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Final Countdown: NASA and the End of the Space Shuttle Program [Hardcover]

Pat Duggins
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

October 2007
Each new flight brings us one step closer to the retirement of the Space Shuttle, once the cornerstone of the U.S. space program. "Final Countdown" is the riveting history of NASA's shuttle program, its missions, and its impending demise. It also examines the plans and early development of the space agency's next major effort: the Orion Crew Exploration Capsule. Journalist Pat Duggins, National Public Radio's resident "space expert," chronicles the planning stages of the shuttle program in the early 1970s, the thrills of the first flight in 1981, construction of the International Space Station in the 1990s, and the decision in the early 2000s to shut it down. As a rookie reporter visiting the Kennedy Space Center hangar to view the Challenger wreckage, Duggins was in a unique position to offer a poignant eyewitness account of NASA's first shuttle disaster. In "Final Countdown", he recounts the agency's struggle to rebound after the Challenger and Columbia tragedies, and explores how politics, scientific entrepreneurship, and the human drive for exploration have impacted the program in sometimes unexpected ways. Duggins has covered eighty-six shuttle missions, and his twenty-year working relationship with NASA has given him unprecedented access to personnel. "Final Countdown" is a story of lost dreams, new hopes, and the ongoing conquest of space.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Many Americans' only memories of their country's excursions into space are of the space shuttle program, inaugurated with the launch of Columbia in 1981. Twenty-two years later, Columbia's disintegration over the Southwest played a major role in the decision to end the program. NPR journalist Duggins reviews the 25-year saga of the shuttle missions, some of which have been shrouded in mystery, as astronauts took secret military payloads into space; others received worldwide attention and acclaim, as when the Hubble Space Telescope was restored to 20–20 vision. The author repeats the oft-made charge that the shuttle is a space vehicle in search of a true mission. Too often shuttle administrators have settled for running a billion-dollar short-distance trucking service to ferry supplies to the International Space Station. The book's first chapter is a look forward at what NASA plans for the next quarter century, but this misplaced preview delays launch of the main story. Readers also might wish Duggins had shared more of his reporter's experiences in covering the shuttle program. Nevertheless, this history is a worthy addition to the recent torrent of books about the American space program. Illus. (Oct. 21)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Surveying the history of the space shuttle, Duggins delivers descriptions of the system amid explanations of the aims of human spaceflight. Knowledgeable on the subject as NPR's space-shuttle reporter, Duggins relates the technological and financial compromises that resulted in the final design of the shuttle launch configuration, which is far different from NASA's original blueprint. Nevertheless, it was the ticket to space, and Duggins' original narrative elements portray the experiences of several shuttle crew members in applying to become astronauts and recounts their subsequent missions. For backdrop to these human-interest stories, Duggins constructs the arc of shuttle history, including the Challenger and Columbia catastrophes, of course, but emphasizing the shuttle's chronic problems of costliness and of the search for an inspiring purpose. After assembling the International Space Station, the shuttle was retired, leaving NASA shooting for the moon again with proposed successor spacecraft depicted in image and word. With its history and status-report aspects, his informed report will engage readers concerned with the space program. Taylor, Gilbert

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars What's the Matter with NASA June 1 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
After visiting the Kennedy Space Centre I wanted more information on the end of the Space shuttle program. This book walks the reader through why the program was never a total success and why NASA failed to deal with some internal issues that affected the program. A great read for anyone who looks to the stars and wonders about those who have ventured to space.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book about the space shuttle program! Jan. 6 2008
By Timothy Hobson - Published on
Final Countdown is a great book about NASA's plans for the future of space travel and their intentions of ending the Space Shuttle program. This book explains how the Space Shuttle program evolved along with it's success and tragedies. Author Pat Duggins wrote this book in a way to where it is not only entertaining but educational as well. A nice addition to a space travel book collection!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History and Future of the Shuttle & NASA April 23 2011
By cpt matt - Published on
You don't have to be a space junkie or nerd to enjoy this book. It's a great blend of the technical side of the Space Shuttle and the people behind the scenes making it happen. The history of how the Shuttle came about, the design choices, capabilities and limitations are all told here. The biggest challenge faced by NASA was finding a mission for the Shuttle that would capture the imagination & interest of Americans. In a twist of irony, the Shuttle's routine launches led to complacency with Americans. Indeed, as one Apollo astronaut observed, NASA was surprised when Apollo worked and Americans were surprised when the Shuttle did not.

Before the Apollo manned missions to moon ended, work began on designing a reusable space craft. This book does not attempt to cover every single mission, but does hit the special ones and of course, the tragedies of the Challenger and Columbia. Author Pat Duggins is not a scientist, but a news analyst for a public broadcast station in FL, so he can relay these stories in an easy, accessible way that is very enjoyable. He presents an honest appraisal of NASA, the problems and successes they've had over the years.

Final Countdown is more than just the history of the Shuttle. It is also about what happens next in the space program- perhaps more importantly, what is not happening now. Budget cuts are bad enough, but lack of a mission to generate public support is the real problem. I've always been interested in the Apollo Program; I was nine when we landed on the moon. This book catches the reader up on what happened in the 1980's and 90's, since many, like myself, did not pay attention. I'd recommend this to anyone who has interest in the Shuttle, NASA, and space exploration.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Final Countdown Nov. 16 2010
By Roger D. Davis - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Good book by author whose news reports I had listened to and even recorded off the radio as I followed the shuttle program.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Less on the shuttle and more on Mars and the Moon Sept. 30 2009
By Avert Inc - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book appeared to me to be about the changes that will take place around Nasa once the shuttles are used cars. However it seemed to drift from that subject to more on what is to come at NASA, which is good, but not how the book was described.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Final Countdown Nov. 21 2008
By A. McNally - Published on
Final Countdown is a well written book that is an easy read. I enjoyed the personal stories from many current and former astronauts as well as some of the specifics of the Space Shuttle program without it being too technical.
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