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Failure Is Not an Option

Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond
Narrated by: Danny Campbell
Length: 18 hrs and 14 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (2,590 ratings)

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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

Critic Reviews

"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

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A wonderful story told beautifully.

The story of the space race as told from inside mission control. This beautifully told story illustrates the right stuff that was part of the American race to space.

Gene talks about his experiences and impressions dr the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. The technical detail and log book like rebelling of the missions recreates the wonder, enthusiasm and menace of NASA's missions. Placing the events in political context adds a depth and honesty to a work.

The only downside is the extensive use of acronyms throughout. Although the folks involved would have mastered the various abbreviated names rapidly during the months of planning and training, I found that nearly listening, I struggled to master all the acronyms on the trot. Fortunately I am able to listen again as this is definitely a book that will will be listened to more than once.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

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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.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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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.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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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!

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • TM
  • 02-18-14

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.

18 of 22 people found this review helpful

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Awesome book, performance has some issues

This is a fantastic book. The biggest flaw is the narrator repeatedly mispronounces some things that are quite distracting. For instance, the Guidance controller is called Guido. The narrator kept saying "Gwee-do", not "Guy-doe". There are a few other mispronunciations but this one term is so pervasive as to be aggravating. I realize that it's a rather pedantic gripe, but it breaks the sensation that Gene Kranz is telling the story, if that makes sense. Beyond that, this is one of my favorites.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Great book poor performance

Overall great book but the performance was very poor. Pronouncing delta v as delta five and not delta vee. GUIDO as gweedo and not GUY DOUGH. TELMU as TELL MOO and not TELM U.

Do some research first this stuff is very easy to find and mispronouncing it is unacceptable to anyone who has any knowledge.

Great Book, highly recommended

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A Great Story written by an Outstanding Man

What did you like best about this story?

I was fascinated by the story of the missions, but Kranz's "voice" as an author carried this out of the ballpark. He's inspiring in his lack of ego, his obvious respect for his team, and his respect for the missions. I love hearing about this time of great triumph told by a man who doesn't revel in himself, but in what we as a people were able to do.

I highly recommend this. I didn't find it dry, in the least. A basic knowledge of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions will make this more exciting, as you will already have the astronauts' stories-- the story of the huge team behind them becomes even more important.

Kranz as a person is the greatest part of this for me. I found it to be a kind of "self help" book in that he models so many qualities that we might strive to have, but it's not boring like self-help books, nor is it egotistical. (I think of those self-congratulatory tomes and TED talks in which people tell me all about how great they are in the guise of telling me how to be a better person.)

For Kranz, we are in it for each other, for our nation -- for the mission -- not for ourselves. We admit to our mistakes, and we work to do better constantly. Failure is not an option in that context.

Great story! Great book! Great author!

Darned exciting stuff, too! It inspires.

The Audible narration is right on the money, too.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Joe
  • TULSA, OK, United States
  • 02-25-12

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.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Who the heck is Von Brown?

This is one Audible book that is probably better to read than to listen to. Campbell is a terrible reader in that his voice is very monotonic and he didn't do his homework on pronunciations. Wernher Von Braun was a household name even for us kids of the day, but Campbell pronounces it Von Brown. Other names are wrong too, but none worse than this one. I almost turned it off right there in Chapter 1.
Kranz was a product of his day and doesn't apologize for that. Read it and you'll understand what that means. As a space and Apollo fan, it is a good story, but Campbell pretty much ruined it for me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr. P. J. Bellchambers
  • 04-13-13

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.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-23-12

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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Nobbby
  • 03-15-17

A Nice Suprise!

I didn't know what to expect from this book. Would it be facts and figures and little else? Would it be a flag waving exercise to make Nasa look good?

As it turned out it was both of these things, but intertwined with the authors life, and a little humour. It really did work and turned out to be a great listen that has pulled me back to relisten multiple times.
Kranz managed to tell the already well told story of Mercury, Gemini & Apollo but from the tech guys point of view, stuck on the Earth looking at screens of data. In a lot of ways this was more compelling than the Astronauts PoV.
Apollo XI & XIII usually take up the majority of any book like this, but Kranz gave them no more time than any of the other long duration flights.


Ignore this review if you want, but understand this...

It's a great book that is well read and worth the money/credit.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • R King
  • 03-21-14

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.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Drew
  • 10-16-18

Gritty, honest bio.

A very enjoyable listen. I will have to track down the printed version. A no-nonsense account of life as a NASA flight controller and the trials of the manned space programs early days.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • L.O'M
  • 01-17-18

I lived through what is now Space history

Loved the book. The narration made the events more interesting and realistic. I'll listen again !

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • "stewartopian"
  • 01-15-16

Too much detail?

An interesting perspective on America's early space programme, but presented with too much detail for those with a casual interest. Perhaps one for those with a more specific interest in Mission Control!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mrs
  • 12-13-13

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

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Lumo
  • 01-08-12

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 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-19-19

Story of the Gods

The Mercury, Gemini and Apollo teams were clearly forged from America's hopes post WWII.

This book provides a gelid living bridge between today's cultures of the self and introspection and whether meaninging to or not, compares us to the USA of the 50s and 60s, charged with optimism and national pride - Cernan achieves his magic through the strength and intelligence of his personality (he's got plenty) and the skill of his honest writing... without attempts at nostalgia.

To paraphrase a politician; its Leadership Leadership Leadership
- choose your leaders wisely!

Great book

Delivers

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  • Jspaull
  • 05-05-17

Excellent

Such a great account of the first space generation . There is so much detail in this book it's a must read for any space nerd like me . I am in awe once again of the levels of professionalism these guys operated with . The fearlessness of the astronauts and the impossible situations they conquered . There should be a course in mental toughness developed around this . Thank you for sharing this incredible story !

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-24-19

Fantastic!

I didn't expect a lot from this one, figuring that I would already know most of the content that would be covered, but still wanting to hear it all from Genes perspective. After a slow start for the first 15 minutes or so, I found myself getting more and more immersed in Genes story, I think he has done really well in formatting his story, to engage the listener/reader, and keep them engaged. This one is a must if you are a lover of the space programme, rocketry, or just like a great storey, it's one that I couldn't stop listening to.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-27-19

Informative and Inspiring

This is a "must-listen". It is very informative, offering a unique perspective of the events of the time, from the guy who was actually in the drivers seat. You know how some books you just can't put down, you have to keep on reading? Well, this audiobook is in that category for me.

It is well narrated, although it would have even better if Gene Kranz himself had narrated the book.

Highly recommended!

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  • Mint Swindle
  • 11-21-18

Could not stop listening

Without doubt the most captivating audio book I have listened to. The events are well known, but the feelings instilled in the listener by the story telling abilities of the author and the narrator were breathtaking. I hung on every word, laughed, sat slack-jawed in disbelief, and cried. Just amazing. I wish I could forget it and listen again anew.

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  • Beau
  • 09-05-18

Makes you wish you were American

I've always been happy to have been born in Australia, that is until this book. Hearing about the obstacles they overcame and horrors they witnessed in the pursuit of furthering mankinds reach in our universe is truly inspiring and makes me wish I was part of the adventure.
If you like having goosebumps then definitely worth a read