Twelve harrowing episodes in the history of space travel.
Beginning with the hatch that prematurely blew off Gus Grissom’s Liberty Bell 7 capsule, Kluger (To the Moon!, 2018) offers a truly terrifying tally of catastrophes or near catastrophes—basing each incident on authoritative sources and relating each with melodramatic flair: “It can be oddly peaceful inside a dying spacecraft.” To requisite accounts of the Apollo 1 fire, the Apollo 13 thriller, and the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger, he adds the less-well-known tragedies of the Soyuz 1 crash and the asphyxiation of the three cosmonauts of Soyuz 11 as well as such near misses as Gene Cernan’s first extravehicular venture (“The Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Space Walk”), the lightning bolt that struck Apollo 12 as it was taking off, and the space-suited Italian astronaut who (ironically) narrowly escaped drowning outside the ISS when his helmet filled with water. The author analyzes the causes of each explosion or snafu, and his view of early spacecraft as exciting but chancy death traps riddled with flawed, often hastily designed technology will be an eye-opener for readers schooled on blander space-program narratives. Sharp black-and-white photos at the chapter heads depict the actual disasters or earlier views of the affected spacecraft or astronauts (where faces are discernible, all present white).
A thrill ride punctuated with spectacular failures—but also spectacular successes. (sources, glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 11-14)