• Failure Is Not an Option

  • Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond
  • By: Gene Kranz
  • Narrated by: Danny Campbell
  • Length: 18 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 29-08-11
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (315 ratings)

Regular price: £36.19

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Summary

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 was flight director for both Apollo 11, the mission in which Neil Armstrong fulfilled President Kennedy's pledge, and Apollo 13. He headed the Tiger Team that had to figure out how to bring the three Apollo 13 astronauts safely back to Earth. (In the film Apollo 13, Kranz was played by the actor Ed Harris, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance.)

In Failure Is Not an Option, Gene 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. Kranz takes us inside Mission Control and introduces us to some of the whiz kids - still in their twenties, only a few years out of college - who had to figure it all out as they went along, creating a great and daring enterprise. He reveals behind-the-scenes details to demonstrate the leadership, discipline, trust, and teamwork that made the space program a success.

©2009 Gene Kranz (P)2011 Tantor

Critic reviews

"Plenty of books (and several films) have already tried to depict the space program's excitement; few of their creators had the first-person experience or the attention to detail Krantz has, whose role as flight control "White" his readers will admire or even wish to emulate." ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting for the enthusiast

To like this book I think you need to have a very genuine interest in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. It's not for the beginner, or someone with a passing interest. You have to want to know about the details, and it helps to already have a wider appreciation of the space race. It's not that that the book expects a lot of background knowledge, but I'm not sure how much you'd get out of it if you didn't have that already. It can be a little dry in places, and can be hard to keep track of all the names.
Kranz is an interesting guy, and this book gives an insight into the gigantic pressure and expectation placed on "Flight", and the rare breed of person capable of doing the job well.
The book is strictly about the NASA program, mentions the Russians only in passing, and offers no insight at all into Kranz's place in popular culture. For example, the Apollo 13 film, in which Kranz features heavily, is mentioned only fleetingly.
I really enjoyed it, but if you're just learning about the space race, this probably isn't the best starting point.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Brings back so many memories!

I was young when the Apollo and moon landings were the news! I watched the first steps on the moon and was transfixed at the technology and enormity of the achievements. I was luck to travel a bit and saw the Lunar Module in the Science museum in Boston. I was a bit more savvy about technology and amazed at the bravery and the fact that the computer technology was less capable than the power of a modern day smart phone! I saw one of the last lift offs of the shuttle in 2002 and I felt transported back to the days of the moon landing when I was 12.



This book by one of the main men involved throughout the programme relives and retells the reality of it all and I am so glad to be able to hear his story and view of the programme etc.



Thanks Gene for doing this and recording a wonderful, scary and uplifting part of history of the 20th Century.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Not just for space geeks

Whilst I am a space geek, this a good biography from a man that had a front row seat for the greatest show of the twentieth century! If you have any interest in the space race, then this will give more insight to the events and background to those events than many of the general books on the subject and the astronaut biographies. For those of us who have read extensively on the subject, this book gives a new insight into mission control and the personnel, the long hours and the challenges that were overcome by these dedicated and talented young men and women; something sorely neglected in most books! Overall, I would recommend this book, especially for those who have an Internet in the subject and not ventured from the general texts and the astronaut biographies. For those who have never read anything about the space race, this isn't as glamorous as the more general books, but is still good.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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I lived through what is now Space history

Loved the book. The narration made the events more interesting and realistic. I'll listen again !

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A Nice Suprise!

I didn't know what to expect from this book. Would it be facts and figures and little else? Would it be a flag waving exercise to make Nasa look good?

As it turned out it was both of these things, but intertwined with the authors life, and a little humour. It really did work and turned out to be a great listen that has pulled me back to relisten multiple times.
Kranz managed to tell the already well told story of Mercury, Gemini & Apollo but from the tech guys point of view, stuck on the Earth looking at screens of data. In a lot of ways this was more compelling than the Astronauts PoV.
Apollo XI & XIII usually take up the majority of any book like this, but Kranz gave them no more time than any of the other long duration flights.


Ignore this review if you want, but understand this...

It's a great book that is well read and worth the money/credit.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mrs
  • WORTHING, United Kingdom
  • 13-12-13

Very interesting and informative

Where does Failure Is Not an Option rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I had no idea of the involvement, dedication, and the hard work it takes to get a rocket to the moon. Not only do you learn what it takes you understand about the personal sacrifices these men have to forsake. They hardly ever see their wives and children. If you have watched the film Apollo 13 then you must listen to this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Lumo
  • Glasgow, United Kingdom
  • 08-01-12

An enjoyable and epic account of life at NASA

I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book. It gives a detailed and interesting personal account of life in NASA mission control from the beginnings of NASA through to the end of the Apollo lunar missions. The book manages to portray some of what it must have felt like to be there during this exciting time. Occasionally the writing style is a but clumsy and feels like it could have done with another edit or tidy up, but in a way this just adds to the fast paced nature of the story. Likewise, sometimes the patriotism and pro-US attitudes of the author become a bit repetitive, but rather than being annoying they add to the character of the author.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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It's better not to meet your heroes

The saying was never more relevant for me than while reading this book. While there is a lot of interesting information in the book, the author comes off as your typical cliché of American nationalism, which for a European is quite nauseating: he praises people for being "patriotic, God-fearing Americans", more than for actual skills and traits. But what really annoyed me is this: while most people describe Wernher Von Braun as the designer of the German V2 and the Saturn rockets that got people to the moon, Kranz mentions him as "VonBraun and his Germans were experimenting with captured German V2s" and later as "the author of the magazines describing man's future in space". That's it, no other mention of the true merits of Von Braun "and his Germans", as he dismissively calls them. This, combined with the overbearing nationalism throughout the book, just makes me think the author is extremely xenophobic and it just makes the whole book feel distasteful. There are many other things he says that I completely disagree with, but I try to put them aside as normal differences of opinion, but overall it's still a big disappointment.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic

For anyone with even slightly more than a passing interest in space and the moonshots this is an absolute must. To get the full story direct from one on the top men of the era is a real privilege.

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Very Enjoyable listen

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I enjoyed this audiobook. I was inspired to listed to it following a discovery of a group called Public Service Broadcasting and specifically their album Race for Space.
The story is free flowing although sometimes needs a 30sec rewind to catch some key piece of information of acronym.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Failure Is Not an Option?

The accounts of the first moon landing were excellent, there was a chance for this to be very technical and over the head of many but I found it spot on.

Have you listened to any of Danny Campbell’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I wouldn't be a huge fan of the tone, I found there was not enough emotion in some of the passages that mark a huge moment in world history.

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  • Albert Sjoberg (PA)
  • 05-06-15

A wonderful story told beautifully.

The story of the space race as told from inside mission control. This beautifully told story illustrates the right stuff that was part of the American race to space.

Gene talks about his experiences and impressions dr the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. The technical detail and log book like rebelling of the missions recreates the wonder, enthusiasm and menace of NASA's missions. Placing the events in political context adds a depth and honesty to a work.

The only downside is the extensive use of acronyms throughout. Although the folks involved would have mastered the various abbreviated names rapidly during the months of planning and training, I found that nearly listening, I struggled to master all the acronyms on the trot. Fortunately I am able to listen again as this is definitely a book that will will be listened to more than once.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Kevin
  • 19-02-13

Excellent Book!

What made the experience of listening to Failure Is Not an Option the most enjoyable?

Excellent book! If you love the Space program then you must read or listen to this book. One reviewer said it was boring, it was NOT boring. I've listened to it twice in less than a month.

The only thing that would have made this book better would have been to have Gene Kranz narrate it himself.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Mike
  • 13-02-12

A great documentary!

I lived through the manned space program as a participant....from the contractor's point of view. Gene Kranz's pivotal position in the middle of the events of that era gave him an outstanding position from which to describe them. And his telling of the fraternity of "controllers" gave my new insight into the events as seen from an insider.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Cheryl McGirr
  • 25-03-14

Couldn't wait to listen a second time

If you could sum up Failure Is Not an Option in three words, what would they be?

Very Detailed Account

What did you like best about this story?

The pace is superb. Not a detail left out. Very complete and easy to understand. A priceless recollection of a remarkable man's history, during America's (and possibly the Earth's) most interesting period of time. Most NASA/Apollo type books talk about the perspective from the hot-shot Astronaut (Sorry Jim, Buzz, Neil and Gene). The perspective of mission control was vital to getting a complete picture of the race to the moon. Do not skip this book. It's great for history buffs, leaders, teacher or anyone interested in a genuinely good piece of storytelling.

Which scene was your favorite?

Too many to chose from. Most might say the Apollo 11 landing or the Apollo 13 crisis. I'd have to say, the stories of how the men in the MCC pulled together through Mercury to Apollo were all my favorites.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Grounded Heroism

Any additional comments?

If you're a fan of the period, the subject matter or just great detailed real-life drama - do yourself a favor and listen to this book!

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • TM
  • 18-02-14

Dry Insights in to the Space Program

Any additional comments?

I was hoping to love this book and it does give an interesting inside look at many aspects of the Mercury and Apollo missions, but what made Gene Kranz a great Nasa mission controller does not make him an engaging author.

The stories are full of interesting facts, but there is little-to-no drama in the writing, even when recounting the most dramatic of events, such as the Apollo 13 mission. All NASA folk seem to be well trained in handling the media. Everything is upbeat, succinct and politically correct. This is very important to NASA's success, but this mind-set has carried in to this book. So it is rather unemotional and dry.

Worth a listen for NASA fans, but certainly not enthralling.

By the way it is clear that Gene Kranz was a vital player in the space program's success and I think we should all be grateful to him.

15 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Joe
  • 25-02-12

A must have for any fan of man's journey to the mo

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes I would. I enjoyed learning about the space program from someone in the trenches, not a textbook.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Failure Is Not an Option?

Mr. Kranz's account of Apollo 1 & 13. Also his epilogue

What about Danny Campbell’s performance did you like?

Great voice and delivery. told the story well.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Too many to mention here

Any additional comments?

If you ever wanted to know what truly happened in mission control through Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, the good the bad and the ugly, get this book.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 25-09-16

A Great Story written by an Outstanding Man

What did you like best about this story?

I was fascinated by the story of the missions, but Kranz's "voice" as an author carried this out of the ballpark. He's inspiring in his lack of ego, his obvious respect for his team, and his respect for the missions. I love hearing about this time of great triumph told by a man who doesn't revel in himself, but in what we as a people were able to do.

I highly recommend this. I didn't find it dry, in the least. A basic knowledge of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions will make this more exciting, as you will already have the astronauts' stories-- the story of the huge team behind them becomes even more important.

Kranz as a person is the greatest part of this for me. I found it to be a kind of "self help" book in that he models so many qualities that we might strive to have, but it's not boring like self-help books, nor is it egotistical. (I think of those self-congratulatory tomes and TED talks in which people tell me all about how great they are in the guise of telling me how to be a better person.)

For Kranz, we are in it for each other, for our nation -- for the mission -- not for ourselves. We admit to our mistakes, and we work to do better constantly. Failure is not an option in that context.

Great story! Great book! Great author!

Darned exciting stuff, too! It inspires.

The Audible narration is right on the money, too.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeffrey Schwartz
  • 21-07-13

A different perspective but...

Interesting perspective but "a man on the moon" by Andrew Chaikin remains my favorite on this subject.

One thing bothered me about the audio recording. The term for the guidance officer is pronounced GUIDE-OH, and not "guido" Which may, to some people be considered offensive. I am surprised nobody caught this before was released. It occurs over and over again in the book.

13 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Mathias
  • 29-04-14

Interesting but not gripping (mostly)

Very interesting story of course, but I was left with the feeling that it could have been made more gripping. It is quite long and the narrator a bit soulless, but all in all I am glad I bought it and I sort of enjoyed it.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Sethu
  • 27-02-14

A wonderful performance by author and narrator

What made the experience of listening to Failure Is Not an Option the most enjoyable?

Loved this book! Danny Campbell's narration brought out the emotions of Gene Kranz from the tension of space launches to the fast paced methodical analyses of different situations during space flight.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

America's journey into Space: The Men who made it happen

1 of 1 people found this review helpful