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Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight

Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight

3.7 8
by Jay Barbree, John Glenn (Foreword by)

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

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

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

In the course of his fifty-five-year career with NBC News, Jay Barbree is the only reporter to have covered all 166 American astronaut flights and moon landings. He received an Emmy Award for his coverage of the first walk on the moon, broke the cause of the Challenger accident, and still covers space for NBC.

Michael Prichard has recorded well over five hundred audiobooks and was named one of SmartMoney magazine's Top Ten Golden Voices. His numerous awards and accolades include an Audie Award and several AudioFile Earphones Awards.

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Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
isniffbooks More than 1 year ago
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. isniffbooks[dot]wordpress[dot]com 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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
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