Shuttle veteran Jones reminisces about rocketing into space.
Jones tells his story with no unnecessary drama—no filigree or chest-pounding here. Unfortunately, he doesn’t provide much excitement either. The author seems like the prototypical guy whom NASA would hire. An air force pilot and CIA scientist—he can’t go into much detail on the latter, more’s the shame—he was picked to join the 1989 crop of “Ascans” (“astronaut candidates”), nicknamed the “Hairballs,” for foggy reasons. Not until 1994 was Jones finally allowed to head into space aboard the shuttle Endeavour. He renders that trip rousingly, but it’s the first of four, and Jones makes little attempt to add a human touch that might have differentiated them. Plenty of time is spent on the mechanics of space flight, including descriptions of pulling six Gs on liftoff and the painful wear and tear that the “launch and entry suit” exacts on anyone stuffed inside it. In the process, Jones reminds readers of the unbelievable patience that shuttle astronauts most possess; he characterizes one especially difficult space station mission as, “like backing a Lamborghini out of the garage with your eyes closed, knowing that if you dented a fender, the nearest body shop was 240 miles away—straight down.” The unfailingly decent author has little bad to say about anybody and takes his duties as an astronaut extremely seriously. Lacking the touch of the true writer, this sober approach results in something less like a book than a setup for a NASA fundraiser.
For the true space enthusiast only.