Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight

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Much has been written about Neil Armstrong, America’s modern hero and history’s most famous space traveler. Yet shy of fame and never one to steal the spotlight Armstrong was always reluctant to discuss his personal side of events. Here for the first time is the definitive story of Neil’s life of flight he shared for five decades with a trusted friend – Jay Barbree.

Working from 50 years of conversations he had with Neil, from notes, interviews, NASA spaceflight transcripts, and...

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Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight

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Much has been written about Neil Armstrong, America’s modern hero and history’s most famous space traveler. Yet shy of fame and never one to steal the spotlight Armstrong was always reluctant to discuss his personal side of events. Here for the first time is the definitive story of Neil’s life of flight he shared for five decades with a trusted friend – Jay Barbree.

Working from 50 years of conversations he had with Neil, from notes, interviews, NASA spaceflight transcripts, and remembrances of those Armstrong trusted, Barbree writes about Neil’s three passions – flight, family, and friends. This is the inside story of Neil Armstrong from the time he flew combat missions in the Korean War and then flew a rocket plane called the X-15 to the edge of space,  to when he saved his Gemini 8 by flying the first emergency return from Earth orbit and then flew Apollo-Eleven to the moon’s Sea of Tranquility.

Together Neil and Jay discussed everything, from his love of flying, to the war years, and of course his time in space. The book is full of never-before-seen photos and personal details written down for the first time, including what Armstrong really felt when he took that first step on the moon, what life in NASA was like, his relationships with the other astronauts, and what he felt the future of space exploration should be.

As the only reporter to have covered all 166 American astronaut flights and moon landings Jay knows these events intimately. Neil Armstrong himself said, “Barbree is history’s most experienced space journalist. He is exceptionally well qualified to recall and write the events and emotions of our time.” Through his friendship with Neil and his dedicated research, Barbree brings us the most accurate account of his friend’s life of flight, the book he planned for twenty years.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) was meant to soar. As a teenager, the man destined to be the first human walk on the Moon flew solo before he had a driver's license. His love of flight continued. During the Korean War, he flew more than 75 missions, and he later excelled as a test pilot, flying more than 200 different models of aircraft. And then he became an astronaut. Over the decades, much has been written about this mythic man, but few journalists were able to penetrate the well-known reticence of the veteran astronaut. The author of this book had unique access. Jay Barbree (Moon Shot; Live from Cape Canaveral) not only covered all 166 American space flights and moon landings; he was also Neil Armstrong's trusted friend for five decades. The definitive biography.

Publishers Weekly
NBC News correspondent Barbree (Moon Shot) has covered space travel for nearly six decades, including every American manned space launch, and here centers on the career of Neil Armstrong (1930–2012), who during the historic Apollo 11 mission became the first man to walk on the Moon. Barbree focuses on Armstrong as a pilot and astronaut, starting with his Korean War service before moving on to his long association with NASA. While he branches out to address some of Armstrong’s personal life, this is primarily a story of the space race, with copious attention given to the events leading up to and including the Moon landing. Barbree draws on conversations, transcripts, and interviews to reconstruct the space age’s most exciting and dramatic moments, fleshing them out with numerous photos and his own experiences. Indeed, he claims an almost worshipful friendship with Armstrong to convey an intimate association with the otherwise taciturn astronaut. Barbree’s feelings and passions are made clear in a scathing indictment of the American space program in the decades following the Moon landing and its failure to capitalize on the opportunity. The concentration on Armstrong’s space-related career makes this less than a definitive biography, but it’s still an eye-opening and entertaining tale of the race to the Moon. Photos. Agent: Elizabeth Kaplan. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
A longtime NBC News space correspondent looks back on the aviation career of the first man to set foot on the moon.Given his starring role in one of history’s most magnificent achievements, shouldn’t Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) be a bigger deal? FollowingApollo 11’strailblazing 1969 flight, Armstrong worked a couple of years for NASA, then taught for a few more at the University of Cincinnati. Except for a brief, high-profile role investigating the causes of theChallengerdisaster and an occasional speaking engagement, he assiduously avoided the spotlight, never cashing in on his fame. By the time of his death, he easily passed unrecognized in public. Barbree (“Live From Cape Canaveral”: Covering the Space Race, From Sputnik to Today, 2007, etc.), who covered every American manned space flight and became especially friendly with Armstrong, nevertheless barely pierces the habitual Armstrong reserve. Except for occasional tidbits of personal information—the astronaut’s friendship with John Glenn, the premature death of his daughter, the fire that razed his home—this account focuses primarily on Armstrong the pilot, particularly his coolness in tight spots: ejecting from a shot-up fighter plane in Korea, recovering from a “stuck thruster” in orbitaboardGemini 8, ejecting from the lunar lander training module just before it crashed, and famously guiding theEagleto touchdown in the Sea of Tranquility with fuel running dangerously low. These moments take up the bulk of Barbree’s amiable account. He supplies useful context by examining the origins and development of NASA’s manned flight program, including a good deal of information about astronaut training. The author insists that Armstrong never regarded himself as special and never lobbied to be first on the moon; he saw himself merely as next in line to take what turned out to be “a ‘Lindbergh’ step in flight.”A wholly admiring assessment of Armstrong the aviator and Armstrong the man.
From the Publisher
"Michael Prichard is his usual solid self, not adding false emotion to a story that is filled with excitement. At the same time, he varies his tone and pacing to keep the narrative flowing." ---AudioFile
Library Journal
★ 06/01/2014
Veteran news correspondent Barbree offers an intimate view into the life of Neil Armstong (1930–2012), his friend as well as a national hero and very private person. The author paints a detailed and colorful picture of his subject and an unbiased depiction of the period in which he lived, while also demonstrating reverence for Armstrong as a confidant. The book starts with Armstrong's experience in the Korean War and takes the reader through the ups and downs of the astronaut's life and career, the space program, Armstrong's first steps on the moon, his thoughts on the closing of the lunar exploration program in 2010, and his death in 2012. VERDICT This easy-to-read, compelling, and well-written view of an American hero is recommended for those interested in history, biography, early space programs around the world, and the science of space flight.—Dawn Lowe-Wincentsen, Oregon Inst. of Technology, Portland
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250040718
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/8/2014
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 63,466
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Prichard is a professional narrator and stage and film actor who has played several thousand characters during his career. An Audie Award winner, he has recorded well over five hundred books and has earned several AudioFile Earphones Awards. Michael was also named a Top Ten Golden Voice by SmartMoney magazine.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 8, 2014

    Neil Armstrong was a very private person. And to the best of my

    Neil Armstrong was a very private person. And to the best of my knowledge, unlike many of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo
    astronauts, Neil did not personally author anything on his spaceflight experiences. He is also noticeably absent from the In the
    Shadow of the Moon documentary from 2007.  So this biography penned by Jay Barbree is a real treat, and not just for the
    subject matter alone, but for Barbree’s credentials. Barbree was a pilot, a close friend of Neil’s, and has a long, outstanding
    career in spaceflight news reporting. Barbree writes with a true insider’s point of view.  The story is about Neil, of course,
    but it’s also about the achievements of other test pilots, astronauts, and cosmonauts who paved the way for Neil to be the
    first man to step on the moon.  Overall, Barbree gives the reader a true sense of being a participant in the activities, whether in
     training, up in space, in mission control, or with Neil’s friends and family.

    This book isn’t just for fans of Neil Armstrong or fans of spaceflight.  It’s for anyone who wants an exhilarating and emotional
    reading experience.  It’s for armchair explorers who want to relive the nail-biting nervousness and excitement of all those “firsts”
     in early manned spaceflight. It’s for anyone who wants to cheer for the USA as NASA rallied to the challenge of Kennedy’s goal
    of landing a man on the moon by the end of 1969.  NASA and its subcontractors accomplished the stuff dreams are made of —
    all of which culminated with three men leaving Earth in July 1969, traveling nearly 250,000 miles (one way!), and two of them
     placing their feet on the moon!!!  If that’s not exciting, then I don’t know what is!

    I do have some quibbles.  And while my list seems long, my quibbles did not prevent me from enjoying the well-researched
    and action-packed narrative.

    1.  John Glenn’s name is on the front cover as authoring the forward, but it is a half page at best.

    2.  I noticed some grammatical errors, missing commas and periods, mainly in the first half of the book.  

    3.  I’m a huge spaceflight fan , so I didn’t have any problems understanding the lingo used in the book. But a short glossary
    of airflight and spaceflight terms would have been helpful for others.

    5.  And likewise, I wish Barbree explained the importance and purpose of the Gemini program and why Armstrong and
    Scott’s docking event in Gemini 8 was so significant.

    6.  I definitely would have liked more information about Neil’s teaching career, other work, and personal life after he retired from
    NASA shortly after Apollo 11.  I know the subtitle is “A life in flight,” but Neil was more than just an astronaut although that is
    how we tend to define him. 

    7.  In regards to the Challenger tragedy and discovering what went wrong, this chapter seems to focus more on the author’s
    role, rather than Neil’s.

    8.  The book would have had such a stronger and more powerful finish if the narrative stopped at the top of page 349.  
    I didn’t think the viral e-mail anecdote (which I had never even heard of) added any value at all to the biography.  I don’t even
     know why Barbree was motivated to include it since he alludes that the anecdote was an annoyance to Neil.

    Disclosure:  I received a complimentary review copy from Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press under
    Macmillan Publishers.  The opinions are my own.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2014



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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2014

    A Disappointment

    I don't know who the author's intended audience was, but this book would be a reasonably entertaining read for un upper elementary - middle school student. It consistently fails to explore deeper issues in Armstrong's life and times. A famously private man, Armstrong seldom revealed much in public about himself. This supposed insider's reveal doesn't fill in any of the blanks, and leaves plenty of gaping holes. Don't bother if you're looking for anything beneath the surface.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2014

    Shatter's legacy

    It wasn't the sun that woke me that day, or the never ending breeze. It was the feeling in the pit of my stomach telling me to run, far away. But I never ran, and if I had I never would have know the destiny set down for me, I never would have known the cats I do, my life would be a different story, another fork in the road, but I made my choice to bow down to my destiny and accept the choice already made for me.<br>
    "Jaykit!" The soft yet exited squeel sounded in my ear waking up every nerve in my body. "Hmmm?" I mumbled sleepily. "Jaykit wake up! Hawkkit and Robinkit are outside playing with mama!" I opened my bleary eyes squinting in the powerful sunlight, I reached out with my forpaws to stretch them only to find a large furry object blocking their path. I let out an exasperated sigh. "Falconkit move!" I pushed him away and stumbled to my paws, a yawn escaped me and obviously effected Falconkit too, because he found himself stiffling a yawn. After finishing our yawning he cuffed me around he ears, I yelped. "What was that for?" He shrugged and padded out of the den, tail held high and waving. "Comin' sis?" He called back to me I rolled my eyes and followed him.<br>
    "I am Robinstar of the great KK!" My mother flinched when my sister Robin spoke, the KK had been Ice's former home, the one she missed sorely. She had tried to join the evil cats who rampaged the twoleg's cities known as Bloodclan, but she was used to the life of the KK and left them soon after their leaders switched. <br>
    "Jaykit, Falconkit! Hurry up!" My brother Hawkkit growled, he was always grumpy and anoying. Me and Falconkit exchanged a glance and padded over to the two of them. <br>
    Another day gone, another day just begun. As my mother used to say, she would tell us stories every night about the KK and a strange cat called Fox who looked alot like a Fox and was called a kip, a cross between a cat and a fox. Ice would tell us about the nickname of Foxy Loxy and a kit named Dimkit, often refered to by Fox as Dimwit. Ice's stories filled us with a hunger for power, somthing she never had. It didn't affect me and Falconkit as bad as it affected Robinkit and Hawkkit, but it still made us wonder.<br>
    Our days as inocent kits passed quickly, and the older we got, the more nervous Ice got. She began to get colder, she spent oftentimes days at a time away from us and when she returned she would snap and hiss at us. She acted like we were miserable bugs that kept pestering her and she never could rid herself of us. Very soon me and Falconkit began to see the show of love Ice showed to Hawkkit and Robinkit, and the hate and scorn she showered upon us, we felt hated and lost. <br>
    "Well rhen if she is so precious to you why didn't you come and get her whn you said you would!" Me and my littermates awoke to the common yowling and snapping that came from our mother, exept this time it wasn't directed towards us. "What did you two do now?" Hawkkit asked us. "No-" Hawkkit swiped his tail across Falconkit's mouth before he could finish. "Shut up! Your voice sickens me!" Robinkit snickered at our brother's outburst and joined in with her own cruel jokes. <br>
    The teasing was nothing new to us but it still left me with a sick feeling in my stomach. What did I ever do to them? Why do they hate me? Why do they hate us...<br>
    We never did know who Mother had been argueing with, she never told us but whoever it was, came back.<br>

    0 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2014

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    Posted November 17, 2014

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    Posted June 8, 2014

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    Posted July 19, 2014

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