The real-life techno-thriller from a bestselling author and aviation expert that recaptures the historic moments leading up to the launch of the space shuttle Columbia and the exciting story of her daring maiden flight.
Using interviews, NASA oral histories, and recently declassified material, Into the Black pieces together the dramatic untold story of the Columbia mission and the brave people who dedicated themselves to help the United States succeed in the age of space exploration. On April 12, 1981, NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia blasted off from Cape Canaveral. It was the most advanced, state-of-the-art flying machine ever built, challenging the minds and imagination of America’s top engineers and pilots. Columbia was the world’s first real spaceship: a winged rocket plane, the size of an airliner, and capable of flying to space and back before preparing to fly again.
On board were moonwalker John Young and test pilot Bob Crippen. Less than an hour after Young and Crippen’s spectacular departure from the Cape, all was not well. Tiles designed to protect the ship from the blowtorch burn of re-entry were missing from the heat shield. If the damage to Columbia was too great, the astronauts wouldn’t be able to return safely to earth. NASA turned to the National Reconnaissance Office, a spy agency hidden deep inside the Pentagon whose very existence was classified. To help the ship, the NRO would attempt something never done before. Success would require skill, perfect timing, and luck.
Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, Into the Black is a thrilling race against time and the incredible true story of the first space shuttle mission that celebrates our passion for spaceflight.
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
Rowland White is the author of three critically acclaimed works of aviation history: Vulcan 607, Phoenix Squadron, and Storm Front. All three have been Sunday Times top ten bestsellers. His most recent novel is Into the Black.
Table of Contents
Foreword Richard Truly xiii
Author's Note xvii
Prologue: The Next Generation 1
Part 1 In and Out of the Shadows 7
Part 2 Mojave 149
Part 3 In the Balance 179
Part 4 Ignition! 257
Epilogue: Brought Down 397
Appendix: STS-1 Graphics and Location Maps 425
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The is a fabulous book. Anyone with a passing interest in the space program will find a great deal of interesting and new material in this book. It explodes the myth that the Space Shuttle was a routine, pedestrian program and the the astronauts were not daring risk takers like their Mercury, Gemini and Apollo predecessors. The brings their personalities alive and introduces the reader to cast of brilliant public servants who designed, build and flew the shuttle.
I’ve been enthralled with space since learning about the planets in second grade, so I was eager to read the new book Into the Black: The Extraordinary Untold Story of the First Flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the Men Who Flew Her by Rowland White. Based on interviews, NASA oral histories, and recently declassified material, Into the Black charts the saga of the Columbia’s first mission and the people who dedicated themselves to help the United States succeed in the age of space exploration. Among the things I found particularly interesting: The Air Force began planning its own Manned Orbiting Laboratory in 1963. Many military test pilots opted for the MOL, believing they’d have a better chance to fly with the Air Force than NASA. When the MOL program was cancelled in 1969, the MOL astronauts were restricted in where and what they could do next because of the classified intel they’d learned. Serving in Vietnam was out of the question, should they be shot down. Someone suggested calling NASA, but they didn’t need more astronauts. They already had a lot. And if they did join NASA, no flights would be available for a decade, at least. NASA required Air Force support to get the shuttle. The Air Force was happy using reliable, relatively affordable, expendable Titan rockets launched at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. They didn’t need a shuttle to carry their payloads into orbit. Both the Air Force and the CIA offered no more than reluctant commitment to the shuttle. Their satellites weren’t compatible with the shuttle. Since 1959, an Air Force test group in Hawaii had been retrieving film recovery capsules ejected from orbiting US reconnaissance satellites as they descended by parachute to the Pacific. As the film descending, an AF plane snagged it in a net. Nixon okayed the space shuttle, saying, “Spaceflight is here to stay… and we’d best be part of it.” In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, “We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.” It was Nixon who named the new space transportation system “Space shuttle.” When Skylab was damaged during launch in 1973, NASA had no idea whether astronauts could repair it, or what tools they might need. An Air Force spy satellite took photos of the space station. Men in dark suits arrived at NASA, and showed the engineers photos showing the damage. On taking the pictures away with them, they told the engineers, “You never saw these photos and we we’ve never been here.” It had taken days to the photos to be recovered, developed, and taken to NASA. Real-time intervention might have been possible if the Air Force had been allowed to have its Manned Orbiting Laboratory. The shuttle’s journey from design to working spacecraft was long and potholed. The engines and the heat shield tiles bedeviled engineers for years. Impatient to move the shuttle along, NASA was inclined to skip redundant testing. NASA’s impatience would crop up again in management’s careless launch of Challenger in freezing temperatures in 1985. Eighteen years later, NASA’s unwillingness to ask for a spy satellite photo to inspect Columbia for damage condemned the shuttle and its crew of seven. Columbia’s first flight in 1981 saw hot plasma gas seep into the starboard main landing gear door through gaps in the tiles during reentry. The aluminum skin of the door structure softened and buckled, but did not affect the orbiter’s landing.