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Thirteen: The Apollo Flight That Failed 1st Edition

64 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0801850974
ISBN-10: 0801850975
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Editorial Reviews


Cooper's Thirteen is exciting... Close to what may be an authentic poetry of our period.

(New York Times)

Make no mistake about it. Thirteen tells a marvelous story. A lot of readers will take the book at a single gulp, unable to stop reading.

(Washington Post)

About the Author

Henry S. F. Cooper is the author of seven other books about NASA and space exploration, including Before Liftoff, available from Johns Hopkins.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1 edition (August 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801850975
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801850974
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #414,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Aaron C. Brown TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
The review is based on the recently-released Kindle edition. I read some of the author's New Yorker articles at the time of Apollo 13, but not this book. Since then there have been excellent books on the subject including Failure Is Not an Option and Lost Moon.

My main problem with this book is the author appears to have decided on what story he was going to tell, and then didn't let the facts get in the way. A major part of his story is that the NASA staff was inattentive, bored and sloppy. For example he writes, "After two successful lunar landings, which had been preceded by two Apollo flights around the moon, no one at the Space Center was thinking in terms of accidents," and after the explosion, "No one believed that there could be any flaw in the craft itself."

Anyone who has been around any engineering project, much less one as dramatic and difficult as a moon shot, knows that cannot be true. If it were no one would survive a day, or get a rocket off the ground. The author's evidence is things like a flight controller sending word to the astronauts that they were, "putting us to sleep down here," and idle loop comments on the number of 13's that turned up in mission data. These are not evidence of inattention or sloppiness, they're the normal tension-diffusing banter of highly-trained people performing difficult and critical work.

Once people start doing things the author can understand, like issuing orders and making engineering changes, he portrays them as energetic and efficient.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Moody on May 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
The first detailed account of the Apollo 13 accident (this book originally came out in the early 70's) and one of the best (second only to Lovell's "Lost Moon"). Cooper tells the entire mission story and uses many of the Mission Control transcripts that (in my opinion) are the difference between a third person telling of a mission story or a feeling of actually being there. This book has been re-printed, so it's availability isn't an issue. Read this along with Lost Moon and you'll see the blatant errors in the movie "Apollo 13". Highly recommended.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By C. Lacher on August 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the Apollo 13 story almost exclusively from the Mission Control perspective. It very thorougly and completely details what went on in Houston from the moment of the "accident" to the recovery of the astronauts. This book helped me to understand how critical Mission Control is to space flights, how the astronauts are not necessarily piloting their spacecraft but that it is a joint effort. I was surpised by many facts given here such as that Mission Control had more information about the status of the spacecraft than the astronauts themselves. The author does an outstanding job of expalining the technicalities of what happened and why without making you feel like a dummy.
Through the lens of 25 years, it is very interesting to read this account and feel some of the respect and almost naivete the author and the public felt for NASA and the government at large that has long since been lost. I also enjoyed how the book was divided into three sections "Out" "Around" "Home".
I did feel the book suffered from its narrow focus on Mission Control only during the duration of the "event," and no pictures -- none and only one line diagram. These are small complaints, however. The book makes a wonderful companion to Jim Lovell's account.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 24, 1996
Format: Paperback
As a boy, I found this book in the public library and read
all about the ill-fated Apollo 13 spaceflight of April 1970.
I had lived through the experience as an 11-year-old, and I
remembered the drama of the real-life explosion aboard the
Apollo spacecraft as it made its way to the moon.
But it was not until I read this remarkable story, that I
gained true insights into what had happened and how NASA
flight crews and engineers were able to bring the crippled
ship home safely.
I read this book about 20 times as a kid, finding it again
in the libary and checking it out regularly.
I loved it so much that I always checked for it in used
bookstores, because it went out of print quickly.
Author Henry S.F. Cooper is a gifted science writer,
making complex matters simple and understandable, yet
he never underexplained what was happening.
I finally located it in the summer of 1991, in a used book
store in Cooperstown, N.Y., while on a visit to the Baseball
Hall of Fame. Remarkably, I had stumbled into a bookshop
in the very town where Henry S.F. Cooper's family lived,
and the store had used copies of several of his science
I bought one of each, including my beloved hardback copy
of ''13: The Flight That Failed'' (that was the original
I still re-read it from time to time, with the same awe and
love that I have had for it since I was little.
The film, ''Apollo 13,'' was a fine film narrative,
but Cooper's classic book should not be missed.
Give it to a 10-year-old you love. :)
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