rating: 4 of 5 stars
My friend Ty is a big fan of both the movie and the book. When I happened to mention that I hadn't seen or read either, he was aghast, and loaned me the movie immediately. I enjoyed the film quite a bit, and so he insisted I read the book. The stories themselves and the people involved are quite interesting, and make for compelling reading. Wolfe's style is a bit grating at times - he picks a few themes and then mentions them and points them out OVER and OVER ad nauseum, as if the reader might not be able to connect the dots without his big pointing finger to tell you that here's yet another example of "flying and drinking and drinking and driving." Still, it's worth knowing a bit about the men involved in the beginnings of our manned space program. I've always leaned towards unmanned projects, partly because my grandfather was heavily involved with them at JPL and partly because I never understood what was so important about having people be there. Reading this helped me understand the viewpoint of those who love manned space flight (although it does nothing to change my position on the subject).
If I were in a book club with my former workmates with whom the subject of manned vs. unmanned space exploration was a common subject of discussion, this would be an excellent book for us to read & discuss. I am with the Chuck Yeagers of the world who thought that the Mercury astronauts were little more than payloads, and that truly piloted flight (of planes that reach space flight) is more impressive. But I still question the enterprise at all at this point - now that the cold war is over, what is the point of, say, working towards putting a single person or few people on the surface of Mars? It is inspiring as a human enterprise, but more than anything it is a colossal way to burn money. No doubt you have some thoughts on the matter; feel free to share them.
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