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Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond | [Gene Kranz]

Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond

Gene Kranz was present at the creation of America's manned space program and was a key player in it for three decades. As a flight director in NASA's Mission Control, Kranz witnessed firsthand the making of history. He participated in the space program from the early days of the Mercury program to the last Apollo mission, and beyond. He endured the disastrous first years when rockets blew up and the United States seemed to fall further behind the Soviet Union in the space race.
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Publisher's Summary

Gene Kranz was present at the creation of America's manned space program and was a key player in it for three decades. As a flight director in NASA's Mission Control, Kranz witnessed firsthand the making of history. He participated in the space program from the early days of the Mercury program to the last Apollo mission, and beyond. He endured the disastrous first years when rockets blew up and the United States seemed to fall further behind the Soviet Union in the space race. He helped to launch Alan Shepard and John Glenn, then assumed the flight director's role in the Gemini program, which he guided to fruition. With his teammates, he accepted the challenge to carry out President John F. Kennedy's commitment to land a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s.

Kranz was flight director for both Apollo 11, the mission in which Neil Armstrong fulfilled President Kennedy's pledge, and Apollo 13. He headed the Tiger Team that had to figure out how to bring the three Apollo 13 astronauts safely back to Earth. (In the film Apollo 13, Kranz was played by the actor Ed Harris, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance.)

In Failure Is Not an Option, Gene Kranz recounts these thrilling historic events and offers new information about the famous flights. What appeared as nearly flawless missions to the moon were, in fact, a series of hair-raising near misses. When the space technology failed, as it sometimes did, the controllers' only recourse was to rely on their skills and those of their teammates. Kranz takes us inside Mission Control and introduces us to some of the whiz kids - still in their twenties, only a few years out of college - who had to figure it all out as they went along, creating a great and daring enterprise. He reveals behind-the-scenes details to demonstrate the leadership, discipline, trust, and teamwork that made the space program a success.

©2009 Gene Kranz (P)2011 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"Plenty of books (and several films) have already tried to depict the space program's excitement; few of their creators had the first-person experience or the attention to detail Krantz has, whose role as flight control "White" his readers will admire or even wish to emulate." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

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  •  
    TM 02-18-14
    TM 02-18-14

    TJM

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Dry Insights in to the Space Program"
    Any additional comments?

    I was hoping to love this book and it does give an interesting inside look at many aspects of the Mercury and Apollo missions, but what made Gene Kranz a great Nasa mission controller does not make him an engaging author.

    The stories are full of interesting facts, but there is little-to-no drama in the writing, even when recounting the most dramatic of events, such as the Apollo 13 mission. All NASA folk seem to be well trained in handling the media. Everything is upbeat, succinct and politically correct. This is very important to NASA's success, but this mind-set has carried in to this book. So it is rather unemotional and dry.

    Worth a listen for NASA fans, but certainly not enthralling.

    By the way it is clear that Gene Kranz was a vital player in the space program's success and I think we should all be grateful to him.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe TULSA, OK, United States 02-25-12
    Joe TULSA, OK, United States 02-25-12 Member Since 2011

    Tell us about yourself!

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    "A must have for any fan of man's journey to the mo"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes I would. I enjoyed learning about the space program from someone in the trenches, not a textbook.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Failure Is Not an Option?

    Mr. Kranz's account of Apollo 1 & 13. Also his epilogue


    What about Danny Campbell’s performance did you like?

    Great voice and delivery. told the story well.


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

    Too many to mention here


    Any additional comments?

    If you ever wanted to know what truly happened in mission control through Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, the good the bad and the ugly, get this book.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike Dallas, OR 02-13-12
    Mike Dallas, OR 02-13-12
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    "A great documentary!"

    I lived through the manned space program as a participant....from the contractor's point of view. Gene Kranz's pivotal position in the middle of the events of that era gave him an outstanding position from which to describe them. And his telling of the fraternity of "controllers" gave my new insight into the events as seen from an insider.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mathias Ska, Sweden 04-29-14
    Mathias Ska, Sweden 04-29-14 Member Since 2013

    mathias2592

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    "Interesting but not gripping (mostly)"

    Very interesting story of course, but I was left with the feeling that it could have been made more gripping. It is quite long and the narrator a bit soulless, but all in all I am glad I bought it and I sort of enjoyed it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cheryl McGirr Cedar Park, TX, United States 03-25-14
    Cheryl McGirr Cedar Park, TX, United States 03-25-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Couldn't wait to listen a second time"
    If you could sum up Failure Is Not an Option in three words, what would they be?

    Very Detailed Account


    What did you like best about this story?

    The pace is superb. Not a detail left out. Very complete and easy to understand. A priceless recollection of a remarkable man's history, during America's (and possibly the Earth's) most interesting period of time. Most NASA/Apollo type books talk about the perspective from the hot-shot Astronaut (Sorry Jim, Buzz, Neil and Gene). The perspective of mission control was vital to getting a complete picture of the race to the moon. Do not skip this book. It's great for history buffs, leaders, teacher or anyone interested in a genuinely good piece of storytelling.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Too many to chose from. Most might say the Apollo 11 landing or the Apollo 13 crisis. I'd have to say, the stories of how the men in the MCC pulled together through Mercury to Apollo were all my favorites.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Grounded Heroism


    Any additional comments?

    If you're a fan of the period, the subject matter or just great detailed real-life drama - do yourself a favor and listen to this book!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sethu Lawrenceville, NJ, United States 02-27-14
    Sethu Lawrenceville, NJ, United States 02-27-14 Member Since 2012
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    "A wonderful performance by author and narrator"
    What made the experience of listening to Failure Is Not an Option the most enjoyable?

    Loved this book! Danny Campbell's narration brought out the emotions of Gene Kranz from the tension of space launches to the fast paced methodical analyses of different situations during space flight.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    America's journey into Space: The Men who made it happen


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 10-20-13
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    "Great history of the Space Program's early days"
    If you could sum up Failure Is Not an Option in three words, what would they be?

    technical, historic, inspirational


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Gene Kranz is inspirational in this book.


    What three words best describe Danny Campbell’s performance?

    Good.


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

    Yes. Awe inspiring to hear about the early days of the space program and the technical limitations that were faced at that time.


    Any additional comments?

    The book is so good, I'm writing a comment when I haven't listened all the way through. I'm loving all the technical details.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin CHESAPEAKE, VA, United States 02-19-13
    Kevin CHESAPEAKE, VA, United States 02-19-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Excellent Book!"
    What made the experience of listening to Failure Is Not an Option the most enjoyable?

    Excellent book! If you love the Space program then you must read or listen to this book. One reviewer said it was boring, it was NOT boring. I've listened to it twice in less than a month.

    The only thing that would have made this book better would have been to have Gene Kranz narrate it himself.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeffrey Schwartz 07-21-13

    jeff_schwartz

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    "A different perspective but..."

    Interesting perspective but "a man on the moon" by Andrew Chaikin remains my favorite on this subject.

    One thing bothered me about the audio recording. The term for the guidance officer is pronounced GUIDE-OH, and not "guido" Which may, to some people be considered offensive. I am surprised nobody caught this before was released. It occurs over and over again in the book.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    richard 10-27-14
    richard 10-27-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Pure inspiration"
    What about Danny Campbell’s performance did you like?

    A very clear and easy to listen to performance. He didn't just read the book, he turned it into a drama.


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

    I will have to admit when listening to the part when Apollo 13 landed in the ocean, a tear landed on my cheek. It was so intense I had to stop the playback momentarily.


    Any additional comments?

    The book far exceeded my expectations. It is far more than a historical account of the space program. It is one of the most inspirational books I've read (listened to). Being 22 years old at the time of the 1969 moon landing, I wasn't paying much attention to anything outside of my little world: the Viet Nam war, Woodstock, bell bottoms, latest releases by CCR, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and so on. I was into a different kind of space. I happened to get interested in this topic due to a recent visit to NASA Houston where I was amazed at how little I knew what this country had done 50 years ago! Minimal computer capability, make-it-up as you go infrastructure.... how did they do it? This account tells how.This book came especially alive for me because I had sat in the press room behind the glass windows of Mission Control at NASA Houston just a month before (that room now is preserved as a historical site). I can almost picture Gene Kranz sitting there in his vest, cigarette and fixed focus on the monitor. There so much to this book - management, planning, decision-making, teamwork, self (ego) control, self-sacrifice, and working at great effectiveness under incredible stress, and doing all these things both on the fly and for extended periods of time. I'm going to have to listen to this book again, soon.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 19 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • Duncan
    Glasgow, United Kingdom
    1/8/12
    Overall
    "An enjoyable and epic account of life at NASA"

    I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book. It gives a detailed and interesting personal account of life in NASA mission control from the beginnings of NASA through to the end of the Apollo lunar missions. The book manages to portray some of what it must have felt like to be there during this exciting time. Occasionally the writing style is a but clumsy and feels like it could have done with another edit or tidy up, but in a way this just adds to the fast paced nature of the story. Likewise, sometimes the patriotism and pro-US attitudes of the author become a bit repetitive, but rather than being annoying they add to the character of the author.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs
    WORTHING, United Kingdom
    12/13/13
    Overall
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    Story
    "Very interesting and informative"
    Where does Failure Is Not an Option rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I had no idea of the involvement, dedication, and the hard work it takes to get a rocket to the moon. Not only do you learn what it takes you understand about the personal sacrifices these men have to forsake. They hardly ever see their wives and children. If you have watched the film Apollo 13 then you must listen to this book.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. P. J. Bellchambers
    WALLINGFORD, United Kingdom
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "Brings back so many memories!"

    I was young when the Apollo and moon landings were the news! I watched the first steps on the moon and was transfixed at the technology and enormity of the achievements. I was luck to travel a bit and saw the Lunar Module in the Science museum in Boston. I was a bit more savvy about technology and amazed at the bravery and the fact that the computer technology was less capable than the power of a modern day smart phone! I saw one of the last lift offs of the shuttle in 2002 and I felt transported back to the days of the moon landing when I was 12.



    This book by one of the main men involved throughout the programme relives and retells the reality of it all and I am so glad to be able to hear his story and view of the programme etc.



    Thanks Gene for doing this and recording a wonderful, scary and uplifting part of history of the 20th Century.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Simon
    Great Missenden, United Kingdom
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Not just for space geeks"

    Whilst I am a space geek, this a good biography from a man that had a front row seat for the greatest show of the twentieth century! If you have any interest in the space race, then this will give more insight to the events and background to those events than many of the general books on the subject and the astronaut biographies. For those of us who have read extensively on the subject, this book gives a new insight into mission control and the personnel, the long hours and the challenges that were overcome by these dedicated and talented young men and women; something sorely neglected in most books! Overall, I would recommend this book, especially for those who have an Internet in the subject and not ventured from the general texts and the astronaut biographies. For those who have never read anything about the space race, this isn't as glamorous as the more general books, but is still good.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • PJ
    United Kingdom
    5/10/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fantastic story of a hero"
    Would you listen to Failure Is Not an Option again? Why?

    No. I've heard it now but would listen to other material about the space shots.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    They're all amazing characters: the engineers and of course the astronauts,


    What about Danny Campbell’s performance did you like?

    He managed to be the voice of Gene Krantz.


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

    Interest and admiration for guys who took big risks to achieve huge things. Not sure it could happen now.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. R. J. King
    Cambridge, UK
    3/21/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting for the enthusiast"

    To like this book I think you need to have a very genuine interest in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. It's not for the beginner, or someone with a passing interest. You have to want to know about the details, and it helps to already have a wider appreciation of the space race. It's not that that the book expects a lot of background knowledge, but I'm not sure how much you'd get out of it if you didn't have that already. It can be a little dry in places, and can be hard to keep track of all the names.
    Kranz is an interesting guy, and this book gives an insight into the gigantic pressure and expectation placed on "Flight", and the rare breed of person capable of doing the job well.
    The book is strictly about the NASA program, mentions the Russians only in passing, and offers no insight at all into Kranz's place in popular culture. For example, the Apollo 13 film, in which Kranz features heavily, is mentioned only fleetingly.
    I really enjoyed it, but if you're just learning about the space race, this probably isn't the best starting point.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • avidreader
    Edinburgh, Lothian United Kingdom
    2/26/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Compelling listening"
    What made the experience of listening to Failure Is Not an Option the most enjoyable?

    Fascinating to hear the story from the ground crew rather than the astronaut perspective


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Failure Is Not an Option?

    Apollo 12 - SCE to Aux


    Which character – as performed by Danny Campbell – was your favourite?

    Gene Kranz


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    By the seat of our pants


    Any additional comments?

    A fascinating story. I've read a lot of books by astronauts but this is the first by a member of the ground crew. Kranz made famous through being one of the flight controllers on Apollo 13 who "got the crew home" does an excellent job of taking us through the story from the initial Mercury missions, taking in all the highs and lows along the way through Gemini to the heyday of Apollo. An inspiring story of men made from the right stuff.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Steve
    SE England
    12/21/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "So make sure you get to the end"
    Any additional comments?

    So how did they really get to the Moon with sixties technology. A fascinating read with a lot of 'superhero team work' reminders but failure to get to the end is not the option to take. The 'right stuff' for mission controllers everywhere.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • K
    Ilkley, United Kingdom
    11/13/12
    Overall
    "Technical account"

    This is a very technical account of what has happened with the US space program. This is delivered in a bit dry manner in which it is difficult to be excited about this book. Too many abbreviations and too many technical details in which is missing the great.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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