Forever Young: A Life of Adventure in Air and Space
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Publication date: Sept 16, 2012
I lifted both my fists in the air and made an unrehearsed proclamation: “There you are, our mysterious and unknown Descartes Highlands plains. Apollo 16 is gonna change your image.”
This autobiography is packed full of details about the many ventures of the US space program. It begins with astronaut John Young’s early life and time spent in the Navy as a pilot, then follows him through his participation in the Gemini, Apollo, and shuttle programs. The final sections deal with his position as the Special Assistant for Engineering, Operations, and Safety, and the safety features that he advocated for during that time, as well as his thoughts as to what the future of the space program should look like.
The sections of this book having to do with space missions was fascinating. Young’s firsthand experiences and blunt, straightforward recollections made it feel like I was sitting to a kindly (albeit kind of stubborn) old grandparent or great-uncle as he told me about “back in his day.” This conversational tone and the inclusion of personal anecdotes made for interesting reading, much more so than merely reading a report or transcript of each mission’s events. I felt that, through reading this, I learned a lot about the US space program and the missions involved. It’s been awhile since I’ve read or watched anything about it, so I felt like Young’s memoirs once again opened up this other world of wonder and amazement for me. I was struck by the courage and determination of the astronauts, and — perhaps for the first time — recognized how much of the early space program was a series of guess-and-check and high-risks problem solving exercises. To be an astronaut at the time, one really had to be confident of his ability to find solutions to any problem. Incredible, and inspiring.
Not all sections of the book held my attention quite as well, though. The early section included a lot of military jargon about aircraft that left me feeling a bit overwhelmed, though it was very apparent that at least Young knew what he was talking about. Similarly, the last sections, where Young is cataloging the changes he wanted to see made to improve the safety of the space shuttle didn’t hold my attention very well, either, though I could appreciate their significance. The epilogue also, while somewhat necessary considering the state of the space program today, was a little too political for my liking.
Overall: An amazing insider’s look at a fascinating time in US history
Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book!