Into the Black

Narrated by: Eric Meyers
Length: 15 hrs and 50 mins
Categories: History, Military
4.5 out of 5 stars (14 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

On 12th April 1981 a revolutionary new spacecraft blasted off from Florida on her maiden flight. NASA's Space Shuttle Columbia was the most advanced flying machine ever built - the high watermark of post-war aviation development. A direct descendant of the record-breaking X-planes the likes of which Chuck Yeager had tested in the skies over the Mojave Desert, Columbia was a winged rocket plane, the size of an airliner, capable of flying to space and back before being made ready to fly again. She was the world's first real spaceship.

The Shuttle's Commander, moonwalker John Young, was already a veteran of five spaceflights. Alongside him, Pilot Bob Crippen was making his first, but Crip, taken in by the space agency after the cancellation of a top secret military space station programme in 1969, had worked on the Shuttle's development for a decade. Never before had a crew been so well prepared for their mission.

Yet less than an hour after Young and Crippen's spectacular departure from the Cape it was clear that all was not well. Tiles designed to protect Columbia from the blowtorch burn of re-entry were missing from the heatshield. If the damage to their ship was too great the astronauts would be unable to return safely to earth. But neither they nor mission control possessed any way of knowing.

Instead, NASA turned to the National Reconnaissance Office, a spy agency hidden deep inside the Pentagon whose very existence was classified.

Into the Black is a thrilling race against time; a gripping high stakes cold-war story, and a celebration of a beyond the state-of-the-art machine that, hailed as one of the seven new wonders of the world, rekindled our passion for spaceflight.

With a foreword by Astronaut Richard Truly.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2016 Rowland White (P)2016 Random House AudioBooks

Critic Reviews

"Beautifully researched and written, Into the Black tells the true, complete story of the Space Shuttle better than it's ever been told before." (Colonel Chris Hadfield, former Astronaut and Space Station Commander)
"Brilliantly revealed, Into the Black is the finely tuned true story of the first flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia. Rowland White has magnificently laid bare the unknown dangers and unseen hazards of that first mission.... Once read, not forgotten." (Clive Cussler)

What listeners say about Into the Black

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A Terrific, Entertaining Listen

Any additional comments?

This is a really great audiobook. I've listened and read a ton of books and audiobooks on the space programme, though mainly the early years and Apollo. I was a little hesitant about this one as post-Apollo never seemed to excite me. But the narrative here was brilliant. It provided tons of detail and context that I've never heard before, and delivered it in a way that was highly entertaining. Given the length I was also cautious for a subject I did't think could sustain it - but I was wrong. Again, the narrative was excellent and captivating, and I was entirely absorbed in the story. And the narrator was also very good. I got a little concerned for a very brief moment early in the book when he changed his "voice" while quoting Curtis Lemay - but it was one very short instance (30 seconds), not repeated - so I'm glad I ignored it. I'd highly recommend this for anyone interested in the subject - or those who are stuck on Apollo.

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  • Helen
  • 05-18-16

Brilliant insight into a fantastic flying machine.

I really enjoyed listening to this book which gave a total insight into how the space shuttle was built and flewn. The narration is clear and is delivered in a positive interested manner. Well worth Listening to.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Derrick
  • 05-12-16

Boys' Own adventure

Rowland White has written three stories of cold war adventures before this, all of which have been very British affairs. This one is very much a US story. Nonetheless it carries on the tradition of telling historical stories which are more or less already known. The value that he brings is in the journey; he shares the unknown background about these otherwise well-known stories. This is no exception. For a boy (this is a boy's story) born in the '60s with a romantic memory of the later Apollo missions, this is full of fun and joy. Who else remembers badgering their mother to buy cocktail sticks so they could build the Lunar Rover cut out of the back of a Corn Flakes packet? There is a big chunk of this book that tells the "Right Stuff" story of the early NASA and DoD space effort, but avoids the dwelling upon the events that are perhaps known well enough from other sources.

The reality is that the ultimate crunch of this story is rather an anticlimax: the shuttle lands safely, if you did not know. But the story of pioneering adventure is worth the telling. OK, the gap between the end of Apollo and the beginning of the shuttle missions is a little tedious, but this is a great story.

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  • John Booth
  • 05-12-16

amazing

an awsome tribute to the men and women who built, maintanined and flew in these amazing machines.

1 person found this helpful

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  • mrfids
  • 08-07-20

Great overview of the early Shuttle History

Really enjoyed listening to this and learned a lot about the early history of the shuttle. Personally would have liked more in depth details of the engineering, but what was there was informative. Noted a couple of errors; it states Jack Kennedy delivered the famous 'I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal' speech, not JFK. It also states Armstrong flew the ship 'Columbia' to the moon, not 'Eagle'.

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  • OB1990
  • 07-25-20

Just incredible.

Incredibly well written and narrated. So thoroughly detailed but not dragged down by the amount of information and completely brought to life by the narrators inflections and accents. Not it’s a hell of a story many people know little about.


Loved it.

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  • Iain K.
  • 05-04-20

Loved it!!!!

For those of us of a certain age who were kids during the Apollo era... this is a wonderful account of NASAs transition into the Space Shuttle era. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book and didn't want it to end. Fabulous!!!

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  • Dave Cassim
  • 04-01-20

Outstanding!

Fantastic story! I can hardly believe it actually happened, cudos to all involved. The author and narrator also did an awesome job, they truly made history come alive!

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  • Andy T
  • 06-28-19

Great tale of adventure

Like other narratives covering the great era of American manned space exploration, this is a grand history of an astonishing time in history. Meticulously researched, set in the context of its time, this is an essential for those obsessed with modern adventure. If I have a criticism it’s that, sometimes, this felt like it was bouncing around the timeline; but, by the end of the book I understood the author’s intent to put the maiden flight of Columbia as the culmination of all the decisions and discoveries that went before. So, though I really recommend this to space enthusiasts, those who are merely browsing might not enjoy it as much as me. In this case, I commend you to another of Rowland White’s books, the impeccable Vulcan 607, which is adventure to suit anyone.

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  • H. BAKER
  • 07-31-18

One of mans greatest achievements made dull.

Tragic really, that such an awesome adventure can be made so drab by the elimination of passion, of energy, of belief.

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  • Simon
  • 03-12-18

Highly Recommend

Roland has created an intriguing and well paced documentation of the challenges overcame to get the shuttle into space. Eric Meyers recording is well delivered and adds to the awe and excitement of the tales from the programme.
Would highly recommend to anyone interested in space, science, aviation or engineering.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-27-20

Good story

I feel I would have enjoyed this more had a read the book myself. The narration was done well, though I found the exaggerated southern accents a bit grating at times. Eric Meyers made all the NASA astronauts sound like Southern hillbillies!

Well written story though.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-28-18

great insight into the heavens thru the shuttle

love the background of nasa and manndd space flight. the intro to the story of the shuttle years.

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  • Alan Burchill
  • 09-19-16

great listen for anyone keen on NASA

good level of technical and variety to make it interesting. lot of stuff about NASA that I did not know....