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Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  2,893 Ratings  ·  270 Reviews
On February 1, 1978, the first group of space shuttle astronauts, twenty-nine men and six women, were introduced to the world. Among them would be history makers, including the first American woman and the first African American in space. This assembly of astronauts would carry NASA through the most tumultuous years of the space shuttle program. Four would die on Challenge ...more
Kindle Edition, 389 pages
Published (first published January 24th 2006)
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Community Reviews

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Kemper
Between this book and Packing for Mars I know way more about pooping in space than I ever wanted to…..

Mike Mullane’s childhood fascination with space travel gave him the determination to become one of the first groups of astronauts chosen for the space shuttle program, and eventually he made three trips into orbit. Despite eyesight bad enough to prevent him from being a pilot, he was also an Air Force officer who flew combat missions in Vietnam as the weapons system operator. (Like Goose in Top
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Melki
The first line in the book is I was naked, lying on my side on a table in the NASA Flight Medicine Clinic bathroom, probing at my rear end with the nozzle of an enema.

Yep, the Rocky Mountain News was sure right when they proclaimed, "This is not your father's astronaut memoir..."

I first learned about this book in Mary Roach's Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. Her words of advice ran something along the lines of if you read just one astronaut autobiography, make it this o
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Stephen
Mike Mullane is a shuttle astronaut with a penis fixation. Although Riding Rockets is ostensibly about the opening decades of the space shuttle era in NASA, it could be titled the Cosmic Adventures of Mike and his Member. If he doesn't mention his genitalia more times than he uses the acronym "NASA", he at least makes a valiant effort. His is an astronaut memoir of an altogether different kind than say, Jim Lovell's, or Deke Slayton's. This is not a heroic tale of people achieving the impossible ...more
Jon Mcbride
May 24, 2011 Jon Mcbride rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read, though I am admittedly biased from growing up around NASA. Mike has a way of bringing back memories - joyful, painful and all points between - of America's Space Shuttle Program and the Astronaut corp of "Thirty-Five New Guys" of 1978, or TFNGs (which included my father, Jon McBride).

The book is raw and honest, taking a look behind the public face of NASA into the lives of the men and women who comprised the program as well as the spouses and families who also sacrificed much to
...more
Kathryn
Jun 09, 2012 Kathryn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Like probably half of American kids, I wanted to be an astronaut. So I was hoping this book would get down to the nuts and bolts of what it's like to be on a space shuttle, what astronauts do all day when they're up there, what the training is like, etc. Also, this book came recommended by Mary Roach.

I was very disappointed. First of all, the writing style is that of a talented sixth-grader. The dialogue, such as it is, is stilted and unrealistic. (Proud of that Tarzan nickname, are you, Mike?
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diane
Nov 07, 2011 diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
This book was everything I had hoped for. It gave me insight into the real life of an astronaut, it humanized the incredible feats it took to get into space, and it made me even more enthusiastic, if that's even possible, about the human species exploring the vasty nothingness of space.

I've read some other reviews that mention that Mullane is sexist, and talks about his penis a great deal. While those assessments of the man are actually correct, the reviewers missed the point. Mullane came from
...more
MAP
Dec 06, 2010 MAP rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to MAP by: Mary Roach
You'll read a lot of reviews on this site talking about the sexism in Mullane's book, and how if you can get through that, it's pretty funny. One thing they don't mention thought is:

HE KNOWS IT. In fact, one of the themes of growth in this book is that Mullane goes from being a sexist pig in the 70s to a man who realizes women can do everything he can do as well and better. Now, granted, he still doesn't seem to be able to resist telling us the sexist jokes he used to make (to prove just how sex
...more
Sharon
Aug 09, 2010 Sharon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book. Here's why:

1. Some of his childhood stories are utterly hysterical. I was actually lying in bed reading, laughing so hard that tears were rolling down my face.

2. There's a lot of crazy, odd, humiliating stuff about being an astronaut and he shares ALL of it. The man has never heard of TMI. Some of the details, most of the humor, and a little of the language is pretty crude, so consider yourself forewarned. It's part of Mullane's "charm", such as it is.

3. His friendship wi
...more
Paul
Sep 22, 2010 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ibooks
I've always been a NASA/space shuttle geek, and Mullane's book, recommended to me by several friends, was an excellent look behind the scenes at JSC and KSC, and how the program unfolded. If you can tolerate not-that-rare occasions of crude and sexist humor, it's pretty funny, and reading his stories of interactions with the ill-fated crew of Challenger, especially Judy Reznik, were particularly touching, too. Anyone who is a fan of NASA and manned space exploration in general, and the shuttle i ...more
Alicia
Dec 21, 2014 Alicia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I learned everything about going to space and living in space very explicit not for the kids. I loved everything about it even met and got a autographed copy of this book.
Expanding Bookshelf
Of all the astronaut biographies published over the past 30 years Mike Mullane’s Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut stands apart from the rest. An alternate title for Mullane’s book could easily be The Sacred and the Profane, because the author, a former shuttle astronaut, delivers a no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners peek inside examination of NASA’s astronaut office that is irreverent and occasionally blasphemous, yet engaging and spellbinding.

Like most astronaut
...more
Mauri
Jan 19, 2015 Mauri rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I've written this review about thirty times in my head. After reading An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, I wanted more space. I read the summary for this, but rejected it until Mary Roach mentioned it as "if you only read one astronaut biography, read this one". (Her book was published before Hadfield's.)

It's...hysterical. I literally laughed until I cried at some points. Mullane writes irreverently about the first decade of the space shuttle program, revealing NASA as it was, warts and all.
...more
terpkristin
Over the course of my education, internships, and now career, I've met and worked with a few astronauts. I actually think I may have met author Mullane while at an internship at Kennedy Space Center. Because of this experience, this interaction, nothing in this book was a real surprise. Astronauts are driven folks. They know how to act (how to hide things that shouldn't be shown like fear or concern, except when the cameras are off and they're in the company of their peers and teams that help ma ...more
Michael Mcclelland
A surpringly honest, emotionally baring, funny and mostly modest tale from an American astronaut. As one of the first new intake of gifted and skilled people selected to man the space shuttle - what he would soon realise was a vehicle more dangerous than any that preceded it, despite its tradesmen-like intent - Mike Mullane is subjected to the politics, terror, exhilaration, depression, frustration and deathly mismanagement that was the lot of a NASA astronaut.



From the homemade rocket-launching
...more
rinabeana
Nov 24, 2007 rinabeana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: space
The shuttle program was something I didn't know much about, and don't really follow now. Most of my space nerdiness regards the Apollo program (and Mercury and Gemini as they led up to it). This book was a double whammy because I learned a lot about the shuttle program and was very entertained. I loved Mullane's writing style and no holds barred stories. (I perhaps didn't need to know quite so much about waste excretion in space, but what can you do?) I was (naively) shocked to discover just how ...more
Jamie Collins
Recommended by Mary Roach in Packing for Mars. This was a very good read, full of every entertaining anecdote Mullane could think of concerning his astronaut career.

He doesn’t discuss training very much, but he gives detailed accounts of what it was like to exchange tearful farewells with his wife and be strapped into the shuttle, spending uncomfortable hours waiting for a launch that might very well be scrubbed. He describes mundane details of life in orbit, including everything you’d want to k
...more
Lisa
Jul 08, 2011 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, space
It's a great memoir, by turns tender and irreverent, with sometimes refreshing candor and healthy doses of self-congratulation. Mullane doesn't shy away from the more horrifying aspects of an astronaut's life (both the flyboy culture and the work) and might actually beat Mary Roach at bringing in-flight vomiting and pooping to life. I think he's more convinced of his own conversion from sexist jerk to tolerant guy than the evidence warrants, but at least he makes it amusing along the way. He is ...more
Wes Metz
Feb 08, 2014 Wes Metz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Follow astronaut Mike Mullane as he progresses from male chauvinist pig fighter jock to reluctant feminist. Along the way he flies into space on the shuttle three times, loses a close friend in the Challenger explosion, lives in terror of dying on every flight he takes, and is even more terrified by the thought that he might not be allowed to go. Mullane has much to say about the administrators of NASA, none of it good, and accuses some of them of being more interested in power and job security ...more
Minh
Aug 13, 2012 Minh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
For a self professed sexist pig, Mike Mulligan has the soul of a poet. His autobiography is one of the most moving and well written novels I've read in a while, even for someone with only passing interest in the space race this book was enough to stir my soul.

His descriptions of earth of space, grief at losing fellow astronauts and the sheer strength of his love for his parents and his wife, you can't help but be moved and sucked into this book. With some of the most sexist jokes I've ever hear
...more
Dana
Apr 15, 2011 Dana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We all know I love space travel, and this was a great little find in the Orlando NASA giftshop. Very interesting information contained within, and it's an enjoyable read if you have any interest in knowing that it was like to be one of the original astronauts. Feels like he didn't leave anything out he didn't have to.

One note: If you were a child during the Challenger tragedy, it was kind of theraputic to read Mullane's virtual love letter to the astronauts lost on that flight. The news focused
...more
Lioness
May 23, 2011 Lioness rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The author of this autobiography was one of the early Space Shuttle astronauts. He tells how he became an astronaut, what drives men like him and how he changed over the years. Most touching was the love and admiration he developed for Judy Resnick - a civilian astronaut who died in the Challenger shuttle explosion.
The politics and intrigue in NASA was fascinating to read about and the nitty gritty details of space flight was very interesting.
Less convincing was the secondary theme of the book -
...more
Dana Stabenow
Jun 15, 2010 Dana Stabenow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny, candid, detailed, with an easy prose style, astronaut Mullane has opinions about the shuttle program, NASA bureaucracy and the exploration of space, and he knows how to use them. He was a friend of fellow astronaut Judith Resnik, who died on Challenger, and he writes honestly about the pain of that loss. He is also very frank about the unpaid service of astronauts’ wives, and you will end this book thinking his own should be canonized. Riding Rockets is the best book by an astronaut since ...more
Valerie
Feb 10, 2011 Valerie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Valerie by: Mary Roach
This was in the bibliography of Mary Roach's Packing for Mars, and you can never get enough humor out of body functions in space. He chronicles the change over from the rocket to the shuttle program, and what that meant for astronauts. He also tells the story of losing his friends on Challenger, and the fears and disasters faced. I remembered that I watched Challenger take off as a live broadcast from a Science Fiction Convention in San Jose. A room filled with people who wanted more than anythi ...more
Johanna
Nov 25, 2013 Johanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I bought this book at KSC I did not expect to get what this book delivers. First of all, I thought I knew something about the space program until I read Mullane's book and realized just how little us mortals actually know.
The book was funny, easy read and most importantly heart wrenching honest. It gave me an even deeper respect for the men and woman of the space program and their quest to follow their dreams.
Sherryl
Oct 27, 2016 Sherryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
It was certainly a trip reading about the 'space cowboys' of yesteryear.

Mike Mullane certainly has a way with relating his trips to orbit to us earth-bound souls. The imagery invoked in his descriptions of his time in space are beautifully written and makes one almost feel as though we were with him.
Sheryl Sato
Jun 22, 2016 Sheryl Sato rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book. Recommended by Mary Roach as the one book written by an astronaut which should be read, this book is a journey into space multiple times, along with many interesting facts and opinions about the space age during the 70s and 80s. An epic journey and thoroughly entertaining.
Brendan Oldham


I didn't like. He comes off as arrogant and pig-headed. It was like reading "Top Gun". That said, if you're interested in space, you'll learn a lot about being an astronaut. It certainly convinced me that I'd never want to be one!
Sarah
Jan 03, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mike Mullane has a strong tendancy towards being a sexist pig. That said, this was the most entertaining astronaut memoirs I've read. (And I've read a lot.)
Kevin Orrman-Rossiter
Jan 20, 2014 Kevin Orrman-Rossiter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Space cadets
Shelves: into-the-void
This was a great memoir from start to finish. The glory and folly of the post-Apollo space age. Seen through the eyes of one of the most politically incorrect astronauts ever. This actually got me excited about the Space Shuttle era - something I would not of thought possible.

The right stuff: astronaut autobiographies from Glenn to Hadfield

An enduring image of an ‘astronaut’ was created for the public by NASA, Time magazine, and Tom Woolf’s The Right Stuff. These caricatures of the original seve
...more
Nancy
Jun 05, 2017 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everything you didn't know you wanted to ask.
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“We were like the Mount Everest climbers stepping over frozen corpses from prior climbing disasters in our quest for the summit. Like those climbers, we were motivated by a fear far greater than death—the fear of not reaching the top.” 3 likes
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