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Failure is not an Option: Mission Control…

Failure is not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and… (2000)

by Eugene Kranz

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A really good overview of what went on at Mission Control during the birth of America's manned space program. Kranz is somewhat clinical in his descriptions and you won't find any dirty secrets or revelations. He also gets preachy about what he perceives as a lack of willingness to continue manned space flight by leadership without giving any justification beyond planting flags. In spite of this, Failure Is Not an Option will provide anyone who didn't live through the time period a lens into what it was like and just how bare-bones the materials NASA was working with were. Although not as dramatic as the movies, it is thorough and well written. Definitely worth reading if you have any interest in space exploration. ( )
  csayban | Oct 7, 2016 |
This book is way to detailed. The minutia that are provided are no interest to me and I would think most people would agree. I did not finish the book because I felt it would be a waste of my time. I would not recommend this book unless you are interested in a detailed history of the space program from an insider. ( )
  GlennBell | May 31, 2016 |
When it comes to the space program, most books focus on the astronauts, but the readers do themselves an incredible injustice by skipping the other 95% of the action. This book covers those heroes. I had always thought of Mission Control as similar to Air Traffic Controllers. If the tower isn't open, planes can still land on their own with a specific set of procedures. But Mission Control is just that - they are as integral to the mission as the astronauts and the rockets - every one of them.

For every action of the astronauts - from docking, to EVAs, to even taking a poop, there was someone on the ground whose job it was to worry about that specific aspect of it and how it impacted every other part of the mission. These amazing specialist controllers worked and trained with the primary and the backup astronaut crews to develop the specific procedures for performing every action (potential and planned) the whole team might foreseeably encounter. When it came time to perform those actions, the makeup of the shift of controllers would be the specialists in those areas. So when the action changed from launch to docking rendezvous, the controller shift changed, too.

The Apollo 14 mission is one great example. Paraphrasing a chapter, one of the controllers had detected a problem with the ABORT switch. After a quick conference with other specialists, they called a backroom of other experts who was there to specifically back him up. Behind that back room of specialists was a software team from MIT on the line waiting just in case. While the astronauts were preparing and proceeding with their lunar descent, the MIT team had written a software patch, the back room team had tested it with the backup astronaut crew in the SIM and then transmitted to the crew. Without their efforts, the landing would have been scrubbed.

As another example, every time the launch was put on hold, there was a trajectory controller who performed the calculations for the new trajectory and upload it to the computers. You have to think, every minute means a new trajectory!

The Apollo 13 movie only hints at the immense pressure these guys were under. No rocket was perfect and every mission required troubleshooting (and fixing) one set of problems after another. Live. Thanks to Gene for giving these guys their due.

Another book that I think of as essential is Deke Slayton's book, "Deke!" This bridges the gap between astronauts and admin and how many of the decisions were made (such as who was first in space or on the moon). ( )
  Hae-Yu | May 5, 2015 |
Give this book to someone who wants to be a leader. Kranzs' book is the Right Stuff for the Geek crowd. This book is a good a history of the early space program. Its also a book about leading during crisis. I wish I had read it when I was young. ( )
  Cataloger623 | Nov 8, 2014 |
This audio book explained more terms than I ever knew existed, but kept my attention the whole while. One anachronism that assaulted my ears several times was to hear the space program furthering the cause of mankind. How fast one's ear becomes attuned to more inclusive language.

Throughout the memoir, Kranz stressed the value of hard work, integrity, and teamwork. Preparation and more prep was the entire game. Knowing everything was all one needed to know. Yes, as simple as that.

Danny Campbell did an excellent job of narration. ( )
  kaulsu | Aug 13, 2014 |
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With love to my wife, Marta, and our children, Carmen, Lucy, Joan, Mark, Bridid, and Jean
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"Houston, we have a problem."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0425179877, Paperback)

In 1957, the Russians launched Sputnik and the ensuing space race. Three years later, Gene Kranz left his aircraft testing job to join NASA and champion the American cause. What he found was an embryonic department run by whiz kids (such as himself), sharp engineers and technicians who had to create the Mercury mission rules and procedure from the ground up. As he says, "Since there were no books written on the actual methodology of space flight, we had to write them as we went along."

Kranz was part of the mission control team that, in January 1961, launched a chimpanzee into space and successfully retrieved him, and made Alan Shepard the first American in space in May 1961. Just two months later they launched Gus Grissom for a space orbit, John Glenn orbited Earth three times in February 1962, and in May of 1963 Gordon Cooper completed the final Project Mercury launch with 22 Earth orbits. And through them all, and the many Apollo missions that followed, Gene Kranz was one of the integral inside men--one of those who bore the responsibility for the Apollo 1 tragedy, and the leader of the "tiger team" that saved the Apollo 13 astronauts.

Moviegoers know Gene Kranz through Ed Harris's Oscar-nominated portrayal of him in Apollo 13, but Kranz provides a more detailed insider's perspective in his book Failure Is Not an Option. You see NASA through his eyes, from its primitive days when he first joined up, through the 1993 shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, his last mission control project. His memoir, however, is not high literature. Kranz has many accomplishments and honors to his credit, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but this is his first book, and he's not a polished author. There are, perhaps, more behind-the-scenes details and more paragraphs devoted to what Cape Canaveral looked like than the general public demands. If, however, you have a long-standing fascination with aeronautics, if you watched Apollo 13 and wanted more, Failure Is Not an Option will fill the bill. --Stephanie Gold

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:21 -0400)

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An insider's account of Mission Control from the early years of trying to catch the Russians to the end of the manned space program. Behind the scenes stories, including the painful self examination that took place following the Apollo 1 disaster.

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