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Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond
 
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Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond [Format Kindle]

Gene Kranz
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In 1957, the Russians launched Sputnik and the ensuing space race. Three years later, Gene Kranz left his aircraft testing job to join NASA and champion the American cause. What he found was an embryonic department run by whiz kids (such as himself), sharp engineers and technicians who had to create the Mercury mission rules and procedure from the ground up. As he says, "Since there were no books written on the actual methodology of space flight, we had to write them as we went along."

Kranz was part of the mission control team that, in January 1961, launched a chimpanzee into space and successfully retrieved him, and made Alan Shepard the first American in space in May 1961. Just two months later they launched Gus Grissom for a space orbit, John Glenn orbited Earth three times in February 1962, and in May of 1963 Gordon Cooper completed the final Project Mercury launch with 22 Earth orbits. And through them all, and the many Apollo missions that followed, Gene Kranz was one of the integral inside men--one of those who bore the responsibility for the Apollo 1 tragedy, and the leader of the "tiger team" that saved the Apollo 13 astronauts.

Moviegoers know Gene Kranz through Ed Harris's Oscar-nominated portrayal of him in Apollo 13, but Kranz provides a more detailed insider's perspective in his book Failure Is Not an Option. You see NASA through his eyes, from its primitive days when he first joined up, through the 1993 shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, his last mission control project. His memoir, however, is not high literature. Kranz has many accomplishments and honors to his credit, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but this is his first book, and he's not a polished author. There are, perhaps, more behind-the-scenes details and more paragraphs devoted to what Cape Canaveral looked like than the general public demands. If, however, you have a long-standing fascination with aeronautics, if you watched Apollo 13 and wanted more, Failure Is Not an Option will fill the bill. --Stephanie Gold

Extrait

Chapter One: The Four-Inch Flight

"Houston, we have a problem."

At some time in the hours that followed that terse announcement from Apollo 13, many of us in NASA's Mission Control Center wondered if we were going to lose the crew. Each of us had indelible memories of that awful day three years before when three other astronauts sat in an Apollo spacecraft firmly anchored to the ground. Running a systems test. Routine. In terms of the distances involved in spaceflight, we could almost reach out and touch them.

Moments after the first intimation that something had gone terribly wrong, technicians were up in the gantry, desperately trying to open the hatch. It took only seconds for an electrical glitch to ignite the oxygen-rich atmosphere of the cabin, creating a fire that was virtually a contained explosion. In those few seconds, the men inside the capsule knew what was happening -- and they must have realized, at the last moment, that there was no escape. We simply could not reach them in time.

Now, three equally brave men were far beyond us in distance, far out in the vast absolute zero world of space, the most deadly and unforgiving environment ever experienced by man. We could measure the distances in miles. But with so many miles, the number was an abstraction, albeit one we had become used to dealing with in matter-of-fact fashion.

We could reach them only with our voices, and they could speak to us only through the tenuous link of radio signals from precisely directional radio antennas. This time they were truly beyond our reach. Time and distance. So close were we in the Apollo fire that claimed the first three Americans to be killed in a spacecraft.

Now we were so far, so very far, away.

Once again, technology had failed us. We had not anticipated what happened back then, on Earth. We had not anticipated what had happened this time. In fact, it would be hours before we really understood what had happened. There was one big difference in this case. We could buy time. What we could not accomplish through technology, or procedures and operating manuals, we might be able to manage by drawing on a priceless fund of experience, accumulated over almost a decade of sending men into places far beyond the envelope of Earth's protective, nurturing atmosphere. All we had to work with was time and experience. The term we used was "workaround" -- options, other ways of doing things, solutions to problems that weren't to be found in manuals and schematics. These three astronauts were beyond our physical reach. But not beyond the reach of human imagination, inventiveness, and a creed that we all lived by: "Failure is not an option."

That was not true in the beginning of the space program. There had been many early failures back then -- because we hadn't learned enough about the perilous business in which we were engaged.

Would it happen again -- the loss of three men? We had failed our crew in Apollo 1. This time we had a few hours to do something. But did we have the wisdom? And could we somehow build not just on our own years of experience but the courage and resourcefulness of three astronauts far, far from home?

Sociologists and engineers call it "the human factor." It's what we must depend on when all the glittering technology seems, suddenly, useless.

For me, and others sitting safely in Mission Control in Houston, we could depend only on a learning curve that started at a place that wasn't more than a complex of sand, marsh, and new, raw concrete and asphalt. It wasn't even Kennedy Space Center then. But it was our first classroom and laboratory. And all we had learned since those first, uncertain years would be what we had to work with to figure out what had happened -- and what to do about it.

November, 1960

As a former Air Force fighter pilot, I am not usually a nervous passenger, constantly staring out the window to make sure a wing hasn't fallen off or monitoring the noise of the engines. But for once, on that fateful day, November 2, 1960, I couldn't wait to get on the ground.

East Coast Airlines had only one flight a day from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia to South Florida, using creaky, old twin-engine Martins and Convairs. How long the flight took on one of those old prop aircraft on any given day depended on the size of the bugs that hit the windshield and slowed it down.

This time my eagerness had nothing to do with the condition of the aircraft. This was my first trip to Cape Canaveral, Florida, the launching site for the infant American space program. During the brief flight on the shaky Convair, I was absorbed in thoughts about the new battle in which I had elected to play a part. As an American, I hated to see our nation second in anything -- and I had no doubt we were second in space. I had seen an example of what Soviet technology could do as I watched MiG aircraft making contrails high in the sky over the demilitarized zone in Korea, higher than our F-86 fighters could climb. Now the Russians had utterly surprised us by launching the space race. This was a race we had to win and I wanted to be part of it. In a matter of weeks, I had given up my exhilarating work in aircraft testing to take a job with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), officially coming on board on October 17. Two weeks later I was on my way to the Cape, and my family -- my wife, Marta, and our two young daughters -- was camping out at a motel near Space Task Group headquarters at Langley. My instructions were pretty simple: get to Mercury Control and report for work.

Well, I thought, here I am, looking around for launch towers and gantries -- but all I could see looked like a regular old Air Force base. It turned out that my knowledge of the local geography was just a little bit hazy. We had landed at Patrick AFB and I literally did not know whether we were north or south of my destination. After the plane rolled to a stop and a couple of guys from base operations rolled a metal stairway out to the aircraft's door, a shiny new Chevrolet convertible wheeled to a halt just beyond the wingtip. An Air Force enlisted man popped out, saluted, and held open the car's door for a curly-haired guy in civilian clothes, a fellow passenger who deplaned ahead of me. That was unusual -- a nonmilitary vehicle cruising around the ramp of a military base. As I stepped onto the tarmac, I looked around for the man my boss had said would meet me. I didn't see anyone who seemed to be looking for me, so I started searching for a taxi or any form of transportation. I felt like a foreigner in a strange land.

The plane's baggage was being offloaded next to the operations building when the tall, thin, curly-haired guy now driving the Chevy yelled out, "C'mon, I bet you're going to the Cape." I suppose my military-style crew cut and ramrod-straight posture gave me away. As I nodded, he said, "Climb aboard."

After clearing the plane, he peeled into a 180-degree turn and raced along the ramp for 100 yards, my neck snapping back as he floored the Chevy. I had never driven this fast on a military base in my life. I was thinking I had hitched a ride with a madman, or at least someone who apparently had no concern about being pulled over by the Air Police for speeding and breaking every regulation in the book. This feeling was reinforced as we took a few hard rights and lefts, then roared toward the gate, momentarily braking as an Air Force military policeman snapped a salute and waved us through. I took a closer look at the stranger behind the wheel. He was hatless, wearing a Ban-Lon shirt. There was no gold braid on him. I wasn't accustomed to seeing a guy in a Ban-Lon shirt rate salutes.

Hitting the highway, he made a wide turn and a hard left, burning rubber. In no time, he had the needle quivering between eighty and ninety miles an hour. After a joyful cry of "Eeeee hah," he turned and offered his hand, saying, "Hi, I'm Gordo Cooper." I had just met my first Mercury astronaut. As I soon learned, if you saw someone wearing a short-sleeved Ban-Lon sport shirt and aviator sunglasses, you were looking at an astronaut. We humble ground-pounders wore ties and white shirts, and yes, those nerdy pencil-holding pocket protectors.

I thought of that handshake often in the many years that followed. Mercury worked because of the raw courage of a handful of men like Cooper, who sat in heavy metal eggcups jammed on the top of rockets, and trusted those of us on the ground. That trust tied the entire team into a common effort.

I took it as a good omen that Cooper, taking pity on a befuddled stranger, offered me a lift to the base. He was one of the seven former test pilots selected for the first class of astronauts. They had been introduced, unveiled like sculptures, in April of 1959. Instantly the media compared them to Christopher Columbus and Charles Lindbergh. Today, I wonder how many of them the average American could name. They were John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom, Wally Schirra, Donald K. (Deke) Slayton, Scott Carpenter, and Cooper. They were similar in size and build, partly because the design of the capsule ruled out anyone over five-foot-eleven.

All of them were white, all from small towns, all middle-class, and all Protestant. This was not the result of deliberate discrimination, but because at the time that was the kind of man who became a military test pilot. At this period it was hard for Americans from any minority to get into flight training. But the military, like the rest of the country, grew up and lived up to its fundamental commitment to equality, thanks in large measure to the civil rights movement that, like the space program in the same era, demanded conviction and courage.

That day when I arrived in Florida I stumbled into the future. I didn't have enough time even to learn the recently coined space jargon before the Mercury flight director, Chris Kraft, gave me the task of writing the operating procedures for Mercury flight controllers. Without knowing much...

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12 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Format:Relié
"Failure is not an option" est LA référence sur les "hommes de l'ombres" de la NASA lors des missions spatiales : les contrôleurs de vol du Mission Control de la NASA. En lisant cet ouvrage écrit par un ancien directeur de vol de la NASA, Gene Kranz, on plonge dans l'univers technologique mais également plein d'aventure et de suspens qu'offre le cadre du contrôle de mission.
Le livre présente un excellent mélange de détails techniques qui raviront les amateurs de la conquête spatiale, mais aussi d'anecdotes diverses. Gene Kranz parvient à nous faire revivre les missions Mercury, Gemini ainsi que celles du programme Apollo comme si vous y assisitiez à ses côtés depuis votre console du centre de contrôle...
L'auteur parvient sans aucun mal à passioner son lecteur. C'est ce même Gene Kranz qu'avait d'ailleurs incarné Ed Harris dans le film "Apollo 13".
Le livre est un bon complément aux ouvrages "A Man on the Moon" d'Andrew Chaikin et "Deke!" de Deke Slayton, qui traitaient en particulier le thême des mission spatiale telles qu'elles étaient vécues par les astronautes.
Au même titre que les deux ouvrages précédent, "Failure is not an option" est LE livre qui ravira les passionés d'astronautique, ou bien qui vous fera devenir l'un d'eux.
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8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Par lco TOP 1000 COMMENTATEURS
Format:Broché
Comme beaucoup de personnes de mon âge (j'aborde la quarantaine), mon enfance a été bercée par l'épopée de la conquête spatiale. Le voyage vers la lune en fut sans conteste le point d'orgue. Cette aventure a profondément imprimée sa marque dans nos imaginaires personnels et collectifs, comme en témoigne l'abondance d'oeuvres de science fiction qui en reprennent les matériaux de base. En abordant ce livre, j'étais curieux de remonter à cette source et je me demandais si j'y trouverais matière à m'émerveiller encore. Je n'ai pas été déçu.

Gene Krantz a étroitement participé aux trois programmes fondateurs de l'ére spatiale: Mercury, qui permit aux américains d'envoyer leurs premier astronaute dans l'espace, Geminy qui assurait la transition (sortie dans l'espace, arrimages) et enfin Apollo qui fit franchir à la NASA le dernier pas vers la lune. Le livre décrit chacune des missions depuis Mercury 1 en novembre 1960 jusqu'à Apollo 17, le dernier des voyages vers la lune en décembre 1972.

Krantz travaillait au centre de contrôle en charge de planifier et de suivre les missions pendant leur exécution. Il s'agit de ces dizaines de personnes assises derrière des consoles face à un imposant écran de contrôle. Lorsque Krantz quitte l'armée de l'air en 1960, la NASA n'est pas encore l'organisation qu'elle va devenir dans les années ultérieures. Krantz nous relate les balbutiements du programme spatial et nous replonge dans l'état d'esprit des pionniers.
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Par Frpch
Format:Broché
Grâce à Gene Kranz, on découvre le monde de passions et d'exaltations de l'aventure spatiale américaine, les défis technologiques et humains et combien au final, plus que tout la détermination des hommes est le seul vrai facteur de réussite.

Et on comprend également à quel point les succès américains sont dus à l'audace des responsables et se sont joués sur le fil du rasoir.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 étoiles sur 5  208 commentaires
138 internautes sur 142 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An insider's view of history 30 mars 2000
Par Howard Gluckman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Gene Kranz was a flight director for most of the U.S. manned space program, and was on duty for some of the most critical events - including the first moon landing, and, of course the Apollo 13 accident.
In "Failure Is Not an Option," Kranz tells the story of Mission Control from the begining (he wrote some of the intial procedures manuals) through the Space Shuttle program. He shows how the ground controllers developed into a team, not only with each other, but with the astronauts on board the spacecraft.
Kranz may not be the most polished writer, but this is a first-person account from someone who helped make history. One of the things I really liked about the book is that Kranz not only took detailed notes during the missions (that was his first flight assignment), but he held on to them and used them to provide a more detailed account than I have seen before of the key missions from the perspective of Mission Control. He doesn't pull punches, and he's not afraid to admit mistakes, and this gives this book an air of honesty that you don't always find in an autobiography.
59 internautes sur 60 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An Insider's View of the Culture of Mission Control 10 avril 2000
Par William M. Foster - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Gene Kranz provides the reader with a remarkably vivid account of what it is like to be behind the scenes of Mission Control. From the initial procedures he wrote for the Mercury program, to the clipped voices of controllers working a spacecraft contingency to the sometimes abandoned way they let off steam off-console, Mr. Kranz brings you an accurate and very readable account of the MCC. From my own experiences of 20 years in the MCC, this book provides a very personal glimpse in how we continue to work. For the reader who remembers growing up with the highs and lows of the space race, this book will rekindle all the emotions of the time and fill in many of the blanks that can only come from an insider such as Mr. Kranz. "Failure Is Not An Option" should be required reading for any one currently working at the MCC, and for anyone wanting to learn more about what it took to put a man on the moon.
56 internautes sur 58 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Sim Sup 6 avril 2000
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
In "Failure Is Not An Option", Kranz tells it like it was. This is a very accurate description of life as a flight controller from 1960 until the end of the Apollo program. The characters are real and the circumstances they lived in are accurately portrayed in a manner that is interesting and provoking. I know because I was there.
Sim Sup
39 internautes sur 41 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The man behind the missions 9 avril 2000
Par Howard Bone - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Thanks to "Apollo13", Gene Kranz's name has become known to new generations, as well as those whose memories of the moon landings had faded. Even so, few knew much about the man who played a key role in the whole of America's space programme, from its first (sometines desperate) attempts to keep up with Russia's lead, until the Shuttle took on Kennedy's torch into space.
This book provides a clear insight into the space programme itself, but (unlike other books on the subject) it gives the reader a rare glimpse of the inner thoughts, fears, and patriotism of the man who was only 35 when he led the team of controllers which actually guided the Apollo missions to their objectives (and got them home when things went wrong).
Kranz is open about his strong religious convictions, his patriotism for his homeland, and his absolute belief in what he was doing. His commitment to the men with whom he worked comes across strongly, "men" who themselves were in the main only just out of college. In many ways, this might be expected, from a former fighter pilot, and a man whose crewcut hair style scared off the boys chasing his daughters. What is unexpected, is the raw emotion that the experiences which he went through generated in him. Kranz is honest throughout each chapter of this entralling book.
He writes as both a team player, and a team leader. Reading the book clearly shows why he is in demand at conferences to speak and pass on some of his proven ideas about clear leadership and vision.
I confess to being both a space buff, and a fan of Gene Kranz. Nervertheless, I can strongly recommend the book which serves not only as another historic record of those exciting times, but also as being a book which, for once, shows in a meaningful way how something can be achieved, if the team want it badly enough.
35 internautes sur 37 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Remarkable Time, Men, Women, And Accomplishments 6 avril 2000
Par taking a rest - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
The fact that Apollo 13 did not appear in the book until page 306 of 380 pages put a great deal of NASA and their missions in perspective for me.
Apollo 13 is well known by those who remember, and a generation that learned about it through the movie, and great books like, Tom Lovell's "Lost Moon". I hope as many people know about the tragedy of Apollo 1, and The Challenger is still rather fresh in the public's mind.
Apollo 13 was an incredible accomplishment by all involved, and the 3 men who persevered to make it back are nothing short of remarkable. Those on the ground took everything so personally, but the crew actually had to live through it. However the book puts this mission into perspective by taking the reader through the Mercury and Gemini programs as well.
Alan Shepard was the first to climb on a rocket that had a bad habit of exploding. I don't know what the "Right Stuff" actually is, but he had to made from it. And the Mercury Astronauts that followed all had experiences that were way up on the terror scale for non-astronauts/test pilots. That is one of the most eye opening parts of this book, every mission was so new, that the majority had problems that were potentially fatal.
You will read about the first moon landing, I never knew what happened on that one. Manned mission hit by lightening, a mission coming back with engines still on because who knew if the heat shield was still there. Every mission is just incredible from the complexity, and despite this, the rate of success.
I especially admired the manner that Mr. Kranz discussed the blown hatch on Gus Grissom's flight. The movie did a grave injustice to a man who subsequently died doing his job. The factual stories are incredible, taking liberties with what happened for dramatic effect are not necessary, and, in this case cruel.
The way the Mission Control people worked together, trusted one another, and took responsibility for their actions, is better than any management book I have ever read. The young age and the responsibilty that people in their 20's had was remarkable.
Mr. Kranz and all those like him are role models; their integrity and personal commitment were total. They gave this Country over a decade, a type of pride that was unique, and they did it with a special kind of class.
Long before the politicians got around to it this group was ahead of the human relations curve. The final Lunar Landing included a gesture that could only be made by the USA, as we were the only Country to plant 6 flags there, and had the selflessness to pay tribute to a group that you will have to read the book to learn about. I don't believe many Countries would have done it, and I suppose it really was not a Country, as much as the men and women acknowledging what is and what is not important.
An exceptional memoir!
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