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Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut Paperback – Bargain Price, February 6, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With a testosterone-fueled swagger and a keen eye for particulars, Mullane takes readers into the high-intensity, high-stress world of the shuttle astronaut in this rough-hewn yet charming yarn of low-rent antics, bureaucratic insanity and transcendent beauty. Mullane opens this tale face down on a doctor's table awaiting a colorectal exam that will determine his fitness for astronaut training. "I was determined when the NASA proctologist looked up my ass, he would see pipes so dazzling he would ask the nurse to get his sunglasses," he writes, setting the tone for the crude and often hilarious story that follows. Chosen as a trainee in 1978, Mullane, a Vietnam vet, quickly finds himself at odds with the buttoned-up post-Apollo NASA world of scientists, technocrats and civilian astronauts he describes as "tree-huggers, dolphin friendly fish eaters, vegetarians, and subscribers to the New York Times." He holds female astronauts in special disregard, though he later grudgingly acknowledges the achievement and heroism of both the civilians and women. The book hits its stride with Mullane's space adventures: a difficult takeoff, the shift into zero gravity, his first view of the Earth from space: "To say the view was overwhelmingly beautiful would be an insult to God." (Feb. 14)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

One of the first astronaut memoirs from the space-shuttle era tells a thoroughly absorbing story. Mullane, an air force brat, flew 134 missions in Vietnam. In the late 1970s, he volunteered for the shuttle program, was accepted, and flew three orbital missions before retiring. His accounts of those missions are gripping. They leave one in no doubt that the shuttle was a somewhat imperfect instrument that somehow still performed marvels. Mullane also pays tribute to his fellow astronauts, a small community that suffered with every death or other loss to the "family" it constituted, and to his wife, who endured 40 years of the stresses of being a pilot's partner. And while this isn't an expose, Mullane makes it clear that NASA's corporate culture wasn't optimal for getting the results it sought. Despite the shuttle's apparent failures, the era when it was America's mainstay in space laid groundwork for the future, and further shuttle chronicles are needed and deserved. A strong addition to science and space collections of any size. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (February 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743276833
  • ASIN: B000WMKK9W
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (214 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,430,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Mark R. Whittington VINE VOICE on February 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mike Mullane was, by his own account, one of the traditional, right stuff military pilot astronauts. The swagger that must have been in his step is evident in this story of his experiences as a shuttle era astronaut. Mullane proves himself to be a splendid raconteur, making even the tedious seem entertaining. From the rigors of trying to pass medical tests, to the excitement of space travel, to the down and dirty vagaries of NASA office politics, Mullane tells it all and tells it well. Well know personalities are given form, warts and all. Many people have concluded that the whole shuttle experience was an unfortunate decades long detour between the end of Apollo and the upcoming return of human explorers to the Moon. But Mullanes story gives it an air of romance and, with the Challenger disaster, of tragedy. It was an era where the right stuff time of macho, astronaut pilots gave way to a more corporate culture that included women, scientists, and other non traditional astronauts. This is by far the best astronaut memoir ever written and it should be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in space history, what really goes on at NASA, or just a crackling great story. Highly recommended.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Jay M. Chladek on May 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In terms of astronaut autobiographies (and biographies), there isn't that much out there on shuttle astronauts. With the program winding down, we are starting to see some and IMHO Mike has set a pretty high bar (or low depending on your point of view). It is admittedly not a book for kids, unless they have the maturity to understand some of the humorous bits for what they are. Some adults even might be offended by the seemingly crass "toilet" humor, but it puts things into proper perspective about what life as an astronaut must have been like at the time. This is important to consider since I don't watch movies or comedy with "toilet" humor themes. But, I was brought up in a military family in the 1970s and have encountered similar characters in uniform to those that Mike describes in his book. So the humor does have its place in the context of this story.

The early childhood stuff is a fun read in and of itself. I too played with rockets as a kid. But of course it wasn't as dangerous as it was when Mike was flying them. The teenage and college years at West Point are also fascinating in terms of what it meant to grow up as a Catholic and be madly in love with someone (or lust) just to keep from going insane.

When the book gets to NASA's early shuttle days, you get insights into several of the characters that formed that first class of shuttle astronauts. Judy Resnik is the one people talk about the most, obviously considering her loss on Challenger. Considering it is doubtful we will ever read a dedicated biography of Judy Resnik, this book probably provides the best insight into her life as an astronaut.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Justin Winokur on June 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book because it looked interesting. I put it aside for about two weeks beofore starting it but once i did, i read it in less than a week.

Overall, the book was very good. It was never one of those, "I can't put it down" books but i always did look forward to having time to read it. I think that despite some other reviewers problems, Mike was more than fair and wasn't afraid to admit when he was wrong or how much he has grown since his "AD" (arrested development - referring to the sexist, immature attitude imparted on him by the USAF).

I truly enjoyed the insight into NASA and management practices in general. There were also many "laugh out loud moments"
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Maggie on June 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I've read nearly every astronaut book out there, and it's very interesting to compare and contrast them - some astronauts are more forthcoming than others, some more humorous. But I really appreciate the astronaut authors who don't sugarcoat their experiences and their opinions at the risk of making themselves look bad. Mullane is one such author. A self-admitted chauvanist when he began his career at NASA in the 70s, Mullane provides a snapshot of the times. His stories about himself and the other NASA astronauts are always entertaining, even the offensive ones - they give a picture of astronauts are real people, not demi-gods.

One of the more eye opening aspects of the book are the details of the issues at NASA and with the shuttle program, and the near misses many of the missions had. I appreciated the insider's look at what the families of astronauts go through, and an attempt to understand what drives the astronauts to deal with the very real risk of spaceflight, even after seeing 7 of their friends killed by the very thing they desire above everything.

The book was just one man's life journey, and an attempt to put his experiences in some sort of perspective - because he was there for nearly the entire shuttle program, and it's not something we outsiders often have an inside view of. It's definitely worth a read. It made me laugh, cringe, mourn, and most importantly, think.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Gary L. Steinbeck on August 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The book is an excellent read especially for those familiar with the space program or worked in the field. This especially applies to me as I was an instructor for the Apollo Astronauts and the Shuttle Astronauts from 1966 until 1992. Mike's book is the first book that has ever given any credit to the Training Team. In the past, I have never read anything that gives credit to the instructors that trained the Astronauts. Very seldom is credit ever given to the people that built the Apollo spacecraft or the Shuttle either. How many people can name the contractors? Hmmmmm I give credit to Mike for being honest about the NASA management and expressing his feelings. Many of us were not able to do that because we were contractors and NASA was our customer. I found nothing disagreeable with his thoughts and feelings in this area. I especially liked his personal feelings about his family and the crew members. I could not put the book down. I said "YES" outloud many many times in agreement with his comments. It almost inspires me to write a book myself to add to his story. If you are interested in the space program you better read this book..........thanks Mike
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