No Boosters Allowed

If you're expecting another flag-waving book about astronauts, well, Houston, we've got a problem. The man who founded Mission Control, Chris Kraft, sets the record straight in his autobiography, Flight. "I think the astronauts wrote books because someone offered them money to do it, and I think Kraft and [fellow flight director and author Eugene Kranz] wrote because we wanted to tell the story," Kraft says. "That blunt enough?"

Yessir. Flight gives credit to the thousands of people behind the scenes. The astronauts "were the guys who took the risk, don't misunderstand me," Kraft explains. "Those weren't the guys who built the program." The limitations of what the pilot could do confined in his capsule were what led to forming Mission Control. "What did [Jim Lovell] know that was going on about Apollo 13?" Kraft asks. "Nothing. How could he? He wasn't on the ground."

Concerning Scott Carpenter's near-disastrous flight, Kraft pulls no punches either. In his chapter "The Man Malfunctioned," Kraft accuses Carpenter of wasting precious fuel sightseeing in space, and ignoring a disturbing instrument discrepancy that resulted in his straying a hundred miles off course and almost cost him his life. "I swore an oath that Scott Carpenter would never again fly in space," Kraft writes. "He didn't."

A review of the book prompted Carpenter to write a letter to The New York Times, blaming Kraft's dislike on a controversial decision to have Carpenter replace Deke Slayton because of his heart condition.

"If you read my book, you find that I was opposed to him going in the first place," Kraft responds. "I was opposed because my experiences with him indicated he did not have the smarts to be there."

Others have reacted positively. Neil Armstrong apparently called and said, "You were kind of easy on some of these people, weren't you?" Kraft makes no apologies. If people hadn't kept their mouths shut, he believes disasters like the Challenger and Enron could have been avoided. "You better believe it," Kraft says. "People are so intent on being politically correct that the right or moral approach to doing things has been forgotten."

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Dylan Otto Krider