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.