Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond” as Want to Read:
Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  7,582 ratings  ·  631 reviews
This memoir of a veteran NASA flight director tells riveting stories from the early days of the Mercury program through Apollo 11 (the moon landing) and Apollo 13, for both of which Kranz was flight director.

Gene Kranz was present at the creation of America’s manned space program and was a key player in it for three decades. As a flight director in NASA’s Mission Control,
Paperback, 416 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Berkley Trade (first published January 7th 2000)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Failure is Not an Option, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Failure is Not an Option

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.28  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,582 ratings  ·  631 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond
Joyce McCombs
Apr 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I'm the daughter of a space guy... Dad worked on the Lunar Rover and various Apollo mission components as part of Boeing in Seattle. As a child of the 60's, we were rousted out of bed many an early morning to watch a "shot go up"... and every time it was a thrill. Apollo 13 was something we took personally in our house... I remember my mom and I were attending a PTA meeting and all of a sudden my Dad showed up (VERY unusual!) and announced that "the mission was in trouble". Every one of the pare ...more
Aug 31, 2008 rated it it was ok
Ultimately this book was just OK...I was very interested in reading about the early NASA programs from the perspective of someone on the ground instead of one of the astronauts, and it definitely delivered in that regard.

Kranz details his whole career at NASA from its start to its peak and through its decline. I mostly wanted to read this book to hear about the Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 missions, but the sections on those were actually somewhat short. Instead, Kranz included almost too much detai
Crystal Starr Light
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Read this in my teenaged years - loved it! Gene Kranz is one of my space heroes.
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Last year when my great granddaughter was born, I started writing letters to her every month. I do not live near her, and this would be my way of sharing family stories and whatever else I might think of as time moves on. This month marks the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. I wanted to be sure to share my memories of that day and also of the early space program in general. I was in high school when Alan Shepard became the first American in space. The more I thought about what I wante ...more
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: repeatable
Just for aficionados of space flight history. Invaluable to the historical record. Engaging. Not a particularly personal memoir, yet by the end I felt I knew Kranz quite well. Absolutely this will be a re-read.
Heather Domin
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I actually put off finishing this because I didn't want it to be over. I'm not really sure how to review it, except to say that if you're a space geek, this is pretty much exactly how you would expect Gene Kranz to write -- you can hear him narrating it in your head. I especially love how much he praised the people you don't see on the documentaries, the secretaries and math nerds and computer geeks (including the women programmers who basically wrote the entire space program). We rarely get to ...more
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'd been looking for a read about Neil Armstrong for the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing and instead made the thrilling discovery that Mr. Kranz wrote a book! I just knew I'd like him after seeing him interviewed on Smithsonian channel, etc. (For reference, Ed Harris played him in the movie Apollo 13.) What took me by surprise is that this fighter/test pilot-engineer-NASA flight director is one helluva writer! He knows just how to describe what things felt like and with just the right balan ...more
Sep 14, 2010 rated it liked it
I picked this as my first "fun book" to read on my Kindle. It was a good read. Kranz was a flight director during the Apollo mission, and is best known to most people as the character played by Ed Harris in "Apollo 13." This book is a good addition to the popular literature on the space program, focusing on the heroic and inspirational efforts of the men and some women who worked as a team to put men on the moon.

This notion of teamwork and really hard work under stress and risk is the most impre
Jun 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've read a number of books on the space race - the time period of Mecury, Gemini and Apollo. I've had a life long interest since I was a child growing up in that era. I give this book four stars because it a story that needs to be told. Gene Kranz is pretty exhaustive in his details but I admit it was way too "operationally" focused for me. I like the human element and this was all about how it was done -- the nuts and bolts. It took me months to get through this book because of the level of op ...more
Failure is Not an Option by Gene Kranz the statement of being Tough & Competent, tough that you are always accountable for what you do or fail to do. Competent, that you never take anything for granted, you must never be found short in your knowledge or skills. This was written on a board and was instigated from the aftermath of 3 astronauts deaths in a fire on the ground, very profound and motivating something worth remembering. Littered with technical details but told in an easy to follow enjo ...more
George Sink
This was an incredibly detailed read. I was fascinated by the focus, determination, and skill shown by the teams of flight controllers through the missions from Mercury to Apollo. This book wasn't really a narrative to me in the traditional sense, but rather a personal description of events throughout his career with Mission Control. An excellent, albeit quite dense, read if you're interested in the early US space program from Mission Control's point of view. ...more
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Personal Review of "Failure is Not an Option"
This fantastic book outlines the major milestones of the American Space Program and the author, Gene Kranz, describes what it was like before the first rockets have ever flown at NASA and the administration's legacy from Skylab and beyond. The balls, courage, and in-the-moment decision making was not just apparent in the astronauts, but also instilled in everyone sitting behind every Mission Control console, wether in Huston or at the Cape.
The book
Nov 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, audio-books
I was first introduced to the idea of Gene Kranz when I first saw the film Apollo 13, and then again shortly after I saw the excellent HBO miniseries, From the Earth to the Moon. I found his steely-eyed, take-no-bull, calm and collected attitude, portrayed by Ed Harris in Apollo 13 and Dan Butler in the HBO series, to be an integral part of the NASA equation.

So when this book, Failure is Not an Option, came up as a daily deal from Audible, I jumped on it. I couldn’t have made a better decision.
I had high expectations for this book and was listening to the audio version but unfortunately it just got to be too boring. It just didn’t have the same drama for me as other space books did.
Sep 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am a major fan of America's space program, especially the years we went to the moon. I've watched the TM shows and the movies and now I've listened to Gene Kranz's book. Comparing, I find the book is more complete. I enjoyed hearing about missions that didn't get a show, like the unmanned flights.

Astronauts get the ticker tape parades and mission control teams prepared future missions. It was an interesting perspective from the flight control console. Kranz outlined how the first American in
Impossible to give a 'proper' rating for this book. If I was to be utterly brutal and honest I would rate it 3 stars. A decent, if slightly pedestrian account of Mission Control. Kranz gives us all the numbers and facts but it lacks the 'humanity' of a more intimate account.

But. I sat up and watched that grainy black and white film as Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder to take his first step. I listened to the reports of Apollo 13 as they were relayed (in school- the only time we were ever
Nov 09, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is "inside baseball" for NASA fans. It is like a diary full of details that aren't really tied together into a coherent theme. The title is "Failure is not an option" but the author describes the space program failing spectacularly an awful lot "from Mercury to Apollo 13" so there's a big picture missing that I would have hoped for. ...more
Nov 28, 2020 rated it liked it
It should be easy to get swept up in this story of the exhilarating start to the space program. But for me, it was a little difficult to completely get invested, as Kranz’s writing was incredibly technical when it came to the inner workings of the different space crafts. Though on a surface level I could grasp the moments when a mission was in peril or when things were going smoothly, I felt left out of a close knit boy’s club.
Though for the most part, this was a pretty bland read for me, there
Chris Young
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I gave this five stars because I’m a space junky, and I salivate over anything that has to do with the American Space program. For those not so interested, this is still a four star read.

Kranz effectively helped create America's space exploratory program from scratch. When he arrived at NASA in 1963, he had no guidance. There was no memo awaiting his arrival on his desk to walk him through what to do. In short, as a budding "Flight Director" (The guy in ultimately in charge of the mission) he h
Feb 20, 2021 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this, but it just didn’t work for me. It wasn’t really holding my attention, but I pushed through knowing that Apollo 11 and 13 are stories almost too good to be true. Unfortunately, most of my favorite parts of these stories are left out; my guess is that these were done on a different shift or by a different team (engineering?). Overall, the vast majority of the time is spent discussing abort/no abort discussions and going over plans; I can’t honestly recommend unless you’re t ...more
Daniel Simmons
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Such a fascinating subject... written about in a distinctly non-fascinating way. I’ve been slogging through this for ages, but every time I felt like giving up and tossing it aside, the book’s title would taunt me to continue. Glad to be done at last, a bit older but not much the wiser.
Jennifer Lucking
Feb 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, space
I enjoyed other books about the Apollo space program better (Jim Lovell's for Apollo 13, Rocket Men for Apollo 8, A Man on the Moon for the whole Apollo program), but learned quite a bit about the Mercury and Gemini programs since I have yet to read books on these years. I didn't quite care for the author's (Kranz's) writing tone. The narration was ok, but nothing spectacular. ...more
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this memoir, Gene Kranz describes his career working at NASA during the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions. As the flight director of the Mission Control Center, he faced risks, had to work problems as they happened, and had to make some irreversible decisions but he had a strong work ethic and built a solid foundation of qualities that included trust, values, and teamwork. It was his job to spread morale among his workers and a sense of belief in the mission, the team, and themselves becau ...more
Chris Cutler
Sep 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Somehow I thought I had already reviewed this one. Kranz's memoirs give us a play-by-play of each mission he was involved with in the Mercury and Apollo programs. I learned a great deal about the early space program and gained a lot of respect for those who were involved. His comments about other current events reminded me that the push for the moon did not happen in isolation, but amid the other dramatic events of the cold war including Vietnam and the JFK assassination. I appreciated that hist ...more
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An amazing story of a life of a man who made more achievements than any of us could dream of.

My first knowledge of Gene Kranz was from the Apollo 13 film and when I saw he'd had written his autobiography, i was intrigued as to his part in it.

From reading through the book you can see that without people like Gene and his team the Gemini, Apollo and the Shuttle wouldn't have happened.

The book covers his whole career from his time in the military, commercial industry and into the world of NASA. Fo
Patrick Johnston
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a guy Gene Kranz is. It is truly amazing what these guys did to put people on the Moon. They essentially started with nothing and extremely basic technology in the late 50s, and built up a massive operation resulting in landing on the Moon in 1969. If you want an overview of the entire space race, this is your book. It follows Kranz showing up in Cape Canaveral at the beginning of Mercury, when there was almost nothing there, through Gemini and Apollo. You learn all the players from NASA to ...more
Brad Wheeler
Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fun stuff. A different perspective on the American space program than I'd read before. Since it's an autobiography, it's necessarily biased and selective in what it covers, but it makes a grand companion book to a more general history like, say, Andrew Chaikin's A Man on the Moon.

I don't think I'll ever be as good at anything as the people in mission control were at their jobs.

Also, there's some embarrassing mispronunciations on the part of the audiobook narrator. "Delta five" instead of "delta
Jeff Schwartz
Jul 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
A bit of a different perspective on the Apollo, Mercury and Gemini missions. I still prefer Andrew Chaikin's, "a man on the moon". One thing I have to comment on, I listened to this as an audiobook. There is one glaring error in the audio rendering of this book, at least on audible.
The term for the guidance officer is pronounced GUIDE-OH, and not "guido" Which may, to some people be considered offensive. I am surprised nobody caught this before was released. It occurs over and over again in the
Jun 13, 2015 rated it did not like it
I'm sorry I can't say that I loved this book. I wanted to, but it was just too detail oriented for me. I did however, find it informative and because I will forever be amazed at the story of the Apollo 13 mission I wanted to read this book and am glad that I did.

I have decided that the astronaut program is full of interesting people. Very dedicated and hardworking. Miracles can happen when people live that way, just as they did during The years of the Apollo missions. Perhaps not the most inter
I am a space junkie. Two of my favorite movies are Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff. It only made sense to read Gene Kranz's book. I enjoyed reading his history and his perspective of the history of NASA, but he is a technology guy, and his writing is a little too technical for me. I read this one just after I read Jim Lovell's book, Lost Moon, and Lovell's book is SO readable that it made this one just that much more difficult. I will probably put this one back on the "to-read" list some day and g ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13
  • Flight: My Life in Mission Control
  • The Last Man on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and America's Race in Space
  • Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journey
  • Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed
  • A Man on the Moon
  • Comm Check...: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia
  • The Right Stuff
  • Deke! U.S. Manned Space: From Mercury to the Shuttle
  • Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon
  • Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon
  • Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut
  • Kelly: More Than My Share of It All
  • Yeager: An Autobiography
  • Into the Black: The Extraordinary Untold Story of the First Flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the Astronauts Who Flew Her
  • Apollo: The Race To The Moon
  • Falling to Earth: An Apollo 15 Astronaut's Journey to the Moon
  • Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Eugene Francis "Gene" Kranz is a retired NASA flight director and manager. Kranz served as a flight director during the Gemini and Apollo programs, and is best known for his role in saving the crew of Apollo 13. He is also famous for his trademark flattop hairstyle, and the wearing of vests (waistcoats) of different styles and materials during missions for which he acted as flight director. Kranz ...more

News & Interviews

  Some people love books. Some people fall in love. And some people love books about falling in love. Every month our team sorts through...
14 likes · 0 comments
“There is no such thing as good enough. You, your team, and your equipment must be the best. That is how you will win victories.” 5 likes
“To recognize that the greatest error is not to have tried and failed, but that in trying, we did not give it our best effort.” 4 likes
More quotes…