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Forever Young: A Life of Adventure in Air and Space Kindle Edition
He walked on the Moon. He flew six space missions in three different programs--more than any other human. He served with NASA for more than four decades. His peers called him the "astronaut's astronaut."
Enthusiasts of space exploration have long waited for John Young to tell the story of his two Gemini flights, his two Apollo missions, the first-ever Space Shuttle flight, and the first Spacelab mission. Forever Young delivers all that and more: Young's personal journey from engineering graduate to fighter pilot, to test pilot, to astronaut, to high NASA official, to clear-headed predictor of the fate of Planet Earth.
Young, with the assistance of internationally distinguished aerospace historian James Hansen, recounts the great episodes of his amazing flying career in fascinating detail and with wry humor. He portrays astronauts as ordinary human beings and NASA as an institution with the same ups and downs as other major bureaucracies. He frankly discusses the risks of space travel, including what went wrong with the Challenger and Columbia shuttles.
Forever Young is one of the last memoirs produced by an early American astronaut. It is the first memoir written by a chief of the NASA astronaut corps. Young's experiences and candor make this book indispensable to everyone interested in the U.S. space program.
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“An intensely enjoyable book.”―AmericaSpace.com
“If you have been waiting for a book from the only moonwalker without one you will not be disappointed with Forever Young. John W. Young, with James R. Hansen, has written the epic story if his life not only of adventure, but service to his country and inspiration for the future.”―Ad Astra
“An incredible read, fast paced at times with great insight into Young’s mind as he takes you with him as he soars into earth orbit and upon the vast ocean of space.”―Examiner.com --This text refers to the hardcover edition.
From the Back Cover
- ASIN : B008SIB5KK
- Publisher : University Press of Florida; Reprint edition (September 16, 2012)
- Publication date : September 16, 2012
- Language : English
- File size : 3373 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 425 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #545,983 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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I have read virtually all autobiographies from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts and neglected to buy this wonderful book until today because I have been think a lot about John Young since his passing.
The reason for not buying this book? I downloaded the sample and it stated that John Young had commanded "Apollo 15" instead of "Apollo 16." I had also read about the other errors including the fact that the author(s) stated that the LM had 3 legs instead of 4. I made the rash decision that this could not be a good book with some rather obvious errors including those.
Boy was I wrong! At this point, I just finished readying the section where he flew in his first Gemini mission and let me tell you, this is an awesome book! Unlike most astronaut biographies, I actually enjoyed the stuff about his early life as a child and read every word of it.
John Young's style of writing is obvious from an engineers-standpoint. Very direct and full of information. Unlike Michael Collins' _Carrying the Fire_ which seems to have been written by a poet. But: I am enjoying it as much as I enjoyed Collins' wonderful book.
It's sad that all of my childhood heroes are dying off. At this moment, only 5 of the 12 men who walked on the moon are still with us.
John Young, in my humble opinion, was the ultimate astronaut. He flew 6 times--twice to the moon and commanded the first Shuttle mission (that was the first manned flight without an unmanned test.) Because of his memos about safety (or lack thereof) after the Challenger explosion, he was removed from commanding the Hubble Telescope mission and "promoted" to what I'm sure was a desk job. He stayed at NASA, plugging along--probably hoping for a 7th flight that, unfortunately, would never come.
It makes me sad that I avoided this book while John Young was alive but I swear when I read it, I can almost hear his voice and his awesome dry and self-depreciating humor.
Wonderful book--very highly recommended--look at my history on amazon--I have read most of the astronaut stories.
I have both the hard back and Kindle editions. The quality, quantity, presentation and range of illustrations provided in both leaves a lot to be desired. However, apart from the personal pictures, these are available from other sources. The Kindle edition is good, but the index is basically useless.
The book itself is not for novices. Nor, contrary to what readers may expect from the expansion of the title "a life of adventure in air and space", is it a book of "boys own" adventure stories. A level of knowledge of engineering, piloting, space history and astronomy is assumed. If the reader lacks basic knowledge in any of these areas then portions of this book will be confusing or even incomprehensible. Thankfully the author covers the full span of his career, unlike many other astronaut biographies. However, the result has been that some areas receive a very thin treatment indeed, this book could easily have been twice as long to do them all justice.
This brings me to the book's most serious problem, it is literally riddled with errors, far too numerous to recount in any detail. Whether these are merely the result of appalling proof reading, I cannot say. They range from easily spotted typos, for example the statement in the foreword that Mr. Young commanded Apollo 15 (it was Apollo 16), through the obviously wrong but requiring more investigation. Did VA-216 fly A-1/ AD-4 Skyraiders or A-4 Skyhawks? The answer is both, but the reference in the book should be to the A-4 Skyhawk. Or the probably wrong - but perhaps it's an obscure new term ("delta feed", do you mean "delta V"?), to the perplexing (Gemini X "we were standing on our seats in the cockpit", no they weren't, only Mr Collins was, which the author obviously knows, so why does it appear?). To photographically provable nonsense (LM-4 had no landing gear - er, yes it did). I could go on for hours but you get the idea. "FOREVER YOUNG" may yet form the basis of a space geek "spot the mistake" game. One problem is that if you don't know your stuff you may come away with some very funny ideas, and considering their apparent source, you'd be within your rights to be pretty adamant that they were correct. In the future the book will be viewed as a primary source, and Space history doesn't need this. I really hope that subsequent editions correct the litany of errors. The other effect for me was that it made me wary of much of the rest of the content, if the simple stuff is so riddled with mistakes, how accurate is the rest?
Next, the style, this book reads in many ways more like a collection of notes (or, considering the author's professional style, memos). It is quite annoyingly repetitive, some points are made well out of chronological sequence without specifically saying so. At other times explanations are lacking to the point of being obscure. The author insists on quoting burn times, delta Vs, orbiter touch down sink rates etc at almost every opportunity when these add absolutely nothing to his tale. If he felt that their inclusion was important then by all means include them in an appendix for those who haven't read the mission reports or programme summaries produced by NASA. Meanwhile, in many instances the author neglects discussing the reasons or his thoughts about the events being mentioned. Here's one example, taken from Mr Young's first voyage to the Moon on Apollo 10:
"I controlled the firing of the service propulsion system, which accelerated us to 2,960 feet per second and placed us in a lunar orbit of 59.6 by 169.1 nautical miles above the Moon's surface. We did additional maneuvers to get our orbit to 61.2 by 60 nautical miles."
Well firstly that should be decelerated, and I think a quick explanation of why they didn't aim for an exact circular 60 nautical mile orbit would be in order - (since he considers a precise listing of orbital parameters to be worth while, why not explain, not all readers will know this). Not to mention that a little more description of what it was like to enter lunar orbit for his first time would have hardly gone amiss.
Or from that same voyage, how's this for a description of reaching the fastest speed ever by any humans:
"I was in the commander's seat operating the entry. We were on automatic and came in at a speed of 36,315 feet per second - a little over 24,760 miles per hour - which proved to be the fastest entry of any Apollo spacecraft . . .
Our guidance system commanded full 'lift-up' through peak acceleration, which was 6.8g. When the forces backed off to 5.8g, the spacecraft rolled to 90 degrees . . ."
You might as well just read the mission report or technical crew debriefing. Why the fast return? How did it feel, noisy, rough? What could you see? Did anyone say anything? In fact, in general Mr Young's descriptions of his six space missions are disappointingly bland. Of course, many other astronaut autobiographies suffer from the same problem. As a final word about style, be sure to also read the 'notes' section at the back, much of which should, I feel, have been incorporated in the main text.
Every now and again we are offered a glimpse of Mr Young's famous insights and sense of humour. Talking about Apollo 16:
"The hardest part of all human extravehicular activity on the Moon was getting back into the lunar module".
Or awaiting the first space shuttle launch:
"I was also thinking about what a grand time it would be if Crip and I used those ejection seats just to fly through the 5,000 °F plumes of the solid rocket motors!"
I just wish there were more.
As an autobiography the book is useful in filling out the blanks in Mr. Young's non-space flight career, although again he misses the opportunity to really involve the reader. So what's it like when the canopy comes off your F-8 at around 500 knots? I still don't know, but at least I now know that it happened. No opinion on the introduction of the mirror landing sight and angled deck to naval aviation? On the personal side it is pretty tight lipped, although we now know about his mother's unfortunate illness. We get one line on his first marriage "it was a mismatch from the beginning". Whilst wholly in keeping with Mr. Young's character, I feel this limits the book's wider appeal.
In discussing his career after his final space flight the author is more passionate and you get more of an insight into what drives him. The discussion of some of the space shuttle's problems is illuminating, although considering the constant inadequate funding and safety issues I cannot concur with his conclusion that the programme could have gone on until 2030. His discussion of the NEO threat is interesting and I wholeheartedly agree, I hope that he continues to push for action, preferably on an international basis - it is not a problem for Americans alone. In his thinking about how we can all make the next trip forward, Mr Young makes a powerful case for a return to the Moon, with more passion and logic than some of the common "space mining" etc suggestions of past decades. He gives a modern rationale of the need for exploration, far more useful than Mr Mallory's much quoted exasperated retort to a journalist (which is now mistakenly thought of as the reason by many people).
Overall this is by no means the waste of reader's time that, for example the late Mr Cooper's and Mr Shepard's books represent. It is not the essential "personnel file" that Mr Hansen's biograpghy of the late Mr Armstrong provided us with. Nor is it the riveting first person view of space flight provided by Mr Collins and Mr Worden. What it is to me is essential but flawed reading - badly in need of a corrected and revised second edition. Perhaps there is a market for a "FOREVER YOUNG" study guide, correcting errors and explaining the details. (A paperback edition containing many corrections has since been released. Unfortunately it is still far from problem free, however, I recommend that version over the hardback). My star rating for the book is an average of my view of it's importance (5), and its quality as literature (3). Mr Young was born just one month after Mr. Armstrong. In view of the latter's recent demise, I'm just glad that we got this book at all.
Traditionally large numbers of people have managed to get stirred up about various problems, for example nuclear weapons and global warming. However, they've all missed the big picture so I'll leave you with a final thought from the author who, until now has "been everywhere, done everything and said very little":
"Single planet species don't last."
However this book is one of the few very, very good ones written by any astronaut! The style of his writing is very matter-of-fact and there is no attempt by the author to be the next Hemingway. Plus there is a wry, amusing side to Young which comes through between the lines of this well written and properly edited book. He also gives some dense technical detail to many events which other astronaut memoirs do not. I liked that. Other astronauts should look and learn from his book re: how to write a decent book!
This book, along with the excellent memoirs by astronauts Mike Collins, Eugene Cernan, Al Worden, Mike Mullane, is one of just a very specific handful of good memoirs penned to date that will stand the test of time. All the rest have been missed opportunities that should be rewritten with a good editor watching over the results. Most shuttle astronaut memoirs are surprisingly banal, often mawkish in tone (and Mike Mullane wrote the only good one so far.) The worst astronaut memoir to date is Pete Conrad's which I found to be so unreadable I only made it 30 pages into the book before throwing it away. What a lost opportunity considering he is one of only 12 humans who have walked on the moon.
Top reviews from other countries
Like many other astronaut memoirs, the author recounts his early life (growing up, like many of the other astronauts, in hard times). He then goes on to describe his military service and very long career as an astronaut. Young's writing style is workmanlike but not inspired, and I could not help wondering what the end result would have been with prose like that of Michael Collins (author of the superlative Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys ) used to describe what it was like to walk on the Moon. Overall, though, an essential purchase for space fans.
I don't want to get into my thoughts specific to the Kindle version, though I was a little disappointed with the quality of the photographs.
The book itself is very good indeed for anyone who has an interest in the American space program, and lets face it, no one can boast more involvement at the `sharp end' than John W Young. However, I think it drifts a little once we get into the routine part of the Space Shuttle years. Yes I know that the space shuttle was never routine - so what I mean is after the testing of the vehicle up to the point where it was made operational.
The discussion of the Gemini and Apollo years though are over too quickly, though this is where my main personal interest lies, and could be down to my looking for more operational details rather than that covered in his lengthy managerial career.
There is - for me - too much discussion of specific technical issues that many of the shuttle missions had, though this comes across as a strong anti government message who we see gradually reducing NASA's funding which Young will tell you compromised safety, and definitely put paid to the dreams and plans of the early space pioneers. He asks repeatedly where would we be in space today if the impetus started by JFK had been continued.
The Challenger and Colombia accidents though are covered really well and from a perspective that differs from alternatives, while not really telling me anything I didn't already know. The facts are presented in such a way - from the point of view of a manager (JWY) who was not fully in the know, who could certainly have made a difference if he had had all of the facts. Sobering stuff...
Young gets into some of the technical side in some depth, but I was left wanting a little bit more of the `awe' that some of his contemporaries have shown in their respective books. I suppose I never should have expected this though, as the author confirms ones impression of the cool, laid-back individual he remains.
Don't expect too much detail on the personal side of his life, both major relationships are discussed in only several lines, though other astronauts have gone too deep here (and some have got it just about right), and too much of this is not what I expected to find anyway; sentiment would not reflect the character of the author.
This is really well written; the epilogue in particular is stirring, and does have parts where you cannot put it down even though you will probably know what happened next. There are several errors which is a little surprising, but do not let this put you off what is an excellent read.
Even if you are not a space aficionado, you cannot fail to be impressed by the modesty, tenacity and genuine desire to `get it right' which comes across very strongly throughout the book.
However, the latter half of the book becomes very technical and presents statistics with an assumption that the reader knows the meaning. No doubt many readers will be pilots or aerospace engineers, but equally many may simply be curious about the career of an astronaut.
An interesting contrast between the race to the moon and the shuttle with a look at Apollo 1, 13, Challenger and Columbia. The fat bureaucratic NASA putting cost before lives compared to the organisation that put men on the moon. You can share the author's frustration as proposal after proposal to make the shuttle safer is ignored.
Overall an enlightening insight to the world of test pilots and astronauts only spoiled in the second half of the book by endless statistics and pilot talk that leaves earth bound readers, well earth bound. I would like to soar with you John, but I don't know how.