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Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  3,939 ratings  ·  344 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
Paperback, 382 pages
Published February 6th 2007 by Scribner (first published January 24th 2006)
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Average rating 4.17  · 
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 ·  3,939 ratings  ·  344 reviews

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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
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 16, 2021 rated it it was ok
Had been very lucky with non fiction about space, loving everyone of them so I guessed I would love this as well but it wasn't really my thing. Found the humor and writing be juvenile and not at all funny. Wasn't as into the space fact in this one, but some of it was quite interesting but not liking the voice of the book took away from my enjoyment. ...more
Jun 09, 2012 rated it did not like it
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?
Dec 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Daniel Villines
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
A fair characterization of this book is that it tells two stories. The first story is one of the astronaut program as it was transformed after Apollo and operated during the initial years of the space shuttle program. The second is the personal story of the book’s author, Mike Mullane, and his complete lack of consideration for the mere mortal humans that come into contact with His Grace, the One True Astronaut.

The first story, as does the second, spans the entire book. Mullane gives a recount
Aug 09, 2010 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
Jun 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 astronau
Sep 22, 2010 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
My feelings toward this book are best summed up in Kathryn's review which is in the link below. Blegh.
Jan 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
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.
Dec 15, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: franklin-library
George Carlin meets John Glenn. If you can get past the constant sexism and crude excuses for humor, Mike Mullane offers a wide-eyed glimpse into space travel that might turn out to be the closest any of us ever get. For that reason, a good read but not a great one.
Brendan Oldham
Aug 10, 2012 rated it it was ok

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!
Dec 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
DJ Williams
Jun 10, 2020 rated it did not like it
DNF at 70%. this entire book is tanked by the fact that the author is a chauvinist jackass and it bleeds into every fucking sentence he writes.
RIDING ROCKETS was one of those books I expected to be among my favorite reads of 2020. Mike Mullane writes candidly about his life and being part of the crew of the first flight of the space shuttle Discovery. From that perspective, it is well written and informative, especially concerning the culture at NASA during his time there.

The reason I gave this book less than a stellar rating is because of the constant emphasis, it seems to me, on the feminine/masculine divide or differences, and his o

Volodymyr Yatsevsky
It’s dramatic, fun and exciting at the same time. It’s full of technical stuff to stay aware how daring were the shuttle flights. It’s about loss and gains, dreams and reality, life and death in all details. It’s an odyssey in the end and pure tranquility of the orbital gravity. This book stands out being the story of a true space Forrest Gump.
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In addition to a lot of information about Mullane's crotch, this also gives a clear insight into the machinations of NASA practices and policies in the Shuttle era. Worth the read, or even better, the listen - Mullane reads it himself. ...more
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm going to go ahead and give this 5 stars, even though Mullane's favorite thing about himself--his sense of humor--is mostly awful. Still, the man can write, and he does a great job of chronicling how the astronaut's special blend of obsessive competitiveness, huge self-confidence, and gut-churning fear can land him in the back seat of a space craft, wearing a urine condom and praying the weather will clear so he can be blasted skyward even as he counts the various ways he can end up dead in t ...more
Oct 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: slco, slco-requests
Mixed feelings on this book -- a lot of fascinating stuff, but also a lot of detracting (and distracting) elements. I'm generously rounding up 3.5 stars to 4.

- of all the astronaut biographies/memoirs I've read to date, Mike Mullane's memoir does the best job at critiquing some of NASA's major blunders of the space shuttle era -- namely the culture of bravado that let safety issues slip to the point where not one but two shuttle crews were tragically lost. I hadn't realized how many shuttle
Michael Mcclelland
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Pam R
Dec 28, 2020 rated it liked it
When he's not talking about his penis, Judy Resnick's body, or his arrested emotional development, Mullane tells a pretty good story that is oftentimes very funny. He and the TFNGs were THE pioneers of the space shuttle program and I respect and admire them as such. I particularly loved the insight he gives into the Astronaut Office at JSC, the confounding, secretive and toxic management culture at NASA and all the politics, his first flight on Discovery 41D with the "zoo crew," and particularly ...more
Nov 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Lisa Shininger
Jul 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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
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