That "Geno" Cernan was commander of Apollo 17
, the final manned moon mission, was a fitting conclusion to a flying career that included two previous stints in space (Gemini 9
and Apollo 10
). His frank, earthy memoir of his years at NASA adds another entertaining, informative volume to the burgeoning shelf of books illuminating the inner workings of the space program and the people who made it happen. Coauthor Don Davis, a veteran journalist, helps Cernan craft a colloquial prose style that nicely captures the competitive, macho personality that seemed virtually mandatory for astronauts in the 1960s and '70s. Cernan candidly depicts the reckless streak that twice led to needless injuries jeopardizing his spot on a mission. He also acknowledges the stresses endured by his ex-spouse Barbara as she struggled to be the perfect astronaut wife--cheerful and uncomplaining for the cameras while he experienced all the fun and adventure of the job. And it sure was fun, as becomes clear in the exciting descriptions of his spacewalk from Gemini 9
and stroll around the moon from Apollo 17
. Detailed accounts of each flight, including technical problems and personal tensions (particularly with Apollo 17
teammate Jack Schmitt, distrusted because he was a scientist, not a test pilot), remind readers that the space program is a human endeavor, with inevitable failures that make the triumphs that much sweeter. --Wendy Smith
From Publishers Weekly
Gemini and Apollo astronaut Cernan, helped by Davis (A Father's Rage, etc.), takes readers with him on one great space adventure after anotherAincluding Gemini 9's "Spacewalk from Hell," Apollo 1's fire, Snoopy's hair-raising swoop by the lunar surface. Readers experience the agony of life-or-death decision making in the Apollo 13 control room, exult with Cernan and geologist Jack Schmitt throughout the mission of Apollo 17 and meet legendary characters of the astronaut corps and the technical and political leaders who shared their glory. Cernan reveals the risk-taking, competitive personality and oversized self-confidence that drove his success as a test pilot and astronaut. He also acknowledges his failings as a husband to his first wife, Barbara, whom he presents as a quiet, strong homefront heroine who always found the right words in public despite her private difficulties. However, careful readers may see more of Cernan than he intended to display. His admiration and friendship may justify letting Wernher von Braun and Spiro Agnew off the hook for what many consider their political and personal misdeeds, but his unforgiving view of Buzz Aldrin seems to stem from personal animus. Why must the last man on the moon demean the second? ("[Aldrin] came flapping into my office at the Manned Spacecraft Center one day like an angry stork..."). Despite the bad taste of Cernan's words about Aldrin, this is an exciting, insider's take on what it was like to become one of the first humans in space. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. Agent, Jane Dystel. Author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.