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Author Topic:   The Burning Blue (Kevin Cook)
cspg
Member

Posts: 6312
From: Geneva, Switzerland
Registered: May 2006

posted 10-13-2020 04:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Burning Blue: The Untold Story of Christa McAuliffe and NASA's Challenger Disaster
by Kevin Cook
The untold story of a national trauma — NASA's Challenger explosion — and what really happened to America's Teacher in Space, illuminating the tragic cost of humanity setting its sight on the stars.

You've seen the pictures. You think you know what happened. You do not.

On the morning of January 28, 1986, NASA's space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after blasting off from Cape Canaveral. Christa McAuliffe, America's "Teacher in Space," was instantly killed, along with the other six members of the mission. Right? Wrong.

Thirty-five years after NASA's revitalization program literally went up in smoke, Kevin Cook uncovers the untold story of the disastrous order to launch on an ice-cold Florida day. For the first time, he takes readers inside the shuttle for those agonizing two minutes and forty-five seconds after the fire which, yes, some of the astronauts survived.

But this is more than a simple corrective to a now-dimming memory. Centering on McAuliffe, a charmingly ordinary civilian on the cusp of history, "The Burning Blue" animates the mission's colorful cast of characters, which featured the second female astronaut (who was also the first Jewish astronaut), the second Black one, and the first Asian-American and Buddhist in space. Drawing intimate portraits of the people wearing the spacesuits and detailing how they earned the right to suit up, Cook makes readers temporarily forget the tragedy toward which the tale is hurtling. Infused with drama, immediacy, and compelling characters, "The Burning Blue" reveals the human price paid for politics and capital-P Progress on that ill-fated, unforgettable morning.

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Henry Holt and Co. (June 8, 2021)
  • ISBN-10: 1250755557
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250755551

ColinBurgess
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Posts: 2125
From: Sydney, Australia
Registered: Sep 2003

posted 10-13-2020 06:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In the memory of the seven amazing members of the Challenger crew, may this book be forever consigned to the trash can of fiction sensationally disguised as fact.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 48402
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-13-2020 08:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Colin, are your concerns based on the publisher's promo copy or do you have additional information about the content in this book?

Cozmosis22
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Posts: 1113
From: Texas * Earth
Registered: Apr 2011

posted 10-13-2020 09:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cozmosis22     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For the first time, he takes readers inside the shuttle for those agonizing two minutes and forty-five seconds after the fire which, yes, some of the astronauts survived.
For one thing it is not a new revelation that some astronauts survived the initial "explosion."

However, seem to recall that NASA said that in deference to the families of the crew they would classify all downlink or black box data and not reveal the details of what was actually going on inside the orbiter during that free fall into the ocean.

So either the author illegally acquired that information or he just imagined what he thinks went on during that short time period and wrote it down as part of "the untold story" of STS 51-L.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 48402
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-13-2020 10:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There was no downlink data. After Challenger broke apart all power was cut off from the crew cabin, so there were no means to transmit or record data.

There were studies done about the configuration of the recovered crew cabin and the condition of the crew, part of which was referenced in the Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report that was released by NASA after the 2003 tragedy.

ColinBurgess
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Posts: 2125
From: Sydney, Australia
Registered: Sep 2003

posted 10-13-2020 05:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
...do you have additional information about the content in this book?
Admittedly, no - I have not read this book, nor will I. The blurb on the book, and the clumsy way in which is was written, was enough to turn me off it. Even if Kevin Cook had not written this blurb himself, he would definitely have approved it, and if the book's contents are as woeful as that summary, then it is one to be avoided.

For starters, Challenger did not "explode." At 73 seconds into the ascent the shuttle stack was hurtling through the atmosphere at high speed, with tremendous wind force acting upon it. The instant the trajectory changed as the fuel tank erupted, with Challenger swivelling sideways, it was literally torn apart. At that altitude, with no breathable oxygen, and even if by some unlikely miracle a crew member or two did survive, they would have passed out in moments from the effects of hypoxia. So no calm, two minute crew communications as they fell down towards the ocean.

The author also talks about a fire aboard Challenger. What fire?

As to this alleged continuation of communications, I actually read this so-called "transcript" probably about 20 years ago, and I'm sure many of the more senior members of this forum will remember this appalling piece of fiction when it came out and was quickly recognised as a complete and unworthy fabrication. I may be wrong, but I'm almost certain this author has come across that long-ago "transcript" and accepted it as fact. That was my first impression as it sounds all too familiar.

Let me just add that I have checked and the author is no spaceflight historian. Yes, he has written and illustrated several books, but mostly about baseball. So the question remains, how would someone with no recognised or applicable background gain access to one of the most secretive, so-called guarded and explosive revelations in spaceflight history?

The first reviews will undoubtedly be interesting.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 48402
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-13-2020 06:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While the promo text does raise valid questions, Macmillan/Henry Holt and Co. is not a small imprint. I would be surprised if the book is based on a long-debunked internet urban legend.

I would also not be surprised if the book is not as sensational as the promo makes it out to be. If I had to guess, the details about what happened inside the cabin after the vehicle broke apart might be based on the status of the crew's personal egress air packs and the switches on the pilot side of the flight deck. These are not new details to those in the space community who have sought them out, but might be considered "new" to the general public.

I have no insight into the book or its author. I hope, for the sake of the families and others who were close to the crew, that the book treats the topic with the reverence it deserves.

Merkaw
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Posts: 39
From: Denmark
Registered: Aug 2014

posted 04-14-2022 09:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Merkaw     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Can anyone comment on the book after reading it? Is it worth a read?

onesmallstep
Member

Posts: 1328
From: Staten Island, New York USA
Registered: Nov 2007

posted 05-23-2022 11:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, it's not the most elegant book written on the Challenger tragedy, but it does fill a shelf full of them now. Although Colin Burgess is of course free to not read or avoid the book, I read it and found it to be informative in spots.

Although the subtitle of course mentions Christa, it does cover the other crewmembers and their families. Christa's widower was interviewed for the book, but strangely Barbara Morgan, her backup, disappears from the narrative after the accident and is never mentioned for the rest of the book, interviewed or even quoted in another source. No mention is even made that she joined NASA's astronaut corps and went into space.

It does provide a more political and social background to the Teacher in Space Program, and the state of the Shuttle program in the mid-80s in general.

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