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NEIL ARMSTRONG, A Life of Flight
Captures His Humility and Humanity
Reviewed by Hugh Harris, Retired Director of Public Affairs, NASA, Kennedy Space Center
Published by St. Martin’s Press on July 8, 2014. Available for pre-ordering now. In bookstores July 8.
Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the moon, looked down. He saw a little lizard scooting toward the bar in a Cocoa Beach restaurant. His friend, NBC correspondent, Jay Barbree quickly caught it in a napkin. “Don’t kill it,” Armstrong said!
“Wouldn’t think of it,” Barbree said as he moved toward the door. “I’m just taking it outdoors, where it belongs.”
Armstrong’s humanity, coupled with humility, strong ethics and an intellect that focused on a problem with pin-point accuracy, made Armstrong the perfect choice to be the first human to land on another heavenly body.
The easy rapport that developed between Armstrong and Barbree, over a 50 year period, made Barbree the perfect writer to tell his story. “Neil Armstrong; A Life of Flight” is the definitive book about a man who tried hard to avoid fame but will forever be famous.
Even though you know he survived, you will find yourself holding your breath as the book details the many times that Armstrong could have been killed if he were a second late in making a decision and taking action.
The book reads like a fictional crime thriller except it showcases the real people who advance the frontiers of knowledge and our civilization. There have been many histories written. None captures the self effacing Armstrong as successfully as Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight.
Starting with chapter one you’ll be gripped by the way he calmly, but quickly, works out the problem of flying a fighter jet with much of its right wing missing. You will be with him as he and fellow astronaut Dave Scott spin close to the point of a blackout and death in space, and, perhaps for the first time, grasp the near reality of crashing into huge boulders on the moon as he ran out of rocket fuel. When you’re a quarter-million miles from home, the control rooms full of bright young engineers on Earth can’t really help much. As Cap Com astronaut Charlie Duke said after the landing, “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue.” We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.”
Instead of politics, he chose to teach and mentor bright engineering students at the University of Cincinatti. Instead of the spotlight, he was willing to guide the investigation of the Challenger disaster from behind the scenes.
Armstrong was not just a superb flyer, he also thought deeply about the future. You’ll learn the direction he would like the space program to go. It is a road map he left to the future that is practical, adventurous and makes maximum use of scarce tax dollars.
Jay Barbree has captured the essence of one of the most exciting and meaningful lives of our era. You’ll read Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight more than once and share it with your children and grandchildren.
On a very different note, here’s another interesting read from a different perspective.
This book by Lynn Sherr provides a more personal view of another “space legend” found in this biography of Sally Ride.
It chronicles her life from early days until her death and includes personal aspects of her life, including a focus on sexuality.
Jan. 28, 2014, the 28th anniversary of the Challenger accident, was marked with the publication of a new ebook titled, “Challenger: An American Tragedy” by former Kennedy Space Center Director of Public Affairs, Hugh Harris. Former astronaut Robert L. Crippen welcome readers with the introduction. Told from inside shuttle launch control, the ebook is available now from Amazon other electronic book venues. While not available in print, it also available is via the publisher’s website. (You can click on the hot links for Amazon and publisher’s website to purchase).