Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Fallen Astronauts: Heroes Who Died Reaching for the Moon

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Fallen Astronauts: Heroes Who Died Reaching for the Moon

Article excerpt

Fallen Astronauts: Heroes Who Died Reaching for the Moon by Colin Burgess and Kate Doolan, with Bert Vis. University of Nebraska Press (http://www.nebraskapress .unl.edu/catalog/CategoryInfo.aspx?cid=152), 1111 Lincoln Mall, Lincoln, Nebraska 68588-0630, 2003, 272 pages, $40.00 (hardcover), ISBN 978-0-8032-1332-6; $25.00 (softcover), ISBN 978-0-8032-6212-6.

In the race for space, some individuals are associated with the first tentative steps into the vast reaches of the heavens. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has in its history men and women like John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Charles Bolden, Mae Jamison, and Eileen Collins, who rode stacks of metal, tubes, liquid oxygen, and rocket fuel into the skies in the quest for exploration and knowledge of the unknown. We recall them with ease, secure in knowing that their achievements have increased our understanding of what was at one time inconceivable to most people. Another group, no less deserving of our respect, has paid the ultimate price in their efforts to go where no one has gone before.

Fallen Astronauts: Heroes Who Died Reaching for the Moon chronicles the story of people who were lost as they sought to fulfill their dreams of becoming part of the initial cadre of space travelers. These men (and they were mostly men at the time) perished in training, routine proficiency evolutions, or simply unfortunate traffic accidents. Their stories are not well known outside the small circle of astronauts, cosmonauts, and test personnel who worked, drank, and watched the skies with them. Authors Colin Burgess, Kate Doolan, and Bert Vis conducted extensive research into the unique and distinguished history of these men and were significantly aided by recollections of the families who have kept the memories of their sons, fathers, husbands, brothers, uncles, and cousins alive these many years. Retired astronaut Eugene Cernan, himself a distinguished member of that stellar group, adds in his foreword that he was amazed at the information the authors found with regard to his former compatriots-information that even he as a contemporary did not know.

The first chapter covers the story of Capt Theodore Cordy Freeman, USAF-graduate of the US Naval Academy's class of 1953 and a member of the third group of NASA astronauts in 1963. Finishing near the top of every training program, he was well regarded by colleagues, coworkers, family, and friends alike. His stature within the astronaut program led some to believe that he would plant the first footprints on the moon, an honor that we now bestow upon Neil Armstrong. Captain Freeman's career was on the fast track to allow him to reach goals he set for himself as a young boy in Lewes, Delaware. Sadly, his life was cut short when his T-38 training aircraft suffered a bird strike and twin-engine flameout on approach to Ellington Field in Houston. Unable to perform a dead-stick landing, he attempted to eject, but his aircraft was too low to the ground. Killed upon impact, Captain Freeman was the first US astronaut fatality. His wife, Faith, experienced his loss in a very public way because the astronauts were part of a high-profile publicity campaign to instill confidence about the space program in the American public and to show that we were actively competing against the Soviet Union in the space race. …

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