Fallen Astronauts: Heroes Who Died Reaching for the Moon

Colin Burgess, Author, Kate Doolan, Author, Bert VIS, With
Colin Burgess, Author, Kate Doolan, Author, Bert VIS, With Bison Books $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8032-6212-6
Reviewed on: 10/01/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
Hardcover - 272 pages - 978-0-8032-1332-6
Hardcover - 297 pages - 978-0-8032-0241-2
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Eight of America's early astronauts, selected to participate in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, died while employed by NASA. Three of the eight--Roger Chaffee, Gus Grissom and Ed White--are fairly well known, having died in a gruesome fire during a training exercise in the Apollo 1 command module on January 27, 1967. The other five are far less familiar. Four perished in jet crashes (Ted Freeman, Elliot See, Charlie Bassett and C.C. Williams) while one (Ed Givens) died in a car crash. Unfortunately, Burgess (Teacher in Space) and Doolan (coauthor, Mission to Planet Earth) tell their stories in turgid and repetitive prose, failing to dig beneath the surface and thus providing remarkably little insight into the men, their time or the agency for which they worked. Unlike virtually every other book dealing with the personalities of the astronauts, this one leads us to believe that all were single-minded saints, with no human foibles. Rounding out the book is a chapter written by Vis, a Dutch space analyst, detailing the lives and deaths of the eight Soviet cosmonauts who died between 1961 and 1971. This chapter is even weaker than the rest; little meaningful information is presented and there are factual conflicts with the American chapters. While the untimely deaths of good, talented men evoke pathos, these abbreviated biographies do not deepen understanding of them. 37 b&w photos.
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