Synopses & Reviews
The Space Shuttle was once the cornerstone of the U.S. space program. However, each new flight brings us one step closer to the retirement of the shuttle in 2010. Final Countdown
is the riveting history of NASA's Space Shuttle program, its missions, and its impending demise. It also examines the plans and early development of the space agency's next major effort: the Orion Crew Exploration Capsule.
Journalist Pat Duggins, National Public Radio's resident "space expert," chronicles the planning stages of the shuttle program in the early 1970s, the thrills of the first flight in 1981, construction of the International Space Station in the 1990s, and the decision in the early 2000s to shut it down.
As a rookie reporter visiting the Kennedy Space Center hangar to view the Challenger wreckage, Duggins was in a unique position to offer a poignant eyewitness account of NASA's first shuttle disaster. In Final Countdown, he recounts the agency's struggle to rebound after the Challenger and Columbia tragedies, and explores how politics, scientific entrepreneurship, and the human drive for exploration have impacted the program in sometimes unexpected ways.
Duggins has covered eighty-six shuttle missions, and his twenty-year working relationship with NASA has given him unprecedented access to personnel. Many spoke openly and frankly with him, including veteran astronaut John Young, who discusses the travails to get the shuttle program off the ground. Young's crewmate, astronaut Bob Crippen, reveals the frustration and loss he felt when his first opportunity to go into space on the first planned space station was taken away.
As the shuttle program winds down, more astronauts may face similar disappointments. Final Countdown is a story of lost dreams, new hopes, and the ongoing conquest of space.
"Many Americans' only memories of their country's excursions into space are of the space shuttle program, inaugurated with the launch of Columbia in 1981. Twenty-two years later, Columbia's disintegration over the Southwest played a major role in the decision to end the program. NPR journalist Duggins reviews the 25-year saga of the shuttle missions, some of which have been shrouded in mystery, as astronauts took secret military payloads into space; others received worldwide attention and acclaim, as when the Hubble Space Telescope was restored to 20 20 vision. The author repeats the oft-made charge that the shuttle is a space vehicle in search of a true mission. Too often shuttle administrators have settled for running a billion-dollar short-distance trucking service to ferry supplies to the International Space Station. The book's first chapter is a look forward at what NASA plans for the next quarter century, but this misplaced preview delays launch of the main story. Readers also might wish Duggins had shared more of his reporter's experiences in covering the shuttle program. Nevertheless, this history is a worthy addition to the recent torrent of books about the American space program. Illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Final Countdown artfully merges excellent reporting with great writing to chronicle the highs and lows of the Space Shuttle program, along with rare astronaut anecdotes about what it's really like to fly to space and back." Craig Covault, senior editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology
"Final Countdown provides a very personal look at America's manned space program from a veteran reporter who has covered the shuttle's ups and downs for more than 20 years. Duggins brings an insider's perspective to a complex topic." Bill Harwood, CBS Space Correspondent
"Pat Duggins knows of what he writes. Final Countdown is a solid read." Jay Barbree, NBC's veteran space correspondent and author of the New York Times bestseller Moon Shot
"Final Countdown is a refreshingly candid look at the U.S. space program at this crucial juncture. Pat Duggins' enthusiasm for space flight enhances his ability to explore tough questions about NASA's ability to plan for its next giant leap." David Brancaccio, Host, NOW on PBS
"Duggins relates the technological and financial compromises that resulted in the final design of the shuttle launch configuration, which is far different from NASAs original blueprint." Booklist
About the Author
Pat Duggins is senior news analyst at public radio station WMFE-FM in Orlando. His documentary on the first anniversary of the Columbia accident earned WMFE a prestigious First Place National Headliner Award and an Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association.