The first Iowan to become an astronaut has come out with a revision of a book he wrote about the space program. Walter Cunningham, who grew up in Creston, says his 25th anniversary edition of “The All-American Boys” includes four new chapters of new information and his views about the Russian space station Mir, the International Space Station, and the catastrophic failure of the space shuttle Columbia. Cunningham says NASA got away for a long time with letting the shuttle fly even with insulation falling off a tank, but he thinks it was “irresponsible.” Cunningham favors the theory that a tile that fell during the last liftoff caused damage that led to the shuttle’s fiery destruction when it came in to land. His “take” is that the crew was lost from the time the tile hit the wing, since it was damaging enough to burn through on re-entry. Still, Cunningham, who was an astronaut on Apollo Seven, says the space shuttle program should “get back in the air.” Even with its faults, he calls the shuttle the safest manned space vehicle we’ve ever had, with only two failures in its history — and he wonders how many problems they’d have had if they’d tried to send up an Apollo rocket over and over 113 times, as the shuttles have been re-launched. Cunningham says though the U-S built and staffed a permanently-orbiting space station with a partner, the Russians all along “weren’t pulling their weight.” He says the U.S. shouldn’t have a resource we’re investing $16 Billion a year in that’s “at the mercy” of the Russians, but he says we depend on their Soyuz lifeboat spacecraft, and there are Russian systems on the space station only they can control. Cunningham’s book is available online at www.thespacestore.com, or at the Iowa Aviation Museum in Greenfield.
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