country. A sleeping giant suddenly woke up.

One of the other immediate results of Sputnik was the National Space Act of 1958 and the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. To me, our leap into space was the logical next step beyond the X-15 rocket-powered aircraft. The problem was that our first "leaps" would be some fairly short hops. All of these factors had influenced my decision to join this embryonic program. It had been cautiously funded, was working from a somewhat thin base -- and was also a crash effort for everyone involved in it. I don't think that at the time I realized just how caught up I was in the excitement and challenge of this race. Nor could I have anticipated just how thrilling and dangerous, frustrating and inspiring the first lap in it would be. All of those involved were obsessed by a driving dream, working with an intensity that fused NASA employees and contractors, launch and flight operations into one powerful organism.

Cooper dropped me off at Mercury Control and I was greeted by the familiar face of the only person in the program I knew down at the Cape, Paul Johnson, a troubleshooter working for Western Electric, one of the subcontractors to Bendix in building the control center and the tracking network. Western Electric's responsibilities included radars, telemetry (radio signals to and from the rocket and spacecraft that told us how things were working -- and what wasn't) control consoles, and communications. These were the core systems. Western Electric quickly parlayed this into a responsibility for integrating operations, training, maintenance, and network communications. Paul was amazingly young for his responsibilities. He had an intuitive feel for this unprecedented development and deployment of technology, writing the specifications and testing procedures and doing everything that needed to be done to check out the largest "test range" in history, one that went around the globe.

"Kraft said you were coming down," he greeted me, smiling, "and I thought I'd give you a hand." During the next two days, Johnson gave me a master's degree in the art of mission control. He had been at the Cape for the preceding week and had been writing the manual on the team structure and operations. He handed it over to me to finish defining the standard operating procedures for Mercury Control, such as how to check out the console displays and communications, set the format for Teletype communications, and how specifically to request data from the technicians (politely but urgently).

I soon began to think of Paul as my guardian angel. From the moment I came on the job it seemed that whatever I was doing, wherever I turned, he was there. He always appeared when the pressure was on and I was happy to see him.

As I felt my way through a program inventing itself, Marta was moving from the motel into a new house in Hampton, Virginia. It was our fifth move in the four years since our marriage, setting up successive households in South Carolina, Texas, Missouri, New Mexico, and now Virginia. Carmen, our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, had been born in Texas, and Lucy, fourteen months, in New Mexico. Like most service families they were ready for anything, anytime.

The Space Task Group's launch team was permanently stationed at the Cape to support the test and checkout of the rocket and capsule. The flight team of which I was now a member, the astronauts, engineers, and program office operated from Langley Air Force Base and traveled to the Cape for each mission. I had been on the job in Virginia only two weeks, hardly long enough to figure out the pecking order, when Kraft walked up to my desk and said, "Everyone else is tied up. You're all I've got. We're coming up on our first Redstone launch. I'd like you to go down to the Cape, get with the test conductors and write a countdown. Then write some mission rules. When you finish give me a call and we'll come down and start training."

The shock on my face must have registered as Kraft continued: "I'll tell Paul Johnson to meet you at Mercury Control to give you a hand." When Kraft talked, his eyes never left mine. I was given this assignment mainly because I was available. In this period of intensive development, jobs were open all over the place; NASA was forming organizations for mission planning, recovery operations, astronaut training, launch operations, and Mercury Control. Every new hire with the requisite technical and scientific credentials was put into a job slot the minute he came on board.

Kraft was one of the original thirty-six members of the Space Task Group, most of whom stepped forward to do a job that had never been done. He recognized that someone had to be in charge of the ground effort and he volunteered to lead that effort. A graduate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Chris had worked at Langley in the aircraft stability and control laboratory. My senior by nine years, he did not immediately impress me as a leader, the way some of my early mentors had. Kraft led a step at a time, and each Mercury mission added a new dimension to his presence and style.

My days as an observer were over, my chance to get up to speed ended. This was the first indication that my job slot would be in Mercury Control. Some people in Mercury Control had technical experience working on the tracking stations or at the Cape on the Vanguard, Explorer, and Pioneer missions. Others, like me, came from aircraft flight testing or were engineers from the pilotless aircraft research program at Langley. From my work, most recently at Holloman AFB in New Mexico, I knew about flying, systems, procedures, and checklists. I could figure out what a countdown should contain. Mission rules were different. There had never before been such a mission in U.S. history -- I would just have to give it a shot. Since there were no books written on the actual methodology of space flight, we had to write them as we went along.

There was a relatively small group working down at Mercury Control, forty to fifty people. Some of them had grown up launching the early U.S. rockets derived from the German V-2 of the Second World War. Now, in a few months, we would attempt to send the first American into space. It was a scary thought, but not for anyone who had been around test pilots.

I had flown supersonic F-100s, which needed at least a mile to get off the runway on a good day. When you took off at 230 miles per hour, if the engine crapped out or you lost the afterburner, it could quickly become a bad day. But when you punched through the sound barrier it was a jolt of pure adrenaline. The SuperSabre looked like it was more than capable of carrying out its air superiority mission. But you had better be ready when you strapped yourself in. No matter how skilled you were in handling it, you were never sure when the elements or the aircraft, in a perverse way, would decide to test you. Every time I climbed aboard I could feel the thrill of tension and anticipation.

At Holloman AFB, where I had worked as a flight test engineer, we had been putting people into scary situations for years. It was not unusual for a guy to climb to an altitude of 100,000 feet in a balloon and then bail out in a parachute, falling 90,000 feet before his parachute opened. This was the environment of risk and these were the kinds of people who had been picked as the Mercury Seven astronauts.

Looking back, I can see now how minimal, even primitive, our facilities were at the time, both in the control center and in the blockhouse -- a massively reinforced structure placed as close as prudently possible to the launch pad where the guys who were responsible for the actual functioning of the rocket manned their posts. We tended to talk about "the Germans in the blockhouse" largely because Wernher von Braun and his cohorts, who had worked on the rocket programs, came to the United States after Germany's defeat in World War II. They were originally stationed near El Paso, Texas, and tested captured V-2 rockets for the military at the White Sands, New Mexico, test range. Later they were moved to permanent facilities at Huntsville, Alabama, and worked for the Army Redstone Arsenal. Most of the Germans became American citizens, adopting Huntsville as their home. In 1960 rocket development at the Redstone Arsenal was transferred to the newly formed Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), and von Braun, along with nearly 100 other German scientists and technicians, began work on a powerful series of rockets called Saturn I.

At this point in the space program, our communications network was actually run out of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. It had been named after Dr. Robert Goddard, the American pioneer in rocketry, who had developed rocket engine and guidance technology in the 1930s equal, if not superior in some respects, to what von Braun and his colleagues were working on as late as 1945. Goddard, one of my boyhood heroes, had had the backing of Charles Lindbergh, which enabled him to test his rockets in New Mexico, not far from the site where von Braun and his Germans would fire the first captured V-2 rockets in the late 1940s and test those that evolved from V-2 technology in the years that followed.

The German scientists and technicians would come back to the Cape occasionally for selected launches (particularly high-profile manned missions), but they had their hands full at Marshall developing a new generation of rockets. By the time NASA launch operations were forming up, American engineers were well acquainted with rockets, building on the experience of the Germans, as were the contractors producing the Redstone and Atlas missiles. While the new generation of American scientists and engineers was now doing the job, the first boosters in the manned spaceflight effort were barely adequate, as events would demonstrate. In many ways this technology was as "out on a limb" as Charles Lindbergh's Ryan monoplane. He didn't have any manuals either, and his facilities were primitive. Roosevelt Field in 1927 and Canaveral in 1960 had a few things in common. The massive Cape facility that would grow up in the next decade and soon become the Kennedy Space Center (which would include the largest enclosed space in the world, the vertical assembly building) was beyond our wildest dreams at the time....

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Plenty of books (and several films) have already tried to depict the space program's excitement; few of their creators had the first-person experience or the attention to detail Krantz has, whose role as flight control "White" his readers will admire or even wish to emulate." —-Publishers Weekly

Meet the Author

Eugene F. Kranz joined the NASA Space Task Group in 1960 and was Assistant Flight Director for Project Mercury (the original manned space missions). He continued as flight director for the Apollo 11 lunar landing. He is a co-recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work leading the Apollo 13 teams. Failure Is Not an Option is his first book. He lives with his family near Houston, Texas.

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Failure Is Not an Option 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 51 reviews.
bisbohemian More than 1 year ago
Kranz is one of my heroes. I use that term not in the way it is thrown about these days with careless abandon. No, I mean that in the way that counts. This man is a national treasure. He - and thousands of others just like him - made America great. This book brings the events - unimaginable in the current world - to life through real world insight into the days that saw America rise to her greatest achievements. Not becuase they were easy, but because they were hard. This book is a testament to the intelligence, cunning and bravery that made America great. Perhaps we will find that spirit once again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Outstanding book. Great detail about so many different episodes during our country's struggle to reach the moon. Makes me proud of our country. We need to look to space again!
tickledpinkDG More than 1 year ago
A great accounting of the space program from one who was there in the midst of all the action. A must read for anyone interested in early missions.
Guest More than 1 year ago
During the manned space flight program Mr. Gene Kranz, as a flight director, gave his attention to fine-tuning everything as he said in the title of his book, Failure is Not an Option. As he lived with that as his motto and worked with Apollo missions as a leader and a team member this helped the US space program be the success that it was. He has done it again with his book, FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION. Being on a site during the Gemini missions and working with some of the earlier flight controllers who worked for Gene Kranz I felt an important part of the team responsible for getting a man on the moon. Of course, after the Gemini mission and the beginning of the Apollo missions there were no flight controllers on site and we were working directly for the flight controllers in the States. His book has told the story of the manned program in a language everyone can understand. Holding back the tears when we found out what happened to the crew of Apollo 1 and holding our breath when we heard the astronauts describing what they knew about the Apollo 13 accident and then praying with everything we had for them to make it. That was the sad and suspenseful memories, which Mr. Gene Kranz has, give to me to relive. Setting on a console at the site and giving a, ¿CYI GO!¿ for an Apollo mission was the biggest thing I have ever done in my life. Gene has told it like it was without pulling punches.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading, and highly enjoying, books from many Apollo era astronauts (Shepard, Slayton, Lovell, Bean, Cernan, Collins), I wished I could learn more about the people living at the other end of the microphones, and about their work at developing, simulating and supporting America's first manned space missions. I once clearly said to myself 'What we need is a book from Gene Kranz!'. Just shortly later, I had the great surprise of finding that the said book was actually released. I immediately got it and found out that I was right. We did need to know about the complex aspects of the Mercury-Gemini-Apollo missions in a view somehow parallel from the astronaut's. It really made the whole picture clearer by looking at it from a different angle. I was fascinated to learn that it all started with just a few guys, no teacher, no how-to-do sheets (and also with one few-inch flight!), and developed into very well organized and performing teams of highly capable and dedicated persons, who could efficiently get people to the Moon and back. The book really makes us figure the importance of the quite large, complex and competent support teams whose work was as crucial as the astronauts' for each mission to achieve its objectives, and for a country to reach its goal. I especially appreciated his way of introducing and give credit to each individual he felt was important in making the challenge of the century successful. Thank you very much, Mr. Kranz, for spending the energy that allowed us to share the memories of someone who had the great opportunity to closely participate in such a key period of mankind history. Many thanks for letting us in the Mercury-Gemini-Apollo Mission Control rooms. After reading your book, I couldn't agree more with you: it really does look like the next best place to be from the spacecraft.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Being an avid apollo buff, this is a must for the collection. Being written from the controllers perspective, it puts a new spin on a subject that has been recorded and written about in great detail. Kranz captures the 'feel' of being part of that elite group of controllers. Imagine having a job that requires you to make life or death decisions within seconds, while having the whole world watching you. A great book by a great man!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was about time someone besides an astronaut wrote a book about Apollo and a great one it is. Nothing against the books by Deke Slayton, Buzz Aldren and Gene Cernan but they were all from the Astronaut's point of view and this one tells the story of the men behind the consoles at mission control. In this book we see how Nasa was built from the ground up. Young engineers recuited right out of college in many cases thrown together for the largest engineering project ever. What sets this book apart from the other books, as I said before, is it isn't written from the point of viw of the astronauts but the men in mission control. Apollo was a huge project and the truth is the astronauts were only a small part of the entire thing. Kranz does a fine job of telling the story. An example of some of the things we see created from scratch is the communication system for talking to the astronauts. Strung out all over the planet on ships, in the desert were these mini mission controls which had to be able to operate with mission control in Houston and on their own. This book really tells a whole new side of the Apollo story and although more technical than some other books on the subject is an easy read. Great book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Pressed in the memories of our minds is the phrase by Krantz: 'Failure is Not an Option'. What an appropriate title of this wonderful book. Long before Krantz began to pen his story, the events of that particular Apollo mission were forever pressed into our minds and hearts. Krantz and many others brought something good out of a particularly devastating event somewhere between Earth and the moon. Those of us who have grown up with the space program-from Sputnik to the International Space Station-shall never forget Apollo 13 and the missions which soared before and those that followed. Each one was a milestone and a big step that took us from this world to another one and back. Thanks to Gene Krantz and others like him who made a difference in our lives everyday and shared with us the greatest adventure of exploring space. This book by Krantz allows us the tremendous opportunity of once again 'listening to the roar' of the manned rockets. Through this book we can once again breathe, smell, and touch Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. We can live the space program and climb the skies once again. Thanks Gene Krantz. God Speed. You have given us one of the best with 'Failure Is Not an Option'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gene Kranz provides the reader with an invigorating and totally authentic glimpse into the culture and history of Mission Control as seen through one of the key participants of the time. The book is a compelling story that captures the readers and carries them along through the frustrations, uncertainties, anguishes and triumphs of the race to put an American on the moon. For people that remember firsthand the emotions of being a spectator watching along on TV, this book brings you in the middle of the action while rekindling your emotions all over again. I was a grade schooler when Alan Shephard made his first sub-orbital hop, in high school for Neil Armstrong's small step and the rescue of Apollo 13. Since that time, I went on to spend the last 20 years at Mission Control and this book is a validation of that time. This is a well told, important contribution to the history of the US space program during the development years leading up to the initial triumphs of humanity in space. This should be required reading for all current flight controllers and for anyone that wants to gain an understanding of what it took to get a man on the moon and safely back to earth.
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