Wheels Stop: The Tragedies and Triumphs of the Space Shuttle Program, 1986-2011

Overview

Humanity?s first reusable spacecraft and the most complex machine ever built, NASA?s Space Shuttle debuted with great promise and as a dependable source of wonder and national pride. But with the Challenger catastrophe in 1986, the whole Space Shuttle program came into question, as did NASA itself, so long an institution that was seemingly above reproach. Wheels Stop tells the stirring story of how, after the Challenger disaster, the Space Shuttle not only recovered but went on to perform its greatest missions. ...

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Overview

Humanity’s first reusable spacecraft and the most complex machine ever built, NASA’s Space Shuttle debuted with great promise and as a dependable source of wonder and national pride. But with the Challenger catastrophe in 1986, the whole Space Shuttle program came into question, as did NASA itself, so long an institution that was seemingly above reproach. Wheels Stop tells the stirring story of how, after the Challenger disaster, the Space Shuttle not only recovered but went on to perform its greatest missions. From the Return to Flight mission of STS-26 in 1988 to the last shuttle mission ever on STS-135 in 2011, Wheels Stop takes readers behind the scenes as the shuttle’s crews begin to mend Cold War tensions with the former Soviet Union, conduct vital research, deploy satellites, repair the Hubble Space Telescope, and assist in constructing the International Space Station. It also tells the heart-wrenching story of the Columbia tragedy and the loss of the magnificent STS-107 crew.

As complex as the shuttle was, the people it carried into orbit were often more so—and this is their story, too. Close encounters with astronauts, flight controllers, and shuttle workers capture the human side of the Space Shuttle’s amazing journey—and invite readers along for the ride.

Browse more spaceflight books at upinspace.org.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/07/2013
Flush with the glow of the 1969 Apollo moon landing, a technological and Cold War political triumph, NASA devoted itself to the space shuttle. This was an advanced vehicle that vastly expanded man’s spacefaring abilities and demonstrated the achievements as well as the problems of a complex government program in which (unlike Apollo) money was an object. Journalist Houston (Second to None: The History of the NASCAR Busch Series) writes 10 long, more or less chronological chapters on the 135 flights. Clearly a space buff and not a historian, he fills his account with astronaut biographies, interviews, and quotes; technical details; personal rivalries; and often stormy NASA politics. The Challenger and Columbia disasters receive their grim chapters along with another on the greatest achievement—launching and caring for the Hubble Space Telescope. Readers will find the section on American–Russian space flights absorbing, and will be mourning the end of the shuttle program by the final chapter. America has no manned program in the works, so those curious about the next big step must look to China and console themselves with this enthusiastic portrayal of the heroic age of American space travel. (Dec)
Milt Heflin

“When we talk about the Space Shuttle, we talk about the people. Author Rick Houston’s work here takes it a step further. He reaches to the heart and soul of the people.”—Milt Heflin, former lead Space Shuttle flight director and chief of the flight director office
Chris Bergin

“With the Space Shuttle program now at an end, documenting the amazing thirty-year career of these iconic orbiters holds an untold amount of historical importance. Spaceflight isn’t easy, people pay in blood and sweat to make it happen. Author Rick Houston lends a voice to some of the key people involved in what is not only an American treasure but a global superstar.”—Chris Bergin, managing editor, NASASpaceflight.com
Dr. Scott Parazynski
“Rick Houston skillfully recounts the shuttle program from a front row center seat, full of engaging, first person accounts—direct from the flight deck and the vacuum of space during some of the program’s wildest spacewalks. From triumph to tragedy and back again, this book is the next best thing to being there.”—Dr. Scott Parazynski, five-time shuttle astronaut and Everest mountaineer
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Rick Houston, a full-time journalist for more than twenty years, is the author of Second to None: The History of the NASCAR Busch Series and Man on a Mission: The David Hilmers Story and a contributor to Footprints in the Dust: The Epic Voyages of Apollo, 1969–1975 (Nebraska, 2010). Jerry Ross, a former astronaut, shares the world record for the most spaceflights flown with seven to his credit. He is the author of Spacewalker.
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