Dragonfly: An Adventure of Survival in Outer Space

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9780060932695: Dragonfly: An Adventure of Survival in Outer Space

The inside story from the universe’s most outside habitation: the Mir Space Station, home since 1992 to astronauts and cosmonauts. In a white-knuckle narrative drama that is wholly space fact, not science fiction, sour Russians, intense Americans and one resourceful Briton battling to establish a pioneering homestead on the final frontier.

Space is dangerous. Life in space unbearably fragile. Blasting across it in a rocket is daring enough, but to really claim it, to tame it, you have to stay there, to live in it. Only a very few have tried, in every case their courage beyond question. Because in space even a fleck of paint can be deadly. Spacewalking outside the Mir station – though seemingly tranquil – is in effect walking at 18,000 miles per hour. That one fleck of paint has the destructive capacity of a dum-dum bullet. It would rip through a space suit and an astronaut with instant catastrophic effect. Since 1992 astronauts and cosmonauts have been conducting an extraordinary living experiment as Russian and American character and method clatter headlong into one another. Mir is a 25-year-old space station coming to the end of its life in terrifying style. It has been the site of the worst ever fire in space – and in zero gravity fire is truly terrifying – and of the only occasion to date when every astronaut’s nightmare has actually come true: a near fatal collision when a supply ship pierced the station’s hull. Mir was within minutes of disaster, the occupants moments from an airless tomb.

Bryan Burrough depicts with thrilling intensity the intrepid struggle to survive on the edge of infinity.

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Review:

Bryan Burrough, coauthor of the bestselling Barbarians at the Gate, has a talent for reworking factual accounts so they read like first-rate thrillers. Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis Aboard Mir is overwhelming in its scope and breadth of detail, culled from one-to-one interviews and transcripts of recorded conversations between the astronauts and cosmonauts on Mir and Russian Mission Control. Burrough delves deeply into the personal and professional lives of the 11 people who lived aboard Mir from 1995 to 1998. What we soon discover is simultaneously disheartening and fascinating: the men and women who would be astronauts must run a gauntlet of hazings, are judged professionally on their personal lives, and win flight assignments through serendipity as often as through hard work. NASA is controlled by cliques and cults of personality: "People don't speak out, because George makes short work of you if you do.... If you get on his bad side, you won't get a flight assignment...." There are "issues dealing with training and the selection of crews that you don't dare speak up about." The down-to-the- last-bolt descriptions of life aboard the station, from what the air smells like to an explanation of "penguin suits" to the distance between the dinner table and the original, now seldom-used toilet-- 2 feet--will thrill space enthusiasts. Space may not be "where no man has gone before" anymore, but it nevertheless provides endless dream fodder for those of us left behind on Earth. -- Jhana Bach, Amazon.com

About the Author:

Bryan Burrough is a special correspondent at Vanity Fair magazine in New York. A former Wall Street Journal reporter, he is the co-author of the number one New York Times bestseller, Barbarians at the Gate. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, Marla, and their two young sons.

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