Into the Black

The Extraordinary Untold Story of the First Flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the Astronauts Who Flew Her

Foreword by Richard Truly
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About The Book

A book “no aviation buff will want to miss” (The Wall Street Journal) and “the perfect tale that educates as it entertains” (#1 bestselling author Clive Cussler), Into the Black recaptures the historic moments leading up to and the exciting story of the astronauts who flew the daring maiden flight of the space shuttle Columbia.

Using interviews, NASA oral histories, and recently declassified material, Into the Black pieces together the dramatic untold story of the Columbia mission and the brave people who dedicated themselves to help the United States succeed in the age of space exploration. On April 12, 1981, NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia blasted off from Cape Canaveral. It was the most advanced, state-of-the-art flying machine ever built, challenging the minds and imagination of America’s top engineers and pilots. Columbia was the world’s first real spaceship: a winged rocket plane, the size of an airliner, and capable of flying to space and back before preparing to fly again.

On board were moonwalker John Young and test pilot Bob Crippen. Less than an hour after Young and Crippen’s spectacular departure from the Cape, all was not well. Tiles designed to protect the ship from the blowtorch burn of re-entry were missing from the heat shield. If the damage to Columbia was too great, the astronauts wouldn’t be able to return safely to earth. NASA turned to the National Reconnaissance Office, a spy agency hidden deep inside the Pentagon whose very existence was classified. To help the ship, the NRO would attempt something never done before. Success would require skill, perfect timing, and luck.

Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, Into the Black is a thrilling race against time and the incredible true story of the first space shuttle mission that celebrates our passion for spaceflight.

About The Author
Courtesy of the author

Rowland White is the author of three critically acclaimed works of aviation history: Vulcan 607, Phoenix Squadron, and Storm Front. All three have been Sunday Times top ten bestsellers. His most recent novel is Into the Black.

Product Details
  • Publisher: Atria Books (April 2017)
  • Length: 480 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501123634

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Raves and Reviews

“Beautifully researched and written, Into The Black tells the true, complete story of the Space Shuttle better than it’s ever been told before.”

– Col. Chris Hadfield, astronaut, author, Space Station commander

"An absolutely terrific look into the birth of the Space Shuttle! Into the Black expertly captures, as never before, a history that spans decades, Cold War tensions, bureaucratic infighting and a multitude of seemingly impossible engineering challenges.But it’s much more than merely the cold facts of how the nuts and bolts all came together. It’s about the people…the men, women, astronauts, engineers, managers, and contractors who had the vision, faith in themselves and sheer guts to believe the impossible could be done; that a reusable, manned, winged craft could be built to routinely fly to and from earth orbit. There are stories of courage and heart-accelerating fear in these pages that even I, as an astronaut, was unaware of."

– R. Mike Mullane, NASA Astronaut (Ret.), USAF Col., (Ret.), author of Riding Rockets

"An unforgettable book, one destined to become a classic in the emerging field of space history. Moving effortlessly from planning meetings in obscure offices within NASA, the Pentagon, and industry to the unforgiving environment of high-risk flight test and flight into space, this book traces a remarkable journey and, along the way, introduces his readers to a courageous group of far-seeing engineers and astronauts whose bold vision and tenacious work gave humanity its first reusable space transportation system."

– Dr. Richard P. Hallion, Senior Adviser for Air and Space Issues at the Pentagon, author of On the Frontier

“Brilliantly revealed, Into the Black is the finely tuned true story of the first flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia. Rowland White has magnificently laid bare the unknown dangers and unseen hazards of that first mission. He has also given us an amazing insight into a world of science and engineering, the victories and defeats, for the first time. It’s the perfect tale that educates as it entertains. Once read, not forgotten.”

– Clive Cussler

“Into the Black isn’t just spectacularly researched, it’s told like a thriller, unfolding the edge-of-death tale of the Space Shuttle Columbia’s maiden voyage in riveting fashion. Rowland White performs a rare feat here, stitching together comprehensive research—countless interviews, declassified files, flight documents—into a tale of courage and daring as streamlined and elegant as the aircraft herself. Buckle in and hold on tight—this thing's got jet propulsion.”

– Gregg Hurwitz, author of Orphan X

“Rowland White’s account of Columbia’s inaugural flight in 1981,and all the preparations that led up to it, could not be a more timely reminder of what it takes to design, launch and fly a complex manned space vehicle. White’s research is thorough, his writing style is superb, and he has a gripping and fresh story to tell. This is a genuine ‘must-have’ book for anyone fascinated by the sharp end of space flight.”'

– Piers Bizony, author of Starman, The Space Shuttle, and The Making of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’

"This remarkable book describes the final (and unpublished) chapter in the 'Race to the Moon'! Between 1961 and 1963, four groups of astronauts were selected by the USA -- three groups were comprised of those pilots who were assigned to NASA and were highly publicized as men who explored the Moon. The fourth group disappeared into the “black” world of the CIA, the NRO, and the Top Secret Air Force“Manned Orbiting Laboratory.” This is the exciting first-told story of these exceptional pilots who only became known publicly during the development and first flights of the Space Shuttle – flights into the real Black of Space."

– Dave Scott, Commander, Apollo 15

“Centuries from now the space shuttle program will be regarded as mankind's first mighty leap into space, not in a rowboat, but in a truly useful spaceship. White tells it as the great, magnificent adventure it was. A superb book.”

– Stephen Coonts

“An extraordinary, carefully researched, tale of the evolution of America’s space program. White has unearthed a treasure trove of formerly highly classified facts and combined them with an insightful look at the people who developed and flew America’s early human spacecraft and the first Space Shuttle flight.”

– Hugh Harris, former Director of Public Affairs for NASA's Kennedy Space Center and Voice of Space Shuttle Launch Control for STS-1

Into the Black told me stuff I never knew before – and I worked at NASA for 30 years."

– Michael Foale, former Astronaut and International Space Station Commander

"This account of America's greatest and, in hindsight, most dangerous manned spaceflight is a fantastic read. After I started it, I read it straight through. For more than spaceflight geeks, this is the story of an astonishing adventure that, despite the outward confidence of NASA, could have and perhaps should have gone horribly wrong."

– Homer Hickam, author Rocket Boys/October Sky

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