Rocket Man Reviews Sidebar

September 27th, 2014 Posted in From Our Alumni

Orbit of Discovery has received a number of favorable reviews:

Cover of Orbit of DiscoveryColin Burgess, an Australian author and historian specializing in space flight and military history, wrote on that “A vast number of biographical books have been written by, or about, America’s astronauts. But having just finished reading Don Thomas’s remarkable book “Orbit of Discovery” I have to say that this is without any doubt one of the very best.

As the author of numerous books myself on the history of space exploration, I have to warmly applaud Don Thomas and his co-author Mike Bartell for putting together one of the most entertaining, interesting and fact-filled books I have ever read by a space shuttle astronaut.

Don Thomas takes us through this, his second space mission, and describes in wonderful detail the adaptation to weightlessness and day-to-day activities experienced on board a space shuttle, as well as describing such necessities as the formulation of meal menus and how these are prepared and eaten in space, the operation and use of the shuttle toilet facility, sleeping arrangements, the selection of their daily wake-up music, and the many differences between the familiar way of life on our home planet and the not-so-familiar life on orbit.

The narrative is not overly-technical, and in fact is told in a refreshingly candid and easy-to-read way. The book is filled with some particularly wonderful anecdotes aside from numerous reminders that this particular mission became infamous in NASA history as the Woodpecker Flight.

Burgess also wrote on the website that he would highly recommend the book “to anyone who wants to know about one man’s inspiration to become an astronaut, his years-long struggle to be selected; the training, family moments and then the flights. Just about every aspect of an astronaut’s routine on the ground and in orbit is told in riveting and entertaining detail.”

Dr. Roger Launius, associate director of collections and curatorial affairs at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. who once served as NASA’s chief historian, wrote on his blog:

“A core question is whether or not there is a use for a book about a single mission, in this case STS-70 in 1995. Don Thomas, a Cleveland native, and Mike Bartell answer that question in the affirmative with this engaging book. Thomas served as a mission specialist; he was selected by NASA in 1990 in the thirteenth group of astronauts. He eventually flew four Space Shuttle missions; this is the story of the second of them. It is a strong memoir, describing both his earlier career and then focusing on this singular mission in 1995.”

“What is most interesting about Orbit of Discovery is how Thomas weaves his transition from Cleveland to space into an account of a single mission, telling stories both humorous and poignant that capture well a NASA human spaceflight program that was exceptional but not closely followed by the public. It is a truism that few Americans paid much attention to the shuttle program in the 1990s. The public was favorably disposed toward the shuttle program but they viewed it as routine and unremarkable. This mission epitomized the routine nature of shuttle efforts in that era, but this account shows clearly that it was anything but unremarkable,” Launius wrote.

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