This memoir of a veteran NASA flight director tells riveting stories from the early days of the Mercury program through Apollo 11 (the moon landing) and Apollo 13, for both of which Kranz was flight director.
Gene Kranz was present at the creation of America’s manned space program and was a key player in it for three decades. As a flight director in NASA’s Mission Control, Kranz witnessed firsthand the making of history. He participated in the space program from the early days of the Mercury program to the last Apollo mission, and beyond. He endured the disastrous first years when rockets blew up and the United States seemed to fall further behind the Soviet Union in the space race. He helped to launch Alan Shepard and John Glenn, then assumed the flight director’s role in the Gemini program, which he guided to fruition. With his teammates, he accepted the challenge to carry out President John F. Kennedy’s commitment to land a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960s.
Kranz recounts these thrilling historic events and offers new information about the famous flights. What appeared as nearly flawless missions to the Moon were, in fact, a series of hair-raising near misses. When the space technology failed, as it sometimes did, the controllers’ only recourse was to rely on their skills and those of their teammates. He reveals behind-the-scenes details to demonstrate the leadership, discipline, trust, and teamwork that made the space program a success.
A fascinating firsthand account by a veteran mission controller of one of America’s greatest achievements, Failure is Not an Option reflects on what has happened to the space program and offers his own bold suggestions about what we ought to be doing in space now.
When the heroic American astronauts of the '60s and '70s inquired, "Houston, do you read?" it was often Krantz's team who answered from the ground. Veteran NASA flight controller Krantz (portrayed by Ed Harris in the film Apollo 13) has written a personable memoir, one that follows his and NASA's careers from the start of the space race through "the last lunar strike," Apollo 17 (1972-1973). Krantz's story opens in the world of the first U.S. space scientists, of exploding Mercury-Atlas rockets, flaming escape towers and "the first rule of flight control": "If you don't know what to do, don't do anything!" Its climax is Apollo 13, with Krantz serving as "lead flight director" and helping to save the trapped astronauts' lives. His account of that barely averted disaster evokes the adrenalized mood of the flight controllers and the technical problems ("gimbal lock," oxygen status, return trajectories) that had to be solved for the astronauts to survive. Elsewhere in these often-gripping pages we learn of the quarrels that almost derailed Gemini 9A's spacewalk; "the best leaders the program ever had," among them George Mueller, who revived NASA after a 1966 launchpad fire; the forest of internal acronyms and argot ("Go-NoGo," "all-up," EVA, the Trench, CSM, GNC, FIDO, RETRO, GUIDO); and the combination of teamwork and expertise that made the moon landings possible. Plenty of books (and several films) have already tried to depict the space program's excitement; few of their creators had the first-person experience or the attention to detail Krantz has, whose role as flight control "White" his readers will admire or even wish to emulate. Eight b&w photos.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This book is a masterpiece, I have learned a lot of the History of Nasa and the space programs, without doubt one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Uneven, Fair at best
Obviously a narrative that addresses the greatest human achievement of the 20th century. A reasonable amount of new info that highlights the fragility of the Mercury, Gemini & Apollo programs. Significant mission info omitted in favor of lengthy descriptions of interpersonal dynamics. Uneven presentation of material. Soapbox preaching by author at end. Gene Krantz is an American hero, I blame shortcomings on the editors.
Learned much about the personal side of the man who, to most of America, is the face of NASA's Mission Control. Most focus is naturally on the Apollo program, but fair time is given to the earlier Mercury & Gemini programs. Gene openly shares the pain & horror of the Apollo 1 tragedy, and how the NASA team rebounded to become even stronger. Would've liked to hear more about overcoming the Challenger accident, as I know he was in mission control that day too, but little is mentioned. Overall, I just loved it.