Failure is Not an Option by Gene Kranz

Published September 26, 2021

Failure is Not an Option by Gene Kranz

Book info

  • Title Failure is Not an Option
  • Author Gene Kranz
  • Year 2000
  • Genre Memoir

Gene Kranz was present at the creation of America's manned space program and was a key player in it for three decades. As a flight director in NASA's Mission Control, Kranz witnessed firsthand the making of history. He participated in the space program from the early days of the Mercury program to the last Apollo mission, and beyond. He endured the disastrous first years when rockets blew up and the United States seemed to fall further behind the Soviet Union in the space race. He helped to launch Alan Shepard and John Glenn, then assumed the flight director's role in the Gemini program, which he guided to fruition. With his teammates, he accepted the challenge to carry out President John F. Kennedy's commitment to land a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960s. Kranz recounts these thrilling historic events and offers new information about the famous flights. What appeared as nearly flawless missions to the Moon were, in fact, a series of hair-raising near misses. When the space technology failed, as it sometimes did, the controllers' only recourse was to rely on their skills and those of their teammates. He reveals behind-the-scenes details to demonstrate the leadership, discipline, trust, and teamwork that made the space program a success.


What a fabulous memoir this is. Gene Kranz talks of his early days but the bulk of the book is a play by play of every NASA mission he was involved with, from the very early days of Gemini, the tragedy of the first Apollo mission, and the success of returning Apollo 13 to earth. Through it all, Kranz is happy to admit where the teams did things right or wrong, and has that clear scientific analysis of each adventure. Occasionally, it’s a little too technical and I lost a sense of exactly what was going on, but you soon get pulled right back in when the drama and bravery of these incredible missions hits you.

Rating: 4 / 5

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