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A new biography of famed astronaut Story Musgrave

by Anne Lenehan

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Anne Lenehan


Reviewed by Colin Burgess, space historian and author of over a dozen books including Teacher in Space: Christa McAuliffe and The Challenger Legacy, and Fallen Astronauts: Heroes Who Died Reaching for the Moon.


 by Colin Burgess

His early years were torn apart by paternal abuse, intolerance, alcoholism and a history of family suicides.  Yet, as a small boy who often fled his home at night in despair and confusion, Story Musgrave found solace, protection and beauty in the world of nature.  Out of necessity, and forced to contend with issues he was far too young to even comprehend, the future astronaut quickly developed his own defense mechanisms, teaching himself the basic skills of survival while at the same time immersing himself in the spectacle of the night sky, and the tranquility of the deep-scented forests that surrounded his New England home.  This childhood affinity with nature and the wonders of the universe would one day set him on an inexorable course to the stars.

Payload Specialist Paul Scully-Power once told me that Story Musgrave was the most intensely focused and dedicated astronaut he had ever known, and this is a view held by many contemporaries interviewed by the author of Story: The Way of Water for this remarkable and inspiring new book.  First-time author Anne Lenehan, despite a commanding background in corporate writing, marketing, poetry and photography, could hardly have chosen a more complex and impassioned subject for this bountifully successful attempt at biography.  This calm, sagacious man famously transcends the normal expectations; he is one who has not only accomplished many of the most spectacular feats in spaceflight history, but has done so with a legendary resolve and determination.  Six shuttle missions, and the only person ever to fly on all of NASA’s orbiters; the man with a history of achievement so prodigious it is breathtaking.  And yet this incredibly professional scientist, record-breaking pilot, engineer and surgeon, who once trained himself to the point of almost losing his fingers to frostbite, has the soul, voice and eloquence of a poet.

Story is an undoubted child of nature; he allows the reader to be easily swept up in all that inspires him.  We learn his views on the awesome power, unambiguous dangers and incredible beauty of flying into space, and then we pause beside him as he rescues a tiny tree from a crack in a city pavement and lovingly transplants it in his own home acreage, to survive, grow and flourish.  It is an appropriate metaphor for Story’s own life.  We discover that even today he still rides a gentle tide of compulsion, which invokes in him a restless and relentless curiosity that can only be purged through constantly challenging himself.

Be warned, however: this remarkable book is not your standard, chronological biography.  The author slowly and delicately unfurls Story Musgrave’s life for us at a carefully measured pace, allowing us to experience and savor his innermost thoughts, his passions and his intense love of nature.  Nothing is held back as we travel the path with him; from a disturbed farm boy who does poorly at school, to the Marines, to the acclaim of the astronaut corps – and always seeking that next level of discovery and personal achievement.  The Hubble Space Telescope repair mission is undoubtedly Story’s tour de force, and he describes this remarkable and intricate accomplishment with undiminished passion.

The author has made impressive use of her subject’s copious journal entries and vivid recollections during many hours of interviews to relate the life and passions of this modern-day adventurer and philosopher, and the result is both enchanting and highly readable.  Story: The Way of Water is an extraordinary odyssey through the experiences, accomplishments and legacy of a complex, soulful person many still regard as probably the finest ambassador of humankind - and certainly one of the most eloquent - ever hoisted into space.

Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins once wrote: “It’s human nature to stretch, to go, to see, to understand.  Exploration is not a choice really – it’s an imperative.”  In a philosophic sense, he is certainly at one with the enigmatic subject of this delightfully compelling book. 

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You can buy Anne Lenehan’s book here Amazon.com

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Norman Rockwell’s

  Man’s First Step on the Moon

Fine Art Print.


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Lt (j.g.) George H. W. Bush Flying a Grumman TBM Avenger 1943, by renowned artist Ted Wilbur

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