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Wheels Stop: The Tragedies and Triumphs of the Space Shuttle Program, 1986-2011 (Outward Odyssey: A People's History of S) Hardcover – December 1, 2013
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Top Customer Reviews
But it's a little different than many other spaceflight books. Mr. Houston does not exhaustively cover in great detail all of the Space Shuttle flights between the 1988 STS-26 return-to-flight mission after the Challenger disaster and the final flight of the program with STS-135 in 2011. Rather, in a fast-paced, highly readable style, he presents a fascinating collection of oral-history-type anecdotes based on his extensive interviews with astronauts, program managers, technicians, administrators and ground-support engineers who were involved in those flights, all organized within a relatively loose structure of program and flight events. His story is not chronological, except in the broadest sense. Nor are his mission descriptions strictly sequential. He jumps around quite a bit as he follows the careers of astronauts or the conduct of related missions, such as the Hubble repair and servicing flights. Some missions get a great deal of coverage, while others he mentions barely in passing or not at all. Many missions get just a single anecdote from a single participant. If it sounds a bit chaotic, it is.
But it works. "Wheels Stop" contains a wealth of new, up-close-and-personal information about the Space Shuttle, its crews and its missions, much of which I have never seen in print before. When I finished this volume, I felt I had really gotten inside the heads of many of the people who worked to keep the world's premier manned spacecraft flying its incredible missions.Read more ›
I have to say up front—and as you might suspect—due to the nature of the Shuttle program, much of the narrative is a bit less thrilling than, say, the books covering the exploits of the Apollo program. Having said that, I have to praise author Rick Houston for doing a fine job. It’s no easy feat to summarize twenty five year’s worth of shuttle flights in a single volume. (What should be highlighted? What should be left out? Who should be specifically mentioned?) I think Houston handled it about as well as anyone could, deftly weaving together many personal stories gathered in dozens of interviews with the astronauts and engineers behind the program.
A trap for this book could have been to approach 25 years’ worth of shuttle missions sequentially, which might have been a recipe for a plodding—even boring—narrative. Houston avoids this by delivering a non-sequential format focused instead on major themes: missions to Mir, Hubble Telescope servicing missions, and assembly of the International Space Station. And, of course, the devastating loss of Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.
I’d say the the most compelling sections of the book are those that deal with the loss of Columbia and the subsequent “Return to Flight,” as it was known to program insiders.Read more ›
Largely through the interview process, author Houston was able spend some quality time with many of the key participants in the program....not just the astronauts, but many of the behind-the-scenes and unsung heroes who helped to make it all happen.
As a space enthusiast/collector, my interest is mainly in books. Patches, pins, photos, covers. etc. are interesting, but I like the education and entertainment value that a good book can provide. "Wheels Stop" offers that in spades! While reading it, I learned something new with every turn of a page.
The parts of the book I enjoyed the most were the sections on the deployment, repair and maintenance of the Hubble Telescope and the construction of the International Space Station. The very dangerous and exacting spacewalks required to accomplish those tasks are described in detail by the astronauts who performed them. During down-time (of which there was very little on the shuttle) the astronauts got to be space tourists. Almost universally, they describe how incredibly beautiful and fragile our planet appears from orbit, and when they look the other way, the sensations they felt looking out into the vastness of space.
After reading "Wheels Stop;" I have a much greater appreciation for what a truly marvelous machine the space shuttle orbiter was, for all that was accomplished in the 30 years that she flew, for all the talented and dedicated people support people on the ground, and for those who took her to space.
If you are at all interested in spaceflight, "Wheels Stop" needs to be on your bookshelf.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I picked this book for the subject, but after 15 minutes I had to stop listening. The narrator's speaking style is terrible -- it's like listening to Ted Baxter from the "Mary... Read morePublished 2 months ago by George T Paulson
The inner workings and complexities of how to get there from here. Great read of behind the scene and the great folks who contributed to the space shuttle from management to launch... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Frank X. Cassella
There are typographical errors in the kindle format edition, however, its contents does a great job at taking us to the awesome world of the space shuttle.Published 6 months ago by Homero A. Cersosimo
Was not conscious of how close to death each flight's performance was.Published 7 months ago by Lilly
Great book....very detailed. We should all honor and respect our previous astronauts for their effort and timeless bravery in exploring outerspace.Published 13 months ago by Cindy P. Greer
Interesting but little more than you could gain from reading all the flight transcripts, which appears to have been done here. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Richard
This was a great book filled with stories, some that I was aware of, but so many that were new to me. Read morePublished on November 23, 2013 by Dad of Divas
A 5-star effort. This book is full of fantastic stories - it's not a technical book, or a gossip book, but an anecdote book. Read morePublished on November 15, 2013 by Gary Milgrom
I received my copy as a gift and found it to be wonderfully entertaining and informative. I laughed and I cried and I enjoyed. Read morePublished on November 15, 2013 by Sandra