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Calculated Risk

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About the Author

George Leopold is a veteran technology journalist and science writer who has covered the nexus between technology and policy for over thirty years. Leopold has written extensively about U.S. manned spaceflight, including the Apollo and space shuttle programs. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the New Scientist, and a variety of other science and technology publications. He resides in Reston, Virginia, USA.


Gus Grissom was one of the original seven astronauts. A few of us can still remember the impact they had on our nation, and the pride we took in their extraordinary and exciting achievements. They lifted us all and made us proud to be an American. Gus Grissom radiated a quiet, determined competence in all that he did. He understood and accepted the danger of his job but also knew its immense value to our knowledge and understanding of the planet we all inhabit. This readable and compelling biography superbly relates the life of this proud son of Indiana and America. --Lee H. Hamilton, former Indiana congressman, vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission and Distinguished Scholar with the School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University (04/06/2016) During the 1960s, the Cold War was fought on many fronts and fields of battle--nuclear weapon technology, Cuba and other geopolitical hotspots, the Olympic Games, to name a few--but the race to space may have meant the most to Russian and American egos, and astronaut Gus Grissom played a leading role until his death by fire on a Cape Canaveral launch pad in 1967. An engineer and test pilot, Grissom fully understood the risks and complexity of space flight, and his expertise assured his involvement in all facets of the Gemini program, including the design decisions that cost his life. Through interviews with dozens of Grissom's NASA coworkers, friends, and family, this highly recommended biography offers an astronaut's-eye view of early spaceflight and Cold War intrigue. --Matt Sutherland, Foreword Reviews (08/31/2016) "To say that Calculated Risk is a good read is an understatement. It's a bookshelf-must for every engineer and NASA buff." --Chuck Murray, Design News (08/01/2016) George Leopold's Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom rescues its subject's reputation by presenting his life and career in full. The book is fascinating and haunting, and its impressive research exonerates Grissom from the charge of being a hapless astronaut who, in his peers' parlance, 'screwed the pooch'...thrillingly told, taking readers into the cosmos with Grissom, conveying the sense of wonder and danger that accompanied these early voyages. --The Wall Street Journal (07/16/2016) "Author George Leopold chronicles Grissom's entire life, from his childhood in Mitchell, Indiana, through his military career to his years with NASA. Because no one had written a comprehensive and balanced biography, this book fills a literary and historical void." --Rich Gotshall, The Daily Journal, Indianapolis, Indiana (05/27/2016) "On July 21, 1961, in the middle of a family vacation, my parents stopped to let me watch Gus Grissom's historic fifteen-minute mission in Liberty Bell 7, the second manned Project Mercury flight. At thirteen, I was already very excited about space exploration. I could only imagine that someday I might follow in the footsteps of my hero who was born at the opposite end of the state from my northern Indiana home. Gus Grissom came from a rural, hardworking background just like me, and my later path mirrored his as I earned mechanical engineering degrees from Purdue University and went on to fly with the US Air Force and then NASA. We both pursued bold dreams. Through grit and determination, Grissom rose from the pastoral Midwest to achieve those dreams, his life ending tragically while Gus was still in his prime. George Leopold's well-researched and inspiring biography of Grissom details an imperfect man willing to risk his life for a chance to explore the unknown. This book is a must-read for every space enthusiast." --Jerry Ross, Astronaut, Author of Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA's Record-Setting Frequent Flyer (04/06/2016) ..".highlights a career, and a life, of someone willing to take risks to achieve great things...provides insights into one of the astronauts who was there at the beginning of the Space exceptional read." --Spaceflight Insider

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