Synopses & Reviews
On February 1, 1978, the first group of space shuttle astronauts, twenty-nine men and six women, were introduced to the world. Among them would be history makers, including the first American woman and the first African American in space. This assembly of astronauts would carry NASA through the most tumultuous years of the space shuttle program. Four would die on Challenger
USAF Colonel Mike Mullane was a member of this astronaut class, and Riding Rockets is his story told with a candor never before seen in an astronaut's memoir. Mullane strips the heroic veneer from the astronaut corps and paints them as they are human. His tales of arrested development among military flyboys working with feminist pioneers and post-doc scientists are sometimes bawdy, often hilarious, and always entertaining.
Mullane vividly portrays every aspect of the astronaut experience from telling a female technician which urine-collection condom size is a fit; to walking along a Florida beach in a last, tearful goodbye with a spouse; to a wild, intoxicating, terrifying ride into space; to hearing "Taps" played over a friend's grave. Mullane is brutally honest in his criticism of a NASA leadership whose bungling would precipitate the Challenger disaster.
Riding Rockets is a story of life in all its fateful uncertainty, of the impact of a family tragedy on a nine-year-old boy, of the revelatory effect of a machine called Sputnik, and of the life-steering powers of lust, love, and marriage. It is a story of the human experience that will resonate long after the call of "Wheel stop."
"With a testosterone-fueled swagger and a keen eye for particulars, Mullane takes readers into the high-intensity, high-stress world of the shuttle astronaut in this rough-hewn yet charming yarn of low-rent antics, bureaucratic insanity and transcendent beauty. Mullane opens this tale face down on a doctor's table awaiting a colorectal exam that will determine his fitness for astronaut training. 'I was determined when the NASA proctologist looked up my ass, he would see pipes so dazzling he would ask the nurse to get his sunglasses,' he writes, setting the tone for the crude and often hilarious story that follows. Chosen as a trainee in 1978, Mullane, a Vietnam vet, quickly finds himself at odds with the buttoned-up post-Apollo NASA world of scientists, technocrats and civilian astronauts he describes as 'tree-huggers, dolphin friendly fish eaters, vegetarians, and subscribers to the New York Times.' He holds female astronauts in special disregard, though he later grudgingly acknowledges the achievement and heroism of both the civilians and women. The book hits its stride with Mullane's space adventures: a difficult takeoff, the shift into zero gravity, his first view of the Earth from space: 'To say the view was overwhelmingly beautiful would be an insult to God.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"It's raw and laugh-out-loud funny, though....For all its humor, much of Riding Rockets is touching." Rocky Mountian News
"A strong addition to science and space collections of any size." Booklist
"It is a pleasure to read Mike Mullane's entertaining depiction of the NASA astronaut corps. He tells it like it is, and not the way NASA's painted it for so many years." General Chuck Yeager, fighter ace, test pilot, and chairman, General Chuck Yeager Foundation
"You may think you don't care about space or astronauts, but trust me, make an exception for this memoir. Quite simply, Riding Rockets soars." Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys
Decorated fly-boy, combat veteran, and International Space Hall-of-Famer Colonel Mike Mullane delivers a bright and revealing memoir of his life as an astronaut the first book of its kind to take a close look at NASA's space shuttle program. of photos.
About the Author
Upon his graduation from West Point in 1967, Mike Mullane was commissioned in the USAF. He flew 134 combat missions in Vietnam. Selected in the first group of space shuttle astronauts, he completed three space missions. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with his wife, Donna, and enjoys the challenge of Colorado's fourteen-thousand-foot peaks six climbed, forty-seven to go. He is also an acclaimed motivational speaker.
Table of Contents
1. Bowels and Brains
6. The Space Shuttle
7. Arrested Development
9. Babes and Booze
10. Temples of History
11. The F***ing New Guys
14. Adventures in Public Speaking
16. Pecking Order
17. Prime Crew
22. Coming to America
23. Astronaut Wings
24. Part-time Astronauts
25. The Golden Age
27. Castle Intrigue
30. Mission Assignment
31. God Falls
32. Swine Flight
33. Classified Work
34. "No reason to die all tensed up"
35. Riding a Meteor
36. Christie and Annette
38. "I have no plans past MECO"
39. Holding at Nine and Hurting
40. Last Orbits
41. The White House
42. Journey's End