Sunday, July 15, 2007

Mike Mullane - Riding Rockets

This is one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read. It's tricky for me to know for sure that you'd enjoy it too, I guess that may depend on your age, and your interest in the American space project. But regardless, this is a truly very interesting book, lifting the lid as it does on just what it takes to get on board a Space Shuttle, not just from yourself, but from those around you too.
  And it turns out that what it takes is not particularly balls of steel, though they would help, but more, determination. Single minded determination to get to do and see what others will never experience... but at a price.

The book takes you through Mike's childhood obsession with space, the help he received from his disabled father, his fight with poor eyesight to get onto the programme, and the traumas his family suffered to keep his dream alive, and finally his moments of euphoria in space. And also the fairly awful truth of how the Challenger disaster could easily have been avoided if everyone at NASA had been pulling in the same direction.
But this is no dry description of his life, it's full of humour and a self deprecating exposé of his earlier non-PC self. The book has a lot in it about women's emancipation and Mike and his male colleagues reaction to it, which is 'historically' interesting when you come to think how recently his former views on the subject held sway.

Through all the fear, discomfort, pain, emotional upheaval and general angst that came along with his flights, I will also take away his marvellous descriptions of the nights he spent aboard the shuttle looking out of the tiny windows enjoying the view, listening to uplifting tunes on his walkman. He's done us all a favour by recounting just how wonderful the experience is, cos sure as eggs is eggs, not many of us are going to see it!

Highly recommended, 10/10, you could buy the paperback version here.

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