Author Topic: Mike Mullane's book, Riding Rockets  (Read 2538 times)

Offline Ranb

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Mike Mullane's book, Riding Rockets
« on: October 17, 2019, 01:56:17 AM »
I read Mullane's book, Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut.  It is different than other astronaut biographies I've read recently.  It is certainly the most irreverent biography from an astronaut I've ever read.

I was surprised to read the unkind words he had for John Young (chief astronaut) and George Abbey (director of flight operations) in the late 1970's while training for his first shuttle flight.  Mullane also went into detail about his changing attitudes towards astronauts without military backgrounds, especially females.  Mullane is or was a self admitted male chauvinist from, in his words, the "planet of arrested development" (AD).  The description of the complete turnaround in his attitude towards female astronauts and women in general was interesting to read.

Also interesting was the attitude towards some of the payload specialists that were jockeying for a free ride to space when the job could be better accomplished by a real astronaut.  Mullane was especially unhappy with politicians (Garn Nelson and Glenn) who used their influence to get a ride.

I learned more about Judith Resnik from this book than any other source. The book gave me more insight into the lives of astronauts than any other I have read.  Whether it is true or not, I don't know.  But it was an interesting read.

Ranb

Offline Zakalwe

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Re: Mike Mullane's book, Riding Rockets
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2019, 08:36:36 AM »
It's a great read! I've read it a couple of times and always enjoyed it. He was very open and honest especially in his personal transformation into a more inclusive person. Scathing about George Abbey and John Young and if even a tiny fraction of it is true then it's a perfect example of a toxic environment being created by a small clique. Higher management should have stamped that behaviour out.
It's also very funny in places....Mullane sounds like he'd be a right laugh at a party!
"The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.' " - Isaac Asimov

Offline Ranb

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Re: Mike Mullane's book, Riding Rockets
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2019, 08:55:38 AM »
I wonder if it is possible to get a copy of the CapCom phone recording he was talking about?  :)

Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Mike Mullane's book, Riding Rockets
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2019, 05:53:17 PM »
It was interesting but he came across as a real jerk, as did many of the other astronauts, a bunch of cowboys.

Offline Glom

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Re: Mike Mullane's book, Riding Rockets
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2019, 07:08:29 AM »
I read this some years ago. Definitely the funniest of the astronaut bios. Collins is still the best.

I thought the bits around Challenger were particularly good.

Offline mako88sb

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Re: Mike Mullane's book, Riding Rockets
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2019, 01:18:46 PM »
Among other things already mentioned was being a bit shocked to find out the astronaut families were on their own when it came to finding accommodations if/when a launch abort meant an overnight stay. It's been awhile since I read it and I can't recall the exact circumstances his family went through but it seemed they were ill-prepared when his mission was scrubbed with a launch-pad abort.

Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Mike Mullane's book, Riding Rockets
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2019, 02:41:25 AM »
It's a great read! I've read it a couple of times and always enjoyed it. He was very open and honest especially in his personal transformation into a more inclusive person. Scathing about George Abbey and John Young and if even a tiny fraction of it is true then it's a perfect example of a toxic environment being created by a small clique. Higher management should have stamped that behaviour out.
It's also very funny in places....Mullane sounds like he'd be a right laugh at a party!

I think the whole astronaut culture in the books comes across as toxic.  Mullane's sexist attitude to women ("snort their flanks"), hostility to civilian astronauts, mission and payload specialists in general,and the unregulated and unauthorised dog fights in T-33s is all rather horrific. He would appear to be part of the problem, not the solution.  Sometimes he seems apologetic, but it is clear he went along with all of it.

Of course, this is his account.  Other contemporary astronaut (Ross, Matessino) bios say nothing about this.  He may just be a big mouth big noting himself.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2019, 02:45:09 AM by Dalhousie »

Offline Ranb

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Re: Mike Mullane's book, Riding Rockets
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2019, 04:39:52 PM »
As a former submariner I can truthfully say that the masculine culture in the sub force during the cold war was rather toxic in some ways.  The introduction of females to the sub force has improved it.

What he said about attitudes towards females was not surprising to me at all; but his description of a catholic school's attitude towards the position of women in society was.

Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Mike Mullane's book, Riding Rockets
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2019, 06:21:23 PM »
As a former submariner I can truthfully say that the masculine culture in the sub force during the cold war was rather toxic in some ways.  The introduction of females to the sub force has improved it.

What he said about attitudes towards females was not surprising to me at all; but his description of a catholic school's attitude towards the position of women in society was.

I think a greater proportion of women in the workplace has been a good thing.  Never been in the military but drillers, sailors, miners, etc. can be rather rough, to say the least.  The more women in the workplace the better in my experience, made the work environment much better.  But the first cohort that do so go through hell.

Offline Ranb

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Re: Mike Mullane's book, Riding Rockets
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2019, 07:05:06 PM »
I was reading his book again and a few quotes stood out.  They are written by Mullane about a deceased astronaut, so we only have his word these words were actually said.

Quote
"If a woman had to use all of these, she'd be dead from blood loss."  Judith Resnik commenting on the excessive number of tampons loaded into her locker prior to her 1st Space Shuttle flight.

"I'm probably the first woman in history to go to bed with five men and all of them have back aches."  Resnick commenting on the STS-41-D male astronauts complaining of backaches prior to the 1st night in orbit due to their spines elongating from the zero gravity.  Mullane says Resnik was the only one not complaining of a backache

"If you so much as breathe a word to MCC about my hair jamming the camera, I'll cut your heart out with a spoon."  Resnik reacting to a mistake she made that was due to her long hair; she wanted to 'avoid anti-feminism blame' being placed on her performance.  The other astronauts complied with her demand.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2019, 07:16:12 PM by Ranb »

Offline Glom

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Re: Mike Mullane's book, Riding Rockets
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2020, 11:28:58 AM »
As a former submariner I can truthfully say that the masculine culture in the sub force during the cold war was rather toxic in some ways.  The introduction of females to the sub force has improved it.

What he said about attitudes towards females was not surprising to me at all; but his description of a catholic school's attitude towards the position of women in society was.

I think a greater proportion of women in the workplace has been a good thing.  Never been in the military but drillers, sailors, miners, etc. can be rather rough, to say the least.  The more women in the workplace the better in my experience, made the work environment much better.  But the first cohort that do so go through hell.
Yeah, I've worked in many a sausage fest. It is pretty crude. The few women tend to integrate better by being "ladettes". Still, I don't want to make it sound harsher than it really was.

Ironically, the least such culture was when I worked in Iraq. Also, ironically, the most I've worked with trans people has been when working with the RAF.

Offline Eventcone

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Re: Mike Mullane's book, Riding Rockets
« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2020, 11:10:25 AM »
I have read it. I have to say I didn't enjoy it - the only astronaut bio amongst those I have read that I did not like. If I had known Mullane as an individual I am sure I would have disliked him, possibly detested him.

His comments about John Young did not improve my feelings in that respect but, if the culture amongst the astronaut corps and their management was as he paints it, then he has a right to talk about it. I wonder how that came about. Indeed I wonder if this was a "hand me down" from Apollo (with Slayton and Sheperd in positions of authority then). Could a culture that not only worked, but may even have been essential, for Apollo have been counter-productive and even disfunctional in the days of the Shuttle Program?

I don't recall his opinion on astronauts who did not have a "military" background - it's been a few years since I read it. What about astronauts who weren't pilots ot test pilots (wasn't he aircrew but not a pilot)?

To give him his credit I thought his comments about the Shuttle being a "highly dangerous experimental vehicle" that nevertheless had no escape option to be right on the money. He also gave credit to Young for his courage and professionalism in commanding the first Shuttle flight.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2020, 11:15:15 AM by Eventcone »

Offline Ranb

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Re: Mike Mullane's book, Riding Rockets
« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2020, 02:22:38 PM »
I don't recall his opinion on astronauts who did not have a "military" background - it's been a few years since I read it. What about astronauts who weren't pilots ot test pilots (wasn't he aircrew but not a pilot)?
Mullane's attitude towards the "post-docs" or astronaut candidates without a military background was unfavorable at first but he eventually came to respect them.  Mullane was a back-seater in the military so as an astronaut he was a mission specialist.  Mullane went on in length about certain payload specialists who used their political connections to secure a ride on the shuttle.  He felt that every politician, teacher and celebrity who tried to gain a seat on the shuttle was a lost opportunity for professional astronauts who worked hard  to get where they were in the program.

Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Mike Mullane's book, Riding Rockets
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2020, 09:45:17 PM »
I have read it. I have to say I didn't enjoy it - the only astronaut bio amongst those I have read that I did not like. If I had known Mullane as an individual I am sure I would have disliked him, possibly detested him.

I agree, he comes across as misogynistic, racist, ultra nationalistic,with general contempt for civilians.

Quote
His comments about John Young did not improve my feelings in that respect but, if the culture amongst the astronaut corps and their management was as he paints it, then he has a right to talk about it. I wonder how that came about. Indeed I wonder if this was a "hand me down" from Apollo (with Slayton and Sheperd in positions of authority then). Could a culture that not only worked, but may even have been essential, for Apollo have been counter-productive and even disfunctional in the days of the Shuttle Program?

Of course we only have his word for any of these things, and they may not be accurate.  But, if accurate, he describes a deeply toxic culture.  Space cowboys is too mild a description.  His stories of military astronauts using the T-38s for impromptu and unauthorised dogfights without any concern for safety shows an extraordinary level of unprofessionalism, if true.  Likewise the extraordinary childish nationalism by behaviour like taking a crap over Cuba.  This is 11 year old behaviour.

Offline Peter B

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Re: Mike Mullane's book, Riding Rockets
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2020, 05:51:22 AM »
I don't recall his opinion on astronauts who did not have a "military" background - it's been a few years since I read it. What about astronauts who weren't pilots ot test pilots (wasn't he aircrew but not a pilot)?
Mullane's attitude towards the "post-docs" or astronaut candidates without a military background was unfavorable at first but he eventually came to respect them.  Mullane was a back-seater in the military so as an astronaut he was a mission specialist.  Mullane went on in length about certain payload specialists who used their political connections to secure a ride on the shuttle.  He felt that every politician, teacher and celebrity who tried to gain a seat on the shuttle was a lost opportunity for professional astronauts who worked hard  to get where they were in the program.

Well, it would hardly be the only industry where people with genuine talent and work ethic lose out to people who know how to brown-nose or...um...make the right connections with the people who make decisions.