Monday, January 30, 2017

Failure is Not an Option

Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond by Gene Kranz  415 pp.

Anyone who was around in the 1960s spent much time glued to the television whenever there was another launch into space or at least my peers and I were. One of the faces frequently seen was that of Gene Kranz with his crewcut, military bearing, and signature vests (made by his wife). After years as an Air Force pilot, test pilot, and engineer, Kranz joined NASA in the early days. He was there for the early rocket failures, the first manned launches, the successes of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, the tragedy of Apollo 1, and the near loss of Apollo 13 and a few other near disasters. Kranz was a flight director in Mission Control for most of that time. His book chronicles the failures and successes as well as the mistakes, internal disputes, mishaps, and creative fixes the on-the-ground personnel would come up with to solve problems. The crews that worked at NASA during that time became a sort of family that worked long, hard, stressful hours but then partied just as hard when the missions were done. Kranz tells the story matter of factly. There are amusing and serious anecdotes about various astronauts, engineers, and MC personnel. Kranz also pays tribute to his wife, Marta, who frequently raised their six children alone while he worked long hours in other locations. I was interested to discover that Kranz had a St. Louis connection, having graduated from Parks Air College in East St. Louis and working at McDonnell-Douglas here.

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