Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Do You Really Love MOL and the Space Shuttle? Then You Will Dig "Into The Black"

Into The Black is scheduled to be released on April 19, 2016, shortly after the 35th anniversary of STS-1. Image Credit: Amazon.com
It's late 2015, and I'm already getting a head start on looking at some of the spaceflight books that readers will devour in 2016. One of them is Into The Black by aviation author Rowland White, which is scheduled to be released on April 19, 2016, shortly after the 35th anniversary of the STS-1 launch. If you're like me and OBSESSED with the early space shuttle years... You will be foaming at the mouth over this book, to put it mildly. Read a no-spoilers capsule review after the jump. 

No spoilers as Into The Black will not be released to the general audience for several months, but the book partially delves into the complex relationship between the National Reconnaissance Office and "mainstream" NASA spaceflight. The book's undercurrent is supplied by the defunct Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program, and its "exiles" who were mainstreamed into NASA following its cancellation. 

Seguing into shuttle development and the Approach and Landing Tests (ALT) of 1977, space enthusiasts will enjoy seeing vital figures such as Bob Crippen, Hank Hartsfield, Joe Engle, Dick Truly, Fred Haise, and Gordon Fullerton get their well-deserved time in the spotlight. It is my personal opinion that the contributions from these figures often are overlooked when discussing "shuttle-ology." In addition, one gets an idea of how fragile and changeable the shuttle program really was from both budgetary and design perspectives, and why it has often been described as "a butterfly bolted onto a bullet." 

 
The launch of STS-1 on April 12, 1981 comes toward the end of this video. Video Credit: lunarmodule5 on YouTube

But most intriguing is the portrait of John W. Young from his time as a nascent Navy pilot to his two days as the commander of what may have been the most risky flight in spaceflight history other than Gagarin's first jaunt in 1961. John Young Hipsters (yes, there is a subset of space fans who are dedicated to John Young ONLY, so stop hatin') will thrill to White's depiction of one of NASA's most complicated, enigmatic characters. 

While Into The Black will be out in April, a suggested companion book (and perhaps good reading beforehand) is Space Shuttle: The History of the National Space Transportation System (The First 100 Missions) by Dennis R. Jenkins. Lavishly illustrated and dense, it is essential reading for shuttle completists. 

But be assured, Into The Black is worth the wait, and a fine tribute to what John Young famously described as "the world's greatest all-electric flying machine." 

Note: This review reflects my opinion only.   

 Have any books you're looking forward to reading in 2016? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. 
In the beginning, there was Crip and John, 1981. Photo Credit: johnwyoung.org