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Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut Paperback – February 6, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
With a testosterone-fueled swagger and a keen eye for particulars, Mullane takes readers into the high-intensity, high-stress world of the shuttle astronaut in this rough-hewn yet charming yarn of low-rent antics, bureaucratic insanity and transcendent beauty. Mullane opens this tale face down on a doctor's table awaiting a colorectal exam that will determine his fitness for astronaut training. "I was determined when the NASA proctologist looked up my ass, he would see pipes so dazzling he would ask the nurse to get his sunglasses," he writes, setting the tone for the crude and often hilarious story that follows. Chosen as a trainee in 1978, Mullane, a Vietnam vet, quickly finds himself at odds with the buttoned-up post-Apollo NASA world of scientists, technocrats and civilian astronauts he describes as "tree-huggers, dolphin friendly fish eaters, vegetarians, and subscribers to the New York Times." He holds female astronauts in special disregard, though he later grudgingly acknowledges the achievement and heroism of both the civilians and women. The book hits its stride with Mullane's space adventures: a difficult takeoff, the shift into zero gravity, his first view of the Earth from space: "To say the view was overwhelmingly beautiful would be an insult to God." (Feb. 14)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
One of the first astronaut memoirs from the space-shuttle era tells a thoroughly absorbing story. Mullane, an air force brat, flew 134 missions in Vietnam. In the late 1970s, he volunteered for the shuttle program, was accepted, and flew three orbital missions before retiring. His accounts of those missions are gripping. They leave one in no doubt that the shuttle was a somewhat imperfect instrument that somehow still performed marvels. Mullane also pays tribute to his fellow astronauts, a small community that suffered with every death or other loss to the "family" it constituted, and to his wife, who endured 40 years of the stresses of being a pilot's partner. And while this isn't an expose, Mullane makes it clear that NASA's corporate culture wasn't optimal for getting the results it sought. Despite the shuttle's apparent failures, the era when it was America's mainstay in space laid groundwork for the future, and further shuttle chronicles are needed and deserved. A strong addition to science and space collections of any size. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Another time, I giggled when he wrote about the SRB's seperating during sts-27 launch, everyone was cheering and someone chimed in "good riddance". Everthing from going to the bathroom in space to Playing football in space, slidding into a sleeping bag and putting a human skull ontop to scare a fellow astronaut... those and many more adventures will await you in Riding Rockets.
If you're a fan of the space program, this is a great book to read. You'll have a lot of fun. The book fails at boredom.
Mullane recounts the story of his life starting out in his childhood when he first got interested in flying and dreaming of becoming an astronaut and ends shortly after he retired from NASA and the Air Force in 1990. Originally chosen in 1978 as part of thirty-five new astronauts NASA chose to fly the new Space Shuttle, Mullane recounts his many experiences with down-to-earth detail.
He would fly on three Shuttle missions. On STS-41D, three satellites were deployed and other experiments were carried out, while STS-27 and STS-36 were both classified missions carried out for the Department of Defense.
Mullane really tries to tell his story with average Joe language and humor. He is not at all interested in trying to gloss over less than savory aspects of being an astronaut or the personal and embarrassing stories. For example, he calls himself a creature of Planet Arrested Development because he truly was a product of the military and before that his Catholic teachings. When he was selected as an astronaut he, along with other military men, looked down on the civilians chosen as being grossly unqualified. He also saw women the same way. After years of experience, he learned to change his attitude and accepted that the civilian and women astronauts could perform just as well as anyone who came from the military.
This is especially true of Judy Resnik who became a close friend of his and who flew with him on his first Shuttle flight. Tragically, Resnik would lose her life in the 1986 Challenger disaster which hit Mullane hard. He is not shy about his criticism of NASA leadership and the management problems that led to the disaster.
Mullane uses humor throughout the book to tell a really enjoyable story, even if it is often off-color and politically incorrect. A lighter example was how astronauts, while in quarantine before a launch, somehow had access to the Playboy Channel on their televisions which many astronauts enjoyed.
One criticism I have of the book is that Mullane's sense of uncensored humor can get tiring after a while. He spends pages describing the trials and tribulations of using the Shuttle's toilet while in orbit. After the first few times, I was really rolling my eyes whenever he felt it necessary to mention his penis.
Aside from some minor quibbles, I found this book to be an enjoyable story of an astronaut at the forefront of the Space Shuttle program during the first decade or so. I would recommend this book to those interested in space history or astronauts.