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Showing 1-10 of 37 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 90 reviews
on August 4, 2012
Before purchasing this book I read some of the reviews, and a number of the reviewers seemed to be irked by what they thought was the over-egotistical character of both the book and the author of the book. I didn't get this sense at all. Sure, Kraft wrote about his life and achievements, his contributions to the space program, and the history of the space program from his personal viewpoint, but what else is to be expected of an autobiography? After all, in reading his book, this is exactly what we want.

I found this to be a very interesting and informative account, especially of the pre-NASA NACA, of the formation and early days of NASA, and of the earliest manned missions of the Mercury and Gemini programs. Others have said it skims quickly over the Apollo missions, but I felt this was more a strength than a weakness, as there are hundreds of books on Apollo, but not so many that give such strong and detailed accounts of Mercury and Gemini. Kraft was in a unique position to know the inside stories of these missions and he gives us these stories, while most books skim Mercury and, especially, Gemini, in their rush to get to the moon landings.

There are a few surprising thoughts and revelations here. To me, the biggest eye-raiser was his discussion of President Johnson's contribution to the space program. Now, in my opinion, Johnson was about the worst single American since Benedict Arnold, but, having read other books on the space program, I always gave him credit for his strong support of that program. Other writers have even postulated the theory that Johnson was a stronger supporter of our space goals than was Kennedy and deserved more credit for their success. Not so, says Kraft. He doesn't go into it too deeply, but he felt that Johnson lost interest in space as he bungled his way through his miserable White House years, and that he oversaw the cutting of the space budget, and the lessening of our goals in space, as time moved on from the heady days of the Kennedy presidency. This budget cutting was continued rather than instituted by Nixon, who is often the villain of these space books.

The main talking point and controversy of this book is its very angry account of the Mercury flight of Scott Carpenter. While reading it you may find yourself saying, "OK, this was 50 years ago. It's time to let go of that hostility." There is also the need to take Carpenter's version of the story into consideration. However, the frustration of dealing with an astronaut in a space capsule, his life in dire peril, who will not follow instructions and will not communicate with those on the ground who are trying to save his life, is understandable. For a neutral account with no personal axe to grind, the Alan Shepherd biography "Light This Candle" goes into Carpenter's flight in detail, because Shepherd was a capcom on that mission, and the agony of trying to get Carpenter home alive comes through just as strongly in that book as in this, as does the verdict that, whatever the Carpenter apologist say, the general opinion amongst the astronauts themselves was that Carpenter screwed up. But the average reader can feel justified in thinking Kraft's account of the mess became too personalized, and when, at the end of the book, Kraft can't resist the urge to take one last shot, saying, in effect, that every single astronaut who flew did an outstanding job "except for Carpenter", it took on the aspect of piling on.

A couple of other incidents that this book brings some clarity to. One is the whole Schirra/Apollo 7 dust-up. Kraft, who has a naught but praise for Schirra's performance on his Mercury and Gemini flights, admits to being mystified by Wally's intransigence before and during the Apollo 7 mission. He makes it clear that Schirra's bad temper was not just the result of a head cold, as was reported in the press at the time, but began well before the mission, endured throughout training, and just continued during the flight itself. Kraft's conclusion was that Schirra suffered a temporary loss of nerve following the Apollo 1 fire, something understandable, since Schirra was on the back-up crew for that flight and had beeen training in the same spacecraft, doing the same tests, as that which killed Grissom, White & Chaffee, and it was pure luck that the fire killed the primary crew instead of the back-up crew--all that on top of losing, in a stupid, preventable accident, three fellow astronauts with whom he was training closely, and especially fellow original 7 astronaut and close friend Gus Grissom.

Kraft goes into the so-called stamp scandal following Apollo 15, and resented being made the goat for the whole mess. Reading about this "scandal" now, we have to wonder why such a big deal was made of it in the first place. Also, other reviewers have raised an issue with Kraft's portrayal of Wernher von braun & his German contingent. I don't. Kraft was fair to von Braun, giving him proper credit for his contributions, if he didn't like him personally. I think this book serves as an antidote to the cult of von Braun that exists amongst some space junkies. Von Braun was the mastermind of the Saturn V rocket, but he had little to do with Gemini, nothing to do with computer guidance systems, the LEM, the Apollo Command Module, the radio tracking system, etc. The Saturn V would have been useless without these other developments, as they would have been without the Saturn V. Each was a necessary component of the successful moon missions, but none more noteworthy than the others. One can argue that James Chamberlin and the Canadian & British engineers who came to NASA after the cancellation of the AVRO Arrow project, were as important and made as great a contribution to NASA's success as did von Braun and his Germans. Their story is not as interesting, Chamberlin not as charismatic as von Braun, so we hear little of them. Kraft gives them a fair mention here, but even he gets caught up in von Braun, if a bit on the anti side.

An indispensable volume for those interested in the space program, and more valuable for its emphasis on the early days. Like others, I think this should be read together with Gene Kranz's book. They form an excellent background on the technical side of the Mercury, Gemini & Apollo programs.
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on May 5, 2017
This is a good book. Kraft provides a good basic history of his persona background, as well as when NACA became NASA. And gives a great narrative for the progress from Mercury to Apollo. He also provides some interesting background on the people who made the program work.

And I have noted that some have rated this book lower, because of his rather direct observations about the people that made the program. And while that is a fair observation, you must remember something. Kraft was an engineer first. And an aeronautical engineer. We are talking about very, very smart people. They were the guys who built models, carried slide rulers, and could give you a quick answer to a math question, or why a lamp worked.

They are the "binary" guys. The answer is either "yes" or "no", One, or zero. So to them, social skills are either undeveloped, or of no import.

So if you remember that, you will enjoy the book. It is a good read. Not on the excellent level of Michael Collins book, but a good read.
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VINE VOICEon January 27, 2012
Flight by Chris Kraft is a rivetting read, taking you from his early childhood through to his days in Langley, joining the STG team and onto NASA in mission control.
Even though most people know what happened during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo years this book keep the reader engrossed by not holding back any punches and telling it exactly as it was. Most of the book is dedicated to the earlier flights (Mercury and Gemini) and the Apollo missions past the Fire of Apollo 1 seem a bit curtailed. This may have been due to Kraft changing roles during the Apollo project.
This book is certainly on par with Gene Kranz "Failure is not an option". A Must read.
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on March 30, 2017
I really enjoyed the book. Great detail on the politics of the scene at that time. Fantastic details on each and every flight with insight into the astronauts, their good points and bad.

I can see why we were so successful with a man like Kraft in charge of flight operations and he developed men like Gene Krantz as the program expanded.

A true American Hero.

Don Smith
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on May 25, 2017
Dr. Kraft has written a very insightful book concerning the NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. He states very clearly that astronauts, administrators and contractors were not a bunch of Boy Scouts. His honest opinions are greatly appreciated and reveal detail that was not widely known by the public. His description of the Apollo 11 landing brought back the emotion I felt back in July 1969. This book is a must read for any NASA enthusiast.
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on January 18, 2013
Of all the biographies and autobiographies I've read about NASA/Apollo people, this is my favorite so far. Chris Kraft was NASA's original flight director—the one who runs the show in mission control during missions. In fact, he led the effort to create mission control and all of the policies and procedures that make it what it is today. Read this if you want details behind the legendary events and people of NASA's race to the moon. Kraft was an integral part of the process from pre-NASA days through the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs and beyond. The book was published in 2001, after many other books by and about Apollo people, and I was fascinated when Kraft addressed discrepancies among the various accounts of key events. See, we Apollo geeks always wanna know how it REALLY went down. No doubt, Kraft displays the Saturn V-sized ego that most of his colleagues shared (and probably needed to succeed in that fish bowl). But he also gets across how humbling this great adventure was, and the wonder of it all. James Shefter, a veteran journalist who covered NASA and mission control for many years, did an excellent job of turning this memoir into a solid piece of writing.
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on November 25, 2012
It's been 11 years since this book was published and I'm sure this review won't be influencing many people in a decision whether or not to purchase the book. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to express some of my frustrations. Near the end of the book, Kraft observes with mocking sarcasm, " None of us thought that America would turn into a nation of quitters..." That might be his vision of this country, but it's certainly not mine and, I suspect, not the the way most of us see this great country.

This engineer turned manager was too young to serve in World War Two, but still feels he made contributions to defeating Germany by modifying warplanes. He speaks early and often of his hatred for Wernher Von Braun, but says very little about the enormous accomplishments of the man who directed the development of the mighty Saturn V, which made all of the Moon landings possible. Somehow or other, he managed to avoid service in the Korean war, quite unlike John Glenn, whom he portrays as a stubborn and irritating Marine officer.

Throughout the book, he heaps condemnation upon Scott Carpenter. This point of view denigrates one of America's heroes. What purpose does it serve? All of the Mercury astronauts endured years of challenging training and eagerly accepted their roles in the space program, which carried a very palpable risk of death. While they were so engaged, Kraft was sitting in a chair barking out orders at Mission Control.

Kraft frequently asserts that his decisions during space flights were the best possible decisions, but you know what they say about hindsight. He went along with the recommendations of the staff for John Glenn to retain his retro rockets when it was thought that the heat shield was loose, but asserts that he knew all along this was not the right decision. He calls the Apollo 13 explosion " A stupid and preventable accident," but puts the blame on everyone's shoulders but his own for allowing the spacecraft to fly with the defects in the fuel cell system.

In the epilogue, Kraft goes on and on about the key accomplishments of managers in the space flight program, speaks next about the manager astronaut, Deke Slayton, and the executive, Frank Borman, and only mentions the rest of the astronauts at the very end, with one more parting shot at Scott Carpenter.

The book is worth reading by anyone interested in the extraordinary accomplishments of the space program, but the bias and bitterness of the book seriously detract from its lasting value.
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on January 31, 2002
When it comes to the early days of the US space program, and by early days I mean Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, one name stands out. In an organisation full of legends, Christopher Columbus Kraft was THE legend.
He'd been with NASA since before it was NASA, working on stability problems with Mustang fighters, and he recounts the frustration and worry he felt when a test pilot took up a new "fix" and the radio remained silent after the flight plan called for violent manouevring.
Had it worked? Had it failed catastrophically under stress? Eventually Chris couldn't stand it any longer, he got on the radio and asked for a report. The taciturn test pilot assured him that everything was fine.
As NACA became NASA, moved from Chris's childhood home of Virginia to Texas, and the test pilots became astronauts, he was the man who worked out the mission control system and became the first flight director. Space was a whole new environment, the rockets and capsules were incredibly complicated and everything was different. Just communicating with an astronaut on the far side of the world was a major challenge.
This is the story of how Chris Kraft solved that challenge and many many more along the way as the early Mercury missions turned into the more sophisticated Gemini and finally the incredibly complex and dangerous Apollo missions.
I've been reading books on the space program for years, decades now, and the more I know, the more in awe I am of people like Chris, who invented a lot of the systems that we now take for granted. I am just amazed that people, even highly intelligent and skilled people, could take on such an enormous task and bring it off successfully.
He writes in a matter of fact way about how it was all done, and he is generous with praise for others. He tells a few new stories, and he fleshes out old familiar tales, with his own retelling of the Apollo 11 triumph.
But through all of it, he remains the guy who invented the fixes for the problems, the engineer on the other end of the radio link, even if the control tower has now expanded to a massive building housing hundreds of controllers and the test pilot in the Mustang is now a quarter of a million miles away on the far side of the Moon. We still share his feelings, his tension when things go wrong, his relief and joy when they succeed.
Like Chris, I guess very few of us reading his book, or these words, will ever fly in space. But we can share the excitement, the sense of wonder, the hope for the future when we read what this legend has to say, and we look up at the night sky and the moon and think about those great days.
Highly recommended, in its own right as a great book on the space race, and as part of the Apollo story.
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on June 15, 2009
This book is a surprisingly well-written account of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions as Chris Craft saw them. It is strikingly honest and reflective. It makes no attempt to be an objective history or to take other points of view into account. For instance, Craft is brutal on Scott Carpenter, criticizing his dedication to his job, and even questioning his basic intelligence. Despite his basic respect for, and loyalty to, Deke Slayton, he questions whether it was a good idea for Slayton to be given so much unilateral power over who flew which flight, because he thinks a few good men were knocked out of the rotation because of Slayton's sometimes stubborn loytalty to his test pilot astronauts. He questions, for instance, Slayton's decision to fly Gene Cernan in Apollo 17 (despite, again, a basic respect for Cernan and a tribute to a job well done on that mission). Since it is a well-written, very honest book, it is a joy to read. A very good account of all three of the early programs, but most especially for the Gemini flights, since these tend to be overlooked by all but the most ardent of space historians.
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on January 10, 2017
Very interesting book on NASA from Mercury to Apollo. Sometimes Chris let's, what appears to be his personal grudges against individuals, pass as fact or gospel. But, as the book goes on he seems to focus on the facts more rather than his personal grudges or bias'. Very good book though.
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