NONFICTION

Disaster Strikes!: The Most Dangerous Space Missions of All Time

224p. glossary. index. photos. Philomel. May 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781984812759.
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RedReviewStarGr 4–8—From the near-drowning of Gus Grissom and the loss of Liberty Bell 7's Mercury capsule on splashdown in 1961, to the emergency termination of a spacewalk for Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano on the International Space Station in 2013, human space travel has always been a risky, sometimes deadly endeavor. Kluger outlines 12 such disasters, including the tragic cockpit fire that killed three Apollo 1 astronauts in 1967, the now infamous Apollo 13 mission, and several less well-remembered incidents. The chapters offer varying points of view: for example, the chapter about the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion takes the perspective of schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe's students in New Hampshire and her family watching in horror from the viewing stand at Cape Canaveral. This makes the text versatile, efficiently functioning as a collection of short reads or a balanced, book-length narrative. Along the way, Kluger intertwines his narrative with fascinating details from history, in addition to the physics and health science of space travel. The author does not provide specific source notes or a bibliography, but in a closing author's note, he credits the online Johnson Space Center History Office, a source of much of the recorded dialogue between astronauts and ground control, as well as the New York Times' archive and a number of memoirs by astronauts.
VERDICT Always fascinating, at times unsettling, and highly recommended for elementary and middle school collections.

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