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  Wheels Stop: The Tragedies and Triumphs of the Space Shuttle Program 1986-2010 (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   Wheels Stop: The Tragedies and Triumphs of the Space Shuttle Program 1986-2010
Rick
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posted 03-12-2013 08:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are a lot of memories from writing this book that will be with me for the rest of my life.

There was the time a former shuttle commander became very emotional discussing the loss of the crew of STS-107, and another when I asked someone else a question about the accident and then didn't say another word for 45 minutes as his thoughts came tumbling out.

There was laughter -- and a lot of it -- while discussing the broken-potty crisis on STS-33 with flight director Rob Kelso. There was reflection as one astronaut after another discussed the view from orbit. Maybe one day my children or grandchildren will be able to see it, too.

As it stands right now, "Wheels Stop" will be included in the University of Nebraska Press' fall catalog. A specific release date has not yet been set, but all the editing has been done, I've seen a mockup of the cover and I have also set up a Facebook page for the book. If you're so inclined, please head over and give it a "like."

That said, my esteemed editor Colin Burgess and I have long discussed sharing a few quotes from the book as publication draws nearer. I'm going to start with one from former NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin:

The shuttle was, if you will, a second-generation step in developing the art and science of learning how to fly in space. Exactly what did people expect? That we were going to figure it out perfectly, starting out in 1971 and '2, only a decade after the very human spaceflight had been done? I mean, we've been flying airplanes for a hundred years and we still figure out subtle ways to kill ourselves with them. The human race has been doing open-ocean maritime voyaging for over a thousand years, and we still lose ships. Starting the space shuttle a decade after the first-ever human spaceflight, anybody who thought we were going to figure it out and get it just right was drinking too much Kool-Aid. When I look at the legacy of the shuttle, I look at it in a positive tone. I look at it and say that ninety percent of all people who have flown into space have flown on board the space shuttle. This is a vehicle that really allowed us to learn how to live and work in space. This is a vehicle that really allowed us to learn how to do EVA. It's a vehicle that allowed us to build the space station.

garymilgrom
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posted 03-12-2013 09:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What a superb quote! Mr. Griffin makes a lot of sense. I wish NASA had done a better job of communicating this in the early days of the program - if so, starting with these diminished expectations, maybe we would still be flying these machines.

Thanks Rick. Looking forward to the book.

DavidH
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posted 03-12-2013 11:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DavidH   Click Here to Email DavidH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Awesome to see you next on deck for publication, and glad your journey to that point has been a great one! Can't wait to read it!

------------------
Homesteading Space | davidhitt.net

dom
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posted 03-12-2013 01:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
After our Footprints in the Dust this is the UNP title I've been most eagerly awaiting!

Rick
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posted 03-14-2013 09:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Milt Heflin penned one of the cover blurbs that will be used for "Wheels Stop." Later, I had the very cool opportunity to proofread and tweak the e-mail announcing Milt's retirement from NASA after nearly half a century with the agency.

GoesTo11
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posted 03-16-2013 03:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GoesTo11   Click Here to Email GoesTo11     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The shuttle was, if you will, a second-generation step in developing the art and science of learning how to fly in space. Exactly what did people expect? That we were going to figure it out perfectly, starting out in 1971 and '2, only a decade after the very human spaceflight had been done?

I agree entirely with Dr. Griffin's assessment, and I believe that most everyone familiar with the program thought similarly from Day One. But it must be remembered that the political climate of the late 1960s and early 70s demanded that the Shuttle be oversold to Congress if it was going to fly at all. Right or wrong, that's the course that was taken.

Regardless, the Outward Odyssey series has been uniformly excellent so far, and as a child of the Shuttle era, I'm eagerly awaiting this book.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 03-16-2013 08:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If by 'second-generation step' he meant reusable or winged spaceship, well, the first steps were taken with the X-15 and aborted work on the X-20....

Jay Chladek
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posted 03-18-2013 11:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That quote also sums up my own feelings for the shuttle program, but I keep a bit more positive about shuttle in my memories of it. Flawed, yes. Any piece of machinery built by man (no matter how simple or complicated) has its flaws. Shuttle was no exception. But, when you just look at what it did and HOW it did it, especially when you get the chance to see one of these things up close on the pad with the ET and SRBs ready for a launch into the unknown... you think "We can do ANYTHING!".

I know, Saturn V lovers say that rocket was better. But as state of the art as the Saturn was in the 1960s, the shuttle was a very bold leap forward in not only harnessing the power of rocket engines and fuels, but also getting things that shouldn't work together to do so from liftoff, to staging, to reentry and landing after a week or two of flight and refurbishing a good portion of it to do it again on the next mission. Many of us who lived through the two tragedies of Challenger and Columbia know all too well what can happen when things go wrong. But when it worked right, it could be a most joyous thing.

Rick
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posted 03-19-2013 08:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Of the 170,000 words or so that make up "Wheels Stop," it would be impossible for me to pick out a favorite quote. This one from flight director Rob Kelso, however, ranks right up there.

The servicing flight where we went up and fixed the lens on Hubble gets a lot of praise as one of the most important missions. But out of all the ones I know of, from STS-1 to the conclusion, probably STS-36 other than Hubble stands out as the most important mission that we ever did, certainly one of the most important. NASA wouldn’t just come up with the unique inclination and do all that analysis for abort modes and landing sites if it wasn’t damn important.

It's not what he says in particular, but all the possibilities that could be behind it. What exactly happened on this top-secret Department of Defense mission? Shuttle crews accomplished some extraordinary things. For Kelso to hint that a flight that few of us will ever know much about was one of the most important of the entire program is intriguing.

Jay Chladek
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posted 03-20-2013 12:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
STS-36 was a DoD mission and it launched into a 62 degree inclination, which is the steepest a shuttle ever got (a polar orbit launch from Vandenberg would have been higher if the launches from there hadn't been cancelled in the wake of Challenger).

The tricky bit about this mission is once the shuttle got far enough out to sea on a high inclination launch, it had to perform a dog-leg turn to align it with the 62 degree inclination. This was done to keep the stack from flying over somebody's head as just going up at 62 degrees right from the pad would have the flight path flying over Cape Hatteras and Cape Cod.

Given the flight path, abort trajectories for RTLS (assuming one was available after the turn was made) and TAL would have been very interesting (not sure what location would have been used for the abort site, the UK perhaps?). ATO and AOA I don't believe would have been as much of a problem, although the dog-leg trajectory was a little costly on fuel and vehicle performance, so things I imagine would have been a little more sticky if they had a pre-mature engine cut off at a critical moment.

dom
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posted 03-20-2013 01:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jay, I'm guessing Shannon airport on the west coast of Ireland (an official shuttle emergency landing site) would have been the best chance during an abort on this mission. Also, reading between the lines of the above comments, are these hints that the astronauts fixed a faulty spy satellite just like Hubble?

Rick
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posted 03-21-2013 10:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Dom ... I don't know if that's the case or not on STS-36, but I do believe something along those lines happened on STS-27.

Hoot Gibson has been quoted as saying that a satellite was deployed during STS-27, that it had a problem and that the problem was fixed after a rendezvous. How was it fixed? I don't know, but just like STS-36 being called one of the two most important flights in the history of the 30-year history of the shuttle program, it sounds like there's a lot more to the story that most of us will probably ever know!

Rick
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posted 03-26-2013 03:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Pam Melroy was one of my favorite interview subjects for "Wheels Stop," and for a variety of reasons. First and foremost was her candor and honesty. Here's how she described what her response might have been had she been asked some of the insensitive questions that NASA's earliest female astronauts faced:

There were really, really, really stupid questions about things like their boyfriends and the size of the flight suit that they were wearing and what would NASA do if they gained weight. It was this really funny undertone of physical appearance being so central to their value to the agency. Ooooo, boy. Man, I’m glad I wasn’t there then. I’d probably smack somebody upside the head if they asked me a question like that, I’d be so offended.

Rick
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posted 03-28-2013 08:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From now until the official release date — which is yet to be determined — each page and post share and "like" on the "Wheels Stop" Facebook page will be entered into a drawing for a copy of "Wheels Stop" signed by ... well ... me. But here's the good part. It'll also be autographed by former astronaut Jerry Ross, who wrote the foreword! The more you share, the more chances you'll have to win!

GoesTo11
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posted 04-07-2013 05:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GoesTo11   Click Here to Email GoesTo11     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Regarding STS-36... I've always wondered what, exactly, happened on that mission. Given its outside-precedent factors (orbital inclination, unconventional ascent profile, abort contingencies, etc.), it seemed really odd that such a mission would fly after the DoD had essentially divested itself from the Shuttle in the wake of Challenger.

Obviously several more DoD missions were flown after that tragedy, but my impression is that they were "safe" flights with payloads already manifested.

I guess what I'm really hoping for is that enough of STS-27 and -36 get declassified for Mike Mullane to write another book!

Jay Chladek
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posted 04-07-2013 07:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by GoesTo11:
Obviously several more DoD missions were flown after that tragedy, but my impression is that they were "safe" flights with payloads already manifested.
The primary thing to keep in mind about that period is there was a little bit of a dip in launch capability for DoD assets due to the early 1980s mandate that shuttle would be the "ONLY" launch vehicle. Just before Challenger, work had begun on the Titan IV since the Air Force was beginning to realize this "all eggs in one basket" approach was getting a bit dangerous and production began to ramp up on other boosters. But the shuttle was still considered to be the heaviest of the heavy lifters until the Titan IV came along.

The Titan IV had its first flight in June, 1989, less than eight months before STS-36 had its scheduled flight and while the booster was operational, it still was likely being ramped up in its capabilities. Plus, there was a chance that a problem might have developed during testing while for all its problems and added launch restrictions, the shuttle was at least an operational vehicle.

So I would say in the case of why the shuttle flew the payload on STS-36, it was at the right place at the right time. If the payload had been manifested for after 1990, chances are a Titan IV probably would have hauled it into orbit instead of the shuttle.

cspg
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posted 04-08-2013 08:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wheels Stop: The Tragedies and Triumphs of the Space Shuttle Program, 1986-2011
by Rick Houston
Foreword by Jerry Ross
Humanity's first reusable spacecraft and the most complex machine ever built, NASA's Space Shuttle debuted with great promise and as a dependable source of wonder and national pride. But with the Challenger catastrophe in 1986, the whole Space Shuttle program came into question, as did NASA itself, so long an institution that was seemingly above reproach.

Wheels Stop tells the stirring story of how, after the Challenger disaster, the Space Shuttle not only recovered but went on to perform its greatest missions. From the Return to Flight mission of STS-26 in 1988 to the last shuttle mission ever on STS-135 in 2011, Wheels Stop takes readers behind the scenes as the shuttle's crews begin to mend Cold War tensions with the former Soviet Union, conduct vital research, deploy satellites, repair the Hubble Space Telescope, and assist in constructing the International Space Station. It also tells the heart-wrenching story of the Columbia tragedy and the loss of the magnificent STS-107 crew.

As complex as the shuttle was, the people it carried into orbit were often more so — and this is their story, too. Close encounters with astronauts, flight controllers, and shuttle workers capture the human side of the Space Shuttle's amazing journey — and invite readers along for the ride.

Rick Houston, a full-time journalist for more than twenty years, is the author of Second to None: The History of the NASCAR Busch Series and Man on a Mission: The David Hilmers Story and a contributor to Footprints in the Dust: The Epic Voyages of Apollo, 1969-1975 (Nebraska, 2010).

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (December 1, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0803235348
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803235342

Rick
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posted 04-08-2013 12:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hey! That's something I didn't actually know ... the actual release date and a link to amazon.com! Amazing what you can find out on collectSPACE ...

cspg
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posted 04-14-2013 12:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Any particular reason why "tragedy" comes before "triumph", except for a alpabetically-sorted one? 133 triumphs and 2 tragedies.

Rick
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posted 04-14-2013 05:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There was no particular reasoning behind "Tragedies" coming before "Triumphs" that I'm aware of.

In writing about the fourteen shuttle astronauts who were lost in flight -- those on Columbia, in particular -- it got to the point where I felt like I almost knew them personally. The very last thing I would EVER do is sensationalize their deaths.

p51
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posted 04-14-2013 08:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by cspg:
133 triumphs and 2 tragedies.
But in all fairness, which do you think the public remembers most? The image of the Challenger breaking up is clearly THE image the public generally has of the entire program...

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-14-2013 09:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I disagree; the public many not remember individual missions but I would say as a collective whole, the public's image of the shuttle program is of it at launch.

Keep in mind that there is an entire generation who have already graduated from college who were not alive for Challenger. And while I don't doubt that those who were alive for the accident remember that image, there are a handful of iconic launch shots that have been reproduced more.

p51
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posted 04-15-2013 01:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
I disagree; the public many not remember individual missions but I would say as a collective whole, the public's image of the shuttle program is of it at launch.
I recently gave a talk about the program to a college course and I asked what the each student's one impression of the program was. Only ONE stated anything other than the Challenger breakup.

And this was mostly the generation born after the incident you spoke of.

Jim Behling
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posted 04-15-2013 02:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jay Chladek:
...production began to ramp up on other boosters.
The "other boosters" (Delta II and Atlas II) production weren't initiated until after Challenger and were due to it.

Jim Behling
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posted 04-15-2013 02:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by GoesTo11:
Obviously several more DoD missions were flown after that tragedy, but my impression is that they were "safe" flights with payloads already manifested.

I guess what I'm really hoping for is that enough of STS-27 and -36 get declassified for Mike Mullane to write another book!


The DOD payloads that flew after Challenger were ones that were already manifested/scheduled to fly on the shuttle, meaning they were already built and not able to be flown on ELV's (except for DSP-16 on STS-44). That was a case where the DOD paid for the flight already.

It is unlikely that Mullane will be able to write about the spacecraft since declassification doesn't happen until 25 years or so after the end of the mission of the last spacecraft in the series.

cspg
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posted 04-15-2013 09:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Rick:
The very last thing I would EVER do is sensationalize their deaths.
I wasn't implying anything of this sort!

It's just that it gives a false impression that the whole program was more of a failure than a success. It's like writing a book titled "The Tragedies and Triumphs of the Apollo Moon Program." I don't think it would be a fair title.

But as "p51" wrote, the impact of Challenger and Columbia are probably greater than what they've accomplished. After all, we talk about airline/train/ships when something goes awfully wrong.

ColinBurgess
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posted 04-15-2013 05:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just to clarify one point; while Rick and I came up with the "Wheels Stop" main title, it was the publishers who assigned the subtitle to the book, based on their marketing experience. This is the right of any publisher, as stated in an author's contract, to change the working title to what they feel is more appropriate to the market. Most of the time this works quite well.

Quite frankly, I have no issue at all with the use of "Tragedies and Triumphs" and if the order was reversed then I can't see where it makes any difference at all.

Rick
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posted 04-16-2013 03:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jim Wetherbee, on the issue of dealing with fear as an astronaut:
The time you must deal with the fear of the job is not when you first are selected to become an astronaut. There’s an exhilaration that lasts for many months. It’s not even the first time you get assigned to a mission, nor is it leading up to your first flight. It’s really the night before your first launch attempt, when your head hits the pillow and you recognize that you’ve run out of time to get any smarter and it’s too late to quit. The biggest challenge I think an astronaut has is not fear of death. It’s fear of making a mistake. I was able to go to sleep peacefully that night, thinking, “If the worst happens and bad stuff starts happening, I’m going to spend my last nanosecond on this planet trying to help save the crew and the vehicle. If I fail, well, then I’ve died doing the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do since I was ten years old.”

cspg
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posted 04-19-2013 04:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I like the cover (see Amazon).

Rick
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posted 04-19-2013 04:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Scooped again... here's the cover. I'm really very proud of it!

dom
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posted 04-19-2013 05:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Fantastic cover Rick - almost as good as Footprints in the Dust.

Seriously, I'm really looking forward to reading a book which could be one of the definitive histories of the space shuttle!

328KF
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posted 04-19-2013 10:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That cover looks great! I also think that the subtitle works in that the portion of the program being written about, 1986-2011, began with a tragedy and was followed by many, many triumphs.

Can't wait to read this one, as well as the other releases coming this year.

ColinBurgess
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posted 04-19-2013 11:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This really is a very dynamic cover, and I can tell you it's an absolutely terrific book (I admit I am somewhat privileged!)

At Spacefest V I will be announcing a further four titles in the Outward Odyssey series, bringing the total to 16 volumes.

Rick
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posted 04-23-2013 10:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here's one of the cover blurbs for "Wheels Stop," courtesy of astronaut Scott Parazynski.

"Rick Houston skillfully recounts the shuttle program from a front row center seat, full of engaging, first person accounts — direct from the flight deck and the vacuum of space during some of the program's wildest spacewalks. From triumph to tragedy and back again, this book is the next best thing to being there."

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 04-23-2013 11:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Given the subtitle, "The Tragedies and Triumphs of the Space Shuttle Program, 1986-2011," in my opinion it would be jarring to switch 'tragedies' and 'triumphs.'

Sure 1986 saw the successful launch of 61C. But the other launch of that year was Challenger.

Look at it this way: "The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Space Shuttle Program, 1986-2011." Wouldn't you say to yourself, "What triumph in 1986? Aside from ending the space shuttle program, what tragedy in 2011?"

But given the many delays of 61C, maybe a better subtitle would be, "The tragicomedy, tragedy and I'm not sure how to feel about no more space shuttle flights, whether that's a tragedy or a triumph of the Space Shuttle program, 1986-2011."

Henry Heatherbank
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posted 04-24-2013 05:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Awesome, awesome, awesome front cover photo. Says it all.

Also, I take no issue with the "tragedies and triumphs" sub-title. That is exactly how I see the 1986-2011 time period. It started tragically and the final years ended in triumph with all the missions to complete assembly of the ISS.

Can't wait to read this book.

Rick
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posted 04-24-2013 10:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Hart Sastrowardoyo:
...maybe a better subtitle would be, "The tragicomedy, tragedy and I'm not sure how to feel about no more space shuttle flights, whether that's a tragedy or a triumph of the Space Shuttle program, 1986-2011.
Hart, that's a GREAT idea for a subtitle! Stop the presses!

Actually, the original subtitle for "Wheels Stop" was "The End of the Space Shuttle Era." In fact, it's what's on the business cards I had made up when I was out and about putting the book together. That REALLY didn't fit, given the scope of everything the book covers.

As for which comes first, "tragedy" or "triumph," it's like discussing which came first, the chicken or the egg. There WERE tragedies in the shuttle program, there WERE triumphs. I honestly believe "Wheels Stop" covers both very adequately.

jiffyq58
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posted 04-24-2013 01:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jiffyq58   Click Here to Email jiffyq58     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rick, I can't wait to read this book. Since you are a NC boy, are you planning any NC appearances on the book tour? Especially in the Triangle? (That's a hint!)

Rick
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posted 04-24-2013 02:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you want a book signed, trust me. I'll FIND you!

DavidH
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posted 04-26-2013 09:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DavidH   Click Here to Email DavidH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Beautiful cover, sir!

------------------
Homesteading Space | davidhitt.net


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Ultimate Bulletin Board 5.47a





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