Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight
Unlike many biographies, NEIL ARMSTRONG: A Life of Flight, does not start at the beginning of its subject’s life. Rather, author Jay Barbree opens the proceedings during the early stages of Neil Armstrong’s long and decorated career as a pilot. A bit of background into his growing-up years is woven into the narrative, but the emphasis is on his long flying career in both airplanes and spaceships.
From the beginning, Armstrong was fascinated by the idea of flying. A year after he got his student’s pilot license in 1946, Armstrong joined the Navy and enrolled in Purdue University, paying for his college studies with a scholarship. He expected to spend seven years studying aeronautical engineering before he could start flight training. Instead, after just a year and a half of classroom studies, Armstrong was selected to enter flight training, as the U.S. needed pilots during the Korean conflict. He got his pilot wings in 1950.
"...[a] highly engaging and informative book about history’s most famous space traveler."
By the time he was 21, Armstrong had flown seven combat missions. After the war, he went back to school. In 1952, he joined NASA (although it was called the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics at the time). He made his first flight into space in 1966, and three years later became the first man to set foot on the moon.
Barbree has a long record of reporting on space flights. During his 56-year career as a journalist, he is the only reporter to have covered every one of America’s 166 launches into space. He has received numerous awards, one of which was an Emmy for his coverage of Armstrong’s walk on the moon. He has not yet retired as he still covers space stories for NBC.
Barbree was also a good friend of Armstrong’s, having known him for decades. Still, despite his vast knowledge of the subject, I was not thrilled with his writing style. He likes to use some low-level swear words that just don’t seem to fit the narrative. Also, when he has something positive and negative to say, he likes to uses the phrases “the good news” and “the bad news.” These are repeated liberally throughout the text, making it a bit boring and repetitive. Nevertheless, I did enjoy reading this highly engaging and informative book about history’s most famous space traveler.
Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on August 8, 2014