From Publishers Weekly
With humanity and passion (and less swagger than Mike Mullane), Jones powerfully brings to life the world of the modern NASA astronaut. Confined to low Earth orbit, no longer tasked with high-profile trips to the Moon, a small corps of dedicated professional space travelers work on serious science and dream of the day they will fly into space. Countless on-the-ground training hours prepare the astronauts for the rigors of space travel—practicing an extravehicular space walk in a 10-million-gallon tank or being flung around in a 100,000-horsepower centrifuge to acclimate to the eight g's of force experienced on lift-off. A tested B-52 bomber pilot and planetary scientist, Jones still feels and expresses wonder at space flight: "I was thirty-nine when I stepped out on the pad [in 1994] with the rest of the crew, but I gazed up at Endeavor
with a child's amazement.... I shivered with excitement at the sight of my now-ready spaceship." While the twin tragedies of Challenger
hang over the story like a pall, Jones still manages to fire the spirit and invite the reader to imagine a place for humankind beyond planet Earth. (Feb.)
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Jones' memoir of his work as an astronaut in the 1990s is an unusually expressive contribution to the spaceflight genre. His descriptions of launches and landings--Jones made four of each in the space shuttle--are as engrossing as any in the literature, as is his appreciation for the extreme peril facing those who volunteer to ride a rocket into space. So why do they? Jones' personal explanations are probably typical: NASA's 1960s missions excited and intrigued him, and he ascended the aerospace technology career ladder by flying B-52s, earning a doctorate, doing engineering for the CIA, and joining NASA. Clearly professional advancement is one motivation, but the exhilaration of being in space, and the spectacular extraterrestrial vistas it affords, remains an inspiration self-evident in Jones' account. Still, being a meticulous technologist is the sine qua non of the astronaut, and lies behind the author's recurring comment that his greatest anxiety was not the prospect of death but making a mistake in his tasks. Jones will claim space buffs with his frankness and jargon--free fluency. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved