The Burning Blue: The Untold Story of Christa McAuliffe and NASA’s Challenger Disaster

Holt. Jun. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9781250755551. $27.99. HIST
In 1986, the United States watched as the Challenger space shuttle exploded seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew members. Cook’s book is a behind-the-scenes history of payload specialist and first teacher in space Christa McAuliffe, and the circumstances that led to the disaster. Unlike other books about the Challenger disaster that exclusively focus on the incident, this is a respectful biographical account of one of the non-astronauts on board. Using a plethora of primary and secondary sources, including personal interviews and shuttle operation manuals, Cook puts together the story of McAuliffe’s life, why she wanted to go into space, and what happened after the incident. While Cook does offer details on the disaster and the commission to investigate it, the book’s primary focus is the crew members and their families, which personalizes a pivotal moment in the history of NASA, space exploration, and the U.S.
VERDICT A quick biographical account, placing the space shuttle in historical context, that will have YA crossover appeal. Readers will find something new even if they are familiar with the Challenger disaster.
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