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Dragonfly: NASA And The Crisis Aboard Mir Hardcover – November 2, 1998

4.5 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Bryan Burrough, coauthor of the bestselling Barbarians at the Gate, has a talent for reworking factual accounts so they read like first-rate thrillers. Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis Aboard Mir is overwhelming in its scope and breadth of detail, culled from one-on-one interviews and transcripts of recorded conversations between the astronauts and cosmonauts on Mir and Russian Mission Control. Burrough delves deeply into the personal and professional lives of the 11 people who lived aboard Mir from 1995 to 1998. What we soon discover is simultaneously disheartening and fascinating: the men and women who would be astronauts must run a gauntlet of hazings, are judged professionally on their personal lives, and win flight assignments through serendipity as often as through hard work. NASA is controlled by cliques and cults of personality: "People don't speak out, because George makes short work of you if you do.... If you get on his bad side, you won't get a flight assignment...." There are "issues dealing with training and the selection of crews that you don't dare speak up about." The down-to-the-last-bolt descriptions of life aboard the station, from what the air smells like to an explanation of "penguin suits" to the distance between the dinner table and the original, now seldom-used toilet--2 feet--will thrill space enthusiasts. Space may not be "where no man has gone before" anymore, but it nevertheless provides endless dream fodder for those of us left behind on Earth. --Jhana Bach

From Library Journal

Enthusiasts who followed the 1997 crises aboard Mir, an orbiting Russian space station, knew of the many mishaps. Dragonfly is a timely retelling of what transpired when American astronauts joined the Russians on Mir, as well as their background, training, and personalities. The Americans realized too late that they knew little about the outpost's inner workings: its fluctuating temperatures, antifreeze-like pollution, oxygen depletion, repeated threat of power failure, etc. Some of this may exasperate a listener expecting adventure; a dangerous fire, a near-collision, and an actual crash with a spaceship supply the main suspense. Brian Murray, a skilled actor, cues a quote from any Russian by switching to a gruff accent. This set is recommended for popular collections where an interest in space exploration is high.AGordon Blackwell, Rochester, NY
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (December 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887307833
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887307836
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Christopher Nieman on January 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
Brian Burrough's DRAGONFLY covers the entire "Phase One" program to put NASA astronauts aboard the Russian space station Mir in the mid 1990s. The project was fraught with problems and near-disasters, and it is an example of how not to conduct an international space partnership, or any other project, for that matter.
The book is well researched, and Burrough is not afraid to delve into the dark waters of NASA's bureaucracy to round out the story. He dug deep to interview many of the significant figures of the book, including the likes of astronaut Jerry Linenger, Phase One director Frank Culbertson, NASA administrator Dan Goldin, and NASA's Johnson Space Center director George Abbey. Almost no one comes off unsoiled, and yet the author treats each subject fairly. Burrough makes extensive use of American and Russian flight transcripts, and he takes care to document the stressful lives of Russian cosmonauts, who are severely overworked and underappreciated. The author's narrative and reconstructed dialogue are well written, and he always allows the story and the people, rather than commentaries, to propel the book. I think Burrough achieves a good balance in presenting the material, which must have been difficult given the myriad personalities and politics involved.
However, I was disappointed in the choppy layout of DRAGONFLY's major sections. Burrough takes a hundred pages to outline the beginnings of Phase One and its troubles from 1992 to 1997 ... the problem is, this critical background is actually Part Two, and it appears in the middle of the book, which interrupts the tumultuous events of 1997. By that point, this section does the reader little good, because we are already up to our ears in Phase One's trials and tribulations.
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Format: Hardcover
What sets "Dragonfly" off from so many other books about space exploration is that the author understands that technology, unlike space, does not exist in a vaccuum. Like few other authors on the subject, Burrough realizes that complex technical systems, like Mir, interact with the variables of human personality, cultural background of the astronauts/cosmonauts, and indeed, the 'culture' which imbues organizations like Nasa and Energia.
This book is totally absorbing, and I agree completely with the comment that it makes the reader feel, at times, as though he or she is actually aboard the Mir. In fact,"Dragonfly" should be required reading for ALL personnel who will be involved with the International Space Station. The author is right on target when he predicts that such a project will experience inevitable crises, and that how these are responded to will depend as much upon *human* as technological understanding.
Finally, I must put in the supportive words for cosmonauts Tsibliyev and Lazutkin. These cosomonauts were heroes, facing and overcoming difficulties much greater than those encountered by Glenn and Gagarin. They deserved far better treatment upon return from Mir than being blamed for circumstances beyond their control. This book shows how much courage and ingenuity these men really had -- and that their safe return to earth and the saving of the Mir was due to their brave efforts. After reading "Dragonfly," I have the deepest respect for the leadership of Tsibliyev and Lazutkin. I hope they are given a chance to go to the new ISS -- their experience would be invaluable!
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Format: Hardcover
...it's being micro-managed and mismanaged right out of existence by politicians, bureaucrats and opportunists. While that may not be big news, through Burroughs' book, we can now put a name to these previously-nameless NASA parasites: George Abbey, Mark Albrecht, Dan Goldin...just to name a few who aren't in Congress.
What struck me throughout this book is the courage, tenacity and intelligence of the men and women in NASA who, in spite of total lack of support, or worse, interference from, their politically-motivated managers, were able to pull off the Mir missions.
I was also profoundly moved by the Russians' efforts to maintain their space program and their space station. This book corrected a lot of mis-impressions I'd had about their program. Yes, they take many more chances than NASA would ever contemplate, their equipment is old and falling apart. They are, however, the only program that has sucessfully maintained a long-lived station in space and they are the only humans with any experience in long-duration space flight. We have MUCH to learn from them. And they from us...
This book leaves me in doubt as to whether the two space programs will indeed be allowed to profit from each others' experience. The Russian's money problems (which, as this book shows was a driving force behind the politically-inspired Phase One operation) and NASA's phalanx of self-centered, uninspired, non-technical management lead me to believe that if anything is accomplished it will only be through the individual efforts and dedication of the "rank and file" -- and that includes the astronauts.
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