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on October 23, 2002
Many books have been written about the glory days of NASA. Now we have the chance to learn about the life of one of the early pioneers of space exploration. Tom Stafford takes the reader on a journey of his amazing life from small town Oklahoma to 50,000 feet above the moon and shaking hands with Russian Cosmonauts in space. Anybody interested in Stafford's giant role in the glory years of Gemini and Apollo will love this book. Stafford vividly recalls both the joys of test pilot and astronaut life as well as the tragedies such as the T-38 flight into St. Louis where astronauts See and Bassett lost their lives. Stafford explains how profound the Apollo-Soyuz project was in his life. He began his military and astronaut career as an avowed enemy of the Soviet Union and eventually became the commander of the flight that initiated American and Russian cooperation in space. This book is a real winner and will delight those with a basic or advanced interest in the orgins of manned space exploration. The only drawback of the book is that one realizes that the NASA of 2002 is only a shell of what it was in the sixties and early seventies. Well done on a great book that adds immensely to the literature of manned space flight.
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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.
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VINE VOICEon December 20, 2003
This is a very fine book that is sure to benefit all readers interested in America's adventure in space. Tom Stafford is one of America's most significant astronauts, although he is less well known than some of the others. While Stafford's four spaceflights--Gemini VI, Gemini IX, Apollo 10, and Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP)--made critical contributions to the development of American space capability in the pioneering era of the 1960s and 1970s, his efforts since the 1970s as the unofficial ambassador to the Soviet Union for space and his key roles in defining space policy in the United States have been even more critical to the evolution of human space flight. One senior NASA official has said, and I agree with the assessment, that Stafford's efforts have shaped every important policy issue affecting human spaceflight for the last quarter century. In these arenas of Stafford's career this book makes important contributions to understanding. Stafford, furthermore, has a credible and exceptionally capable space writer to assist him in putting this book together. Michael Cassutt is the author of many other books, including one with Deke Slayton. Both Stafford and Cassutt deserve credit for presenting a complex person and complex era clearly and concisely.
This book may also become a benchmark in the historiography of human spaceflight because of its insights into the American/Soviet relationship in space. There have been since the 1950s no two spaceflight programs that have been more closely tied than those of the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia, sometimes as rivals and at other instances as cooperative efforts. Stafford has played a key role in both the rivalry and the cooperation. This autobiography discusses the push and pull of these two programs and demonstrates that even as competition reigned in the 1970s a thawing was taking place that led eventually to the cooperative construction of the International Space Station (ISS) at the end of the twentieth century. Because of Stafford's close association with Soviet leaders and cosmonauts beginning in 1971, as well as during the ASTP program, in the early 1990s he was privy to many of the negotiations and served as a means of back channel communication between Russian and U.S. leaders that led to bringing Russia into the ISS program. That story cannot be adequately told without Stafford's account of what took place in the negotiations.
This book provides a valuable first-person account of significant aspects of human spaceflight since the 1970s. It has appeal not only to specialists as a record of a principal actor in the arena, but also to spaceflight enthusiasts who want intimate accounts by astronauts.
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on December 30, 2007
Ask any American to name ten pioneering U.S. astronauts and it's quite unlikely they would include the name of Tom Stafford. Yet here is a man who was chosen in NASA's second group of astronauts, who flew two incredible Gemini missions, operated a lunar module to within a few miles of the lunar surface, and became a crew member on the historic ASTP mission, in which Soviet and American spacefarers shook hands in space. And that is just his spaceflight career. There are many layers to General Tom Stafford, and this book explores them all. I will also add that this was a greatly-anticipated book in the space community; co-author Michael Cassutt had earlier hunkered down with Deke Slayton and written a truly superb book Deke!: An Autobiography about the man, his life and career. Undoubtedly a winner, and an intriguing book about a man whose influence is still being felt at NASA and the upper echelon of spaceflight administration; so highly thought of that he was part of the Columbia accident investigation and review board after the loss of that shuttle in 2003.

This is a seriously good book about a true spaceflight pioneer, and a man who, while he might slip under the radar of most Americans, is an absolute legend of flight beyond our planet. Both authors are to be congratulated on creating this stirring and highly-recommended book.
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on December 30, 2007
Ask any American to name ten pioneering U.S. astronauts and it's quite unlikely they would include the name of Tom Stafford. Yet here is a man who was chosen in NASA's second group of astronauts, who flew two incredible Gemini missions, operated a lunar module to within a few miles of the lunar surface, and became a crew member on the historic ASTP mission, in which Soviet and American spacefarers shook hands in space. And that is just his spaceflight career. There are many layers to General Tom Stafford, and this book explores them all. I will also add that this was a greatly-anticipated book in the space community; co-author Michael Cassutt had earlier hunkered down with Deke Slayton and written a truly superb book Deke!: An Autobiography about the man, his life and career. Undoubtedly a winner, and an intriguing book about a man whose influence is still being felt at NASA and the upper echelon of spaceflight administration; so highly thought of that he was part of the Columbia accident investigation and review board after the loss of that shuttle in 2003.

This is a seriously good book about a true spaceflight pioneer, and a man who, while he might slip under the radar of most Americans, is an absolute legend of flight beyond our planet. Both authors are to be congratulated on creating this stirring and highly-recommended book.
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on December 29, 2007
Tom Stafford is not your average ex-astronaut. He was a powerful influence in the astronaut office when he was with NASA, and his post-NASA career has been even more influential, including his behind-the-scenes steering of international space cooperation. He was even in charge of Area 51 for a while - the guy's had an incredible career. Read this book to get a glimpse behind some of the big decision-making behind the headlines.
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on February 1, 2008
Tom Stafford is not your average ex-astronaut. He was a powerful influence in the astronaut office when he was with NASA, and his post-NASA career has been even more influential, including his behind-the-scenes steering of international space cooperation. He was even in charge of Area 51 for a while - the guy's had an intriguing career. Read this book to get a glimpse into some of the big decision-making behind the headlines.
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on July 22, 2015
This is a well written account of Tom Stafford's life as an astronaut. He reveals a lot of insight as to the inner workings of NASA and the space program. He accomplished numerous goals and successes with some failures along the way. I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the space program.
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on October 7, 2014
As a space tragic this provided me with an almost outsiders view to the space race. The General is subtle and careful with the personalities which is nice. Its a must read next to "Light this Candle" and, what I think is the finest Astronaut bio ever "Rocketman"
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on June 28, 2015
A detailed look at the space program through the eyes of Astronaut Thomas P. Stafford. He was there for many of the major events of the space program and was instrumental in the Apollo - Soyuz Test Project (ASTP).
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