Wheels Stop: The Tragedies and Triumphs of the Space Shuttle Program, 1986-2011

  • by Rick Houston
  • Narrated by James Killavey
  • 17 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 listeners 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 listeners along for the ride.
The book is published by University of Nebraska Press.

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What the Critics Say

"With the Space Shuttle program now at an end, documenting the amazing thirty-year career of these iconic orbiters holds an untold amount of historical importance. Spaceflight isn't easy, people pay in blood and sweat to make it happen. Rick Houston lends a voice to some of the key people involved in what is not only an American treasure but a global superstar." (Chris Bergin, NASASpaceflight.com)
"Enthusiastic portrayal of the heroic age of American space travel." (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Finished it in three days!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, Yes and Yes! This is an incredible book. The book is almost 18 hrs long and I couldn't stop listening! I have always been fascinated by the Space Shuttle program so, on the advice of my favorite Amazon reviewer, "Dad of Divas," I got the hardcover. Problem is I never had time to get past the intro so I was delighted to see that it came out in audio. I could not improve on "Dad's" review so I have posted part of it below. I agree heartily with every word. Wonderful book!


Which character – as performed by James Killavey – was your favorite?

Non fiction so no real characters although he did do a nice French accent for the French Astronaut.....and...I am going to quote an Amazon review below but, obviously he read it not heard it so...I liked this reader. I thought he was good. HOWEVER...Use common sense and listen to the sample before you get it. I have never heard this guy before but I have read reviews of narrators that I thought were good who were trashed be some listeners. ( always a minority ) Why? I'm not sure except that narrator styles seem to be very much a personal thing so...Do the sensible thing and listen to the sample first. I will never understand why people don't take a few minutes to do this and than write nasty reviews about the narrators. Use common sense! You wouldn't buy a car without taking a test drive, right?


Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Too many to mention.


Any additional comments?

Here is some of "Dad of Divas" review of the book which convinced me to get the print version and now the audio. This guy is a "Top 500" reviewer and I have never regretted getting anything that he liked."This was a great book filled with stories, some that I was aware of, but so many that were new to me. As someone who grew up with the highs and lows of the space shuttle, I loved reading this and appreciated all of the intricate details that were included in this book. There was so much that I was unaware of and this book shares it with the reader. You not only gain a better understanding of the technical side of things in regards to space travel and the shuttle, but you also get to know the people through the interviews and so much more that the author shares. On each page you are transported further and further into the book and even though at first the book may seem long, you will find yourself flying through this and compelled to read even more (or at least I was).I highly recommend this to all, as it offers rich description and detail as well as unprecedented access to insider interviews and research that I have never come across before in a book on this topic before!"

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- Ken

Fascinating behind the scenes look

What did you love best about Wheels Stop: The Tragedies and Triumphs of the Space Shuttle Program, 1986-2011?

The interviews and quotes from the actual astronauts and mission control people.


What other book might you compare Wheels Stop: The Tragedies and Triumphs of the Space Shuttle Program, 1986-2011 to and why?

Can't think of anything like this.


Have you listened to any of James Killavey’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Yes. I like him but, as another reviewer said...tastes vary...so do the smart thing and listen to the sample first.


Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Cried a bit at the details of the two disasters...one going up and one coming down. Very sad.


Any additional comments?

A really fascinating behind the scenes look at some of our bravest and smartest people. The machine was incredible...and so were they!

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- Carl

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-05-2016
  • Publisher: University Press Audiobooks