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Final Countdown, NASA and the end of the Space Shuttle Program
by Pat Duggins
Publisher: University Press of Florida

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Web Site:
Binding:  Hardcover Height:




Pages:  264 No. Photos:

This is the story of the Space Shuttle program, from the beginning to its completion in the near future. The author is a correspondent for National Public Radio who has covered this program since the early 1970s. This includes being an eyewitness to almost 90 flights. Because of this, he has a unique perspective concerning the progress and challenges of the Shuttle program.

Starting with the transition from the Apollo manned lunar exploration missions; he explains how the Shuttle program began as a cost cutting, and more economical way to explore space. The original concept of the Space Shuttle was that it would be used in support of a manned space station. Unfortunately, due to uneven funding by various U.S. Administrations, the Space Station was not built until late in the life cycle of the Shuttle. This resulted in the shuttle being required to operate with a poorly defined mission. Following the two accidents of Challenger and Columbia, this led to questions concerning the future of the Shuttle program.

The author covers the two Shuttle accidents in detail, and describes how they led to changes in the operation of the Shuttle program, including the relationship of NASA with its contractors.

Finally, Mr. Duggins describes how the shuttle will be phased out. This includes the future of manned space missions, and what this will require from both NASA and later Administrations.

This book is interesting and well written. Duggins does a good job of describing an important period in the development of manned space travel. He not only covers the technical aspects of the Shuttle program, but also the human and political factors as well.

Paul Butler


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