Into the Black

  • by Rowland White, Richard Truly
  • Narrated by Eric Meyers
  • 15 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The real-life techno-thriller from a best-selling author and aviation expert that recaptures the historic moments leading up to the launch of the space shuttle Columbia and the exciting story of her daring maiden flight.
Using interviews, NASA oral histories, and recently declassified material, Into the Black pieces together the dramatic untold story of the Columbia mission and the brave people who dedicated themselves to help the United States succeed in the age of space exploration. On April 12, 1981, NASA's Space Shuttle Columbia blasted off from Cape Canaveral. It was the most advanced, state-of-the-art flying machine ever built, challenging the minds and imagination of America's top engineers and pilots. Columbia was the world's first real spaceship: a winged rocket plane, the size of an airliner and capable of flying to space and back before preparing to fly again.
Onboard were moonwalker John Young and test pilot Bob Crippen. Less than an hour after Young and Crippen's spectacular departure from the Cape, all was not well. Tiles designed to protect the ship from the blowtorch burn of reentry were missing from the heat shield. If the damage to Columbia was too great, the astronauts wouldn't be able to return safely to Earth. NASA turned to the National Reconnaissance Office, a spy agency hidden deep inside the Pentagon whose very existence was classified. To help the ship, the NRO would attempt something never done before. Success would require skill, perfect timing, and luck.
Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, Into the Black is a thrilling race against time and the incredible true story of the first space shuttle mission that celebrates our passion for spaceflight.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Great Story About a Flawed Spacecraft

This book was really very good. It's largely a biography of John Young and Bob Crippen, the first two space shuttle astronauts, and the team that was involved in getting the program off the ground. The book also covers Joe Engel, Richard Truly and other astronauts involved in the early shuttle missions.

I found the background on Crippen's tenure with the USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory, a planned observation platform for military intelligence, absolutely fascinating. The program was canceled, but was quite ambitious. I knew almost nothing about this program, even though I grew up in the 1960s and am a bit of a space flight junkie.

The back story about getting USAF support for the shuttle program was also fascinating. The USAF had a love-hate relationship (perhaps a little more hate!) with the shuttle.

The author is an unabashed fan of the shuttle, although he covers the story warts and all. I'm not. Although it was certainly impressive to put something as big as the shuttle into space, it never got out of low earth orbit. Building it with solid fuel boosters was just a mistake--one we learn that gave John Young much trepidation.

Of course, the heat shield made of ceramic tiles was a problem for the spacecraft from the first flight to the last. I had forgotten that there were tiles knocked off on the first flight. The story about how NASA finallly got DOD photos of the underside of the shuttle while it was in that first flight was just amazing.

One thing that we tend to forget is just how primitive the computers were that were used in the space program in the early years. What NASA was able to accomplish with Apollo and then the shuttle was truly impressive.

Even if you have mixed feelings about the shuttle, this book is well worth reading.

Today, despite all the computers and hard won knowledge, we can't even put a man in space except by hitching a ride on a vintage Russian rocket. That's sad and a bit of a national disgrace.
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- John

Interesting but not "Extraordinary"

This book is subtitled "The Extraordinary Untold Story of the First Flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the Astronauts that Flew Her.” Being familiar with the many dramatic life and mission threatening issues of multiple Mercury, Gemini and Apollo flights there's nothing particularly “extraordinary" in this telling of the STS-1 Columbia story.

That's not to say the story isn't interesting nor try to diminish the courage of the astronauts and the technical breakthroughs accomplished, it's just that the book is over billed. Sure, there are the biographies of the astronauts and details about the technology that you’d expect in such a story. The story is solidly researched and if you can get past the first 12 hours of biography and background it gets interesting in the last four hours when the actual mission begins and troubles, common on so many space missions, develop.

I could have done without the narrator’s cartoonish accents, his willowy impersonations of female speakers and his comical imitations of historical figures. At times his over dramatization sounds like he’s putting on a one man play. Better audio narrations are much more subtle than this one.

The book tells the story of the Columbia's first flight and even reveals some information not commonly known about the Manned Orbiting Laboratory and spy satellite capabilities. But, being a mission I was fortunate to experience first hand, I would have liked to see a more riveting story.
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- Blake

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-19-2016
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio