Top critical review
26 people found this helpful
on February 9, 2003
Where this book provides more info from others of its ilk:
- some decent "beginning" tales. I was hopeful that this would continue in such detail to give a full picture of the man. More on this later.
- Some excellent Gemini tales, particularly about himself, Grissom, and Schirra.
- Lots of post Apollo stuff, and interesting ASTP, ISS, and shuttle info. I personally was unaware of stafford's importance in the 90s in organizing various committeees to discuss NASA futures, and ISS, and think it's a shame that he declined the oppportunity to become NASA Admin.
- some more detail about alexei leonov, the great russian cosmonaut (and soviet space program in general) is sprinkled throughout the book, as he and Tom are very good buddies. There's an attempt to present their careers in parallel perspective - sometimes successfully, sometimes not. One nice piece is the Bondarenko bit - this has been reported by Oberg and others, but placed neatly in context here. Nice.
Where this book is no better
- most of the apollo era. Not much new here, little new insight.
Where this book fails to fully satisfy
- No deep insights or understandings or Mr Stafford himself. I'd wager he's a friendly-on-the-surface (certainly seems to get along with almost everyone) but hard-to-get-to-know-beyond type of fellow. Which is fine is all you want is space wonk stuff and policy info, which this book genrally delivers - but frustrating if you really want to understand the man, his families, and his friends. The bits about Faye and the astronaut wives felt tacked on - as if the authors had read Gene Cernan's book and decided "well we gotta follow suit here"...but did so half-heartedly.
- you have to put up with the usual par-for-the-course slightly egotistical way of looking at things. This is by no minds Mr Stafford's sole demesne - all the astronaut's possess this, perhaps rightfully so. I guess that only strongwilled strongego fellers could prosper in the space program. Esp. if they became 3 star generals later. But it does sometimes get to one while reading along (eg when he makes the offhand remark about how NASA folks were impressed by how long his client list was)
- a little too unwilling to pass judgement (and hence even hint at his feelings) on fellow astronauts. An example is where he recounts the issues with Apollo 7 crew and OTHER people's opinions without really expressing his own. Oddly, the major exception is Gus Grissom, whom Tom seems to like but also points out a few misjudgements on his part.
- a little too stiff in general. Even if he didn't tell us, I could tell he was "general-speaking". More and more I wish Pete Conrad had lived to write his memoirs. Those would have been foul-mouthed and crazy. Ah well.
In short I think it needed say 75 more pages sprinkled all about that delved more deeply into the man. Whether this is the fault of Mike Cassutt (who also co-wrote Deke!, which I thought went a bit deeper but also descended even more evilly into "list making"), or Tom's own reticence, or my own critical eye. I dunno.
Still a decent book. I'd probably place it towards the top-middle of the pack. I found Slayon, Cernan, Kranz or Kraft (you really only need one), more informative.