Into the Black
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Into the Black

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On 12th April 1981, a revolutionary new spacecraft blasted off from Florida on her maiden flight. NASA's Space Shuttle Columbia was the most advanced flying machine ever built - the high watermark of post-war aviation development. A direct descendant of the record-breaking X-planes the likes of which Chuck Yeager had tested in the skies over the Mojave Desert, Columbia was a winged rocket plane, the size of an airliner, capable of flying to space and back before being made ready to fly again. She was the world's first real spaceship. On board were men with the Right Stuff. The Shuttle's Commander, moon walker John Young, was already a veteran of five space flights. Alongside him, Pilot Bob Crippen was making his first, but Crip, taken in by the space agency after the cancellation of a top secret military space station programme in 1969, had worked on the Shuttle's development for a decade. Never before had a crew been so well prepared for their mission. Yet less than an hour after Young and Crippen's spectacular departure from the Cape it was clear that all was not well. Tiles designed to protect Columbia from the blowtorch burn of re-entry were missing from the heat shield. If the damage to their ship was too great the astronauts would be unable to return safely to earth. But neither they nor mission control possessed any way of knowing. Instead, NASA turned to the National Reconnaissance Office, a spy agency hidden deep inside the Pentagon whose very existence was classified. To help, the NRO would attempt something that had never been done before. Success would require skill, pinpoint timing and luck...Drawing on brand new interviews with astronauts and engineers, archive material and newly declassified documents, Rowland White, bestselling author of Vulcan 607, has pieced together the dramatic untold story of the mission for the first time. Into the Black is a thrilling race against time; a gripping high stakes cold-war story, and a celebration of a beyond the state-of-the-art machine that, hailed as one of the seven new wonders of the world, rekindled our passion for space flight. With a foreword by Astronaut Richard Truly.

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Product details

  • Hardback | 364 pages
  • 156 x 240 x 35mm | 567g
  • Transworld Publishers Ltd
  • BANTAM PRESS
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0593064364
  • 9780593064368

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Review quote

"Brilliantly revealed, Into the Black is the finely tuned true story of the first flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia. Rowland White has magnificently laid bare the unknown dangers and unseen hazards of that first mission. He has also given us a amazing insight into a world of science and engineering, the victories and defeats, for the first time. It's the perfect tale that educates as it entertains. Once read, not forgotten" -- Clive Cussler "Beautifully researched and written, Into The Black tells the true, complete story of the Space Shuttle better than it's ever been told before." -- Col. Chris Hadfield, astronaut, Space Station commander, author of You Are Here and An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth "A drama of flight and raw human courage, with the lustre of myth. Into the Black is a brilliant concept, brilliantly executed. You'll feel like you made the flight yourself. Strap in." -- Stephen Baxter, author of Voyage and Titan "A work of great importance - knitting together separate strands of what has so far been a hidden story worth the telling but largely ignored. I am impressed by the thoroughness of scholarship and the crafting of an important piece of research into a highly readable narrative. Illuminates a complex piece of space history left in the shadows until now. Readable and impossible to put down" -- Dr David Baker (Editor, Spaceflight) "Rowland White's account of Columbia's inaugural flight in 1981, and all the preparations that led up to it, could not be a more timely reminder of what it takes to design, launch and fly a complex manned space vehicle. White's research is thorough, his writing style is superb, and he has a gripping and fresh story to tell. This is a genuine "must-have" book for anyone fascinated by the sharp end of space flight" -- Piers Bizony, author of Starman, The Space Shuttle, and The Making of Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey' "Into the Black is a revealing and hugely entertaining insight into the early days of the Space Shuttle and the incredible men and women who ensured she flew. The intimate portraits of the men and the machine combine with a roller-coaster ride of adventure and suspense to provide a truly remarkable book" -- John Nichol, author of After the Flood and co-author of Tornado Down "Into the Black reveals fully for the first time the nail-biting suspense and extraordinary technical and human drama that lay behind the first flight of the hugely ambitious NASA Space Shuttle. Based on years of painstaking research, recounted with superb flair and pace, this untold story is destined to become an aviation classic" -- Alex Kershaw, New York Times best-selling author of Bedford Boys, The Few and Escape from the Deep "I've been privileged to read this fizzer of a book. I grew up in the world of experimental test flying which spawned the first astronauts, some of whom actually I served with, and they popped out at me from almost every page of this book. An astonishing amount of research has gone into this splendid work. I found it totally absorbing" -- Captain Eric Brown, former UK Chief Naval Test Pilot "Into the Black is a tour de force. The story that unfolds here is both a masterpiece of journalistic investigation and a compelling piece of story-telling that reminds us that - when it comes to the decades-old space programme - there are still secrets waiting to be told" -- Nick Cook, bestselling author of The Hunt for Zero Point and writer and presenter of Billion Dollar Secret "Impeccably, painstakingly researched from start to finish. The level of access Rowland White has secured here is nothing short of breathtaking. The story is therefore woven through with revealing testimony straight from the mouths of the astonishing cast of characters behind the Space Shuttle - heroes all, but made real flesh and blood within these pages. Into the Black reads like the very best fiction - a real page-turner. I loved it" -- Neil Olivier

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About Rowland White

Rowland White is the author of three bestselling books of military history: Vulcan 607; Phoenix Squadron; Storm Front. He lives in Cambridgeshire with his wife and three children.

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