Book Tour Schedule

“Bringing Columbia Home” was officially released today! Demand has been unexpectedly high. Our publisher has already ordered a second printing!

Mike and I have several busy weeks ahead of us as we commemorate the crew of STS-107  and celebrate the accomplishments of the 25,000 Americans who worked to recover Columbia.

Here’s where we’ll be in the coming weeks. Please come by and say hi if you’re nearby!

Thursday, January 25: NASA Day of Remembrance. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Program begins in the education center at 10:00 and moves to the Space Mirror at 11:00.

Friday, January 26: NASA Apollo-Challenger-Columbia Lessons Learned Program panel, “Columbia: Lessons and Legends of Recovery.” Kennedy Space Center Training Auditorium, 1:00-3:00. Open to KSC-badged personnel only.

Saturday, January 27: Wreath-laying, Sand Point Park, Titusville, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00. Book signing afterward at the American Space Museum, 308 Pine St, Titusville. We will have a limited number of books for purchase (onsite sales benefit the museum). Bring a book of your own and we will sign it free of charge. Signed and personalized book plates will also be available.

Monday, January 29: Live interview with Brian Freeman on “True Story” (http://tobtr.com/10519951) at 8:30 p.m. EST.

Wednesday, January 31: Panel discussion at Johnson Space Center with Mike and Wayne Hale, 8:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. CST. Open to JSC-badged personnel only. Book signing immediately afterward.

Thursday, February 1: Memorial service at 7:45 a.m. CST, followed by book signings and discussions at the Remembering Columbia Museum, 375 Sabine St., Hemphill, Texas.

Saturday, February 3: Presentation to Space Exploration Educators Conference, Space Center Theater, JSC, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. Book signing at the Space Center Houston retail store immediately afterward.

Sunday, February 11: Book signing at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center, 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, Virginia. 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EST.

Monday, February 12: “What’s New in Aerospace” program, National Air & Space Museum DC building (Independence Ave. at 6th St. SW, Washington DC) in the  ‘Moving Beyond Earth’ gallery, 2:00-2:30 CST. Details at https://airandspace.si.edu/events/story-behind-space-shuttle-columbia-recovery-mission. Live webcast.

Thursday, February 15: Book signing and discussion at The Great Outdoors, Titusville, Florida, 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. EST. (Mike only)

Discussing Columbia at the George W. Bush Presidential Center

Mike and I were privileged to be invited to speak at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas on January 16. Our host was Kevin Sullivan, former communications assistant to President Bush. Sean O’Keefe, NASA’s Administrator during the Columbia accident, sponsored the event. Also on hand were Bill Readdy (three-time space shuttle astronaut and former associate administrator at NASA) and Ron Castleman (regional director of FEMA).

The talk coincided with the 15th anniversary of the launch of Columbia on her final mission. Despite the bitter cold, the reading room was packed! Mike and I were very sorry that our friends from East Texas were unable to attend the event because of the icy roads. We did our best to sing their praises.

Sean
Sean O’Keefe (right) sets the stage for the discussion

Sean kicked off the discussion by setting the context for the security concerns for the mission—only 16 months after 9/11 and with Israel’s first astronaut on board. He also provided fascinating insights into President and Mrs. Bush’s concerns and care for the families of Columbia’s crew after the accident.

Mike described the incredibly empty feeling he experienced when he stood at the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center on February 1, 2003 and realized that Columbia hadn’t shown up, and no one knew where the shuttle was or what had happened to it—only grasping that something must have gone horribly wrong.

Responding to a question from the audience, Mike outlined the challenges that launching a rescue mission would have entailed, had NASA known that Columbia was doomed. Sean vigorously affirmed that NASA would have launched a rescue mission had there been any indication that one was needed. Addressing the challenges of flying such a dangerous mission, Bill Readdy said, “There would have been a line of volunteers as long as the roster of the astronaut office to fly that mission.”

Panel
Discussing the good people of East Texas. (From left: Kevin Sullivan, Sean O’Keefe, Mike Leinbach, Jonathan Ward)

Mike and I also discussed the incredible support that the people of East Texas provided in responding to the immediate aftermath of the accident. We also discussed the seamless way that FEMA, NASA, and EPA led the federal response in the ensuing days.

The hour allotted for the discussion flew by!

And the fifty copies of the book that Mike and I had signed before the talk sold out within minutes. (Authors are always happy to see that happen!)

After the panel
A quick photo op after the discussion. From left: Bill Readdy, Sean O’Keefe, Ron Castleman, Mike, and Jonathan

Aerospace America Article

In mid-November, I was surprised to get an email from astronaut Thomas Jones, a veteran of four Space Shuttle missions, requesting an interview. It was a surprise because I’m usually the one asking to interview astronauts, not the other way around! Tom attended the presentation that Mike and I gave at the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation earlier in the month, and it inspired him to write an article for Aerospace America, a journal published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

On November 17, 2017 Mike Leinbach and I met in Cocoa Beach with Tom, along with Mike Ciannilli, who directs NASA’s Apollo Challenger Columbia Lessons Learned Program. I was fascinated to hear Tom, Mike, and “Chach” discuss from their unique perspectives their thoughts about the Columbia accident, the recovery and reconstruction of the shuttle afterward, and the lessons Columbia holds for future manned space missions, both on NASA spacecraft and on commercial crew vehicles.

After the intense conversation, we adjourned to an Irish pub to swap happier stories!

with Tom Jones
Mike Ciannilli, Tom Jones, Jonathan Ward, Charlotte Leinbach, and Mike Leinbach after an intense conversation! (Jonathan Ward photo)

Below is the link to the article that Tom wrote. I think you’ll agree that it’s a fantastic synopsis of the Columbia story and the need to reinforce the safety culture at NASA going forward.

“Their Mission Became Our Mission,” Aerospace America, January 2018

“Texas Journey” Magazine Interview

This interview with Mike and me appears in the January/February 2018 issue of “Texas Journey” Magazine, the publication of the Texas AAA. It encourages people to consider a visit to the Remembering Columbia Museum in Hemphill, Texas. Mike and I will be speaking there on February 1, 2018, the 15th anniversary of the Columbia accident.

Texas Journey article Jan:Feb 2018

Texas Journey article AAA Dec 2017 0118_TEX_GoingPlaces

A Dream Realized!

This is a follow-up to our post from July 22, 2017 (“Why Is the Book Taking So Long?“) in which we discussed how impatient we were all feeling about seeing the book in print.

The great new is: the book has been printed! We received the first shipment yesterday. It’s being shipped to booksellers this week, and it will be on the shelves in early January.

I took advantage of this happy event to recap what it took to bring this book to you. It’s just a brief snapshot of some of the milestones and hurdles that Mike and I as authors went through to put together a non-fiction book. (And many of my author friends have remarked about how FAST this book came about.) The milestones don’t take into account  the hundreds of emails, scheduling the interviews, checking facts, handling administrative issues, etc.

Oh yes, and sitting at the computer to try to write more than 1,000 words per day for a three-month period at the end of last year. This book has literally been my life for the past 981 days.

Here are some of the stats and milestones:

  • Book idea first discussed: April 9, 2015, 12:40 pm
  • First book scoping meeting: April 13, 2015, 2:00 pm
  • First interview: Pam Melroy, April 28, 2015, 5:00 pm
  • First draft chapter (“Silence and Shock”) completed: September 13, 2015
  • First inquiries to potential literary agents: November 22, 2015
  • Literary agent selected: March 31, 2016
  • Contract signed with Skyhorse Publishing: August 25, 2016
  • Final phone interview: Dan Sauerwein, October 25, 2016, 6:30 pm
  • First draft of all chapters completed: January 8, 2017
  • Second draft completed: January 18, 2017
  • Rewrite begun to incorporate reviewer comments: February 3, 2017
  • Manuscript submitted to publisher: March 14, 2017
  • Advance Reader Copy received: August 22, 2017
  • Last reviewer comments incorporated (Adm. Hal Gehman): September 5, 2017
  • Final proof approved: November 17, 2017
  • First print run: December 8, 2017
  • Mike opens first carton of printed books: December 15, 2017, 1:00 pm
  • Number of phone, in-person, and group interviews conducted: 99
  • Number of people interviewed: 82
  • Number of astronauts interviewed: 15
  • Hours of interviews conducted: more than 150
  • Number of interview words transcribed: 650,343
  • Primary source documents researched: more than 200

Bookends

Mike and I set off on this journey on April 9, 2015 at 12:40 pm at Crackerjacks in Titusville, Florida. Here’s a photo taken right after Mike brought up the idea of a book about his experiences in the Columbia recovery and reconstruction.

mike-and-jonathan

And here’s Mike opening the first carton of printed books on December 15, 2017 at 1:00 pm. If you’re keeping track, that’s 2 years, 8 months, 6 days, and 20 minutes later.

There aren’t words to convey how incredibly powerful this experience has been for me as an author. What an honor it has been to sit with people as they relived their experiences in what most of them called the most important thing they had ever done. Each person to whom I talked took a hero’s journey that ultimately resulted in contemplating his or her purpose on this planet. You don’t get any more real than that. There weren’t any casual spectators in this story. Everyone’s life was changed by the events of 2003 and their aftermath.

My life was forever changed by researching and writing this book. I hope your life will be changed after you read the story.

Mike and I can’t wait to hear how readers will respond to the book. We encourage you to send us your comments and if you feel so moved, to write a short review on our book page on amazon.com. You can also look for us on Goodreads.

Mike and Jonathan at the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation “2017 Space Rendezvous”

Mike and I were invited to speak at the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation’s “Space Rendezvous” in Cocoa Beach, Florida in November this year. Our presentation was entitled “Columbia Recovery and Reconstruction: An American Story of Courage, Compassion, and Commitment.” It was the first time Mike and I had jointly given a talk, and what an audience it was—ASF board members, at least a dozen astronauts, former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, people who had worked on the Space Shuttle Program, and dozens of “civilians” for whom the space program forms an important part of their lives. Many of those present had flown on Columbia, supported her on the ground, or had been part of the search and recovery effort.

Mike Leinbach at Columbia presentation - Steve Torres photoMike opened with an overview of Columbia’s STS-107 mission and the aftermath of the accident. He recounted his experiences on Landing Day, as he awaited Columbia‘s return, and the horrible feeling of profound emptiness he experienced when he realized Columbia was lost.

Jonathan Ward at Columbia presentation - Steve Torres photoJonathan followed with a discussion of what the people in East Texas were experiencing at that same moment when Columbia‘s debris created a continuous cacophony of sonic booms and the wreckage began impacting the ground. Mike and Jonathan then talked about the mobilization efforts that began immediately after the accident, both at NASA and at the local level in Texas, and the overwhelming success of the recovery forces who worked for three months to find Columbia‘s debris in East Texas.

Jean Wright asks question at Leinbach-Ward talk - Steve Torres photo
Jean Wright, who worked as a seamstress on Columbia’s thermal protection blankets, shares a memory of Columbia.

Mike described his experience in leading the reconstruction of Columbia at Kennedy Space Center. He also talked with pride about preservation of Columbia‘s debris and the ensuing lessons-learned program that has turned Columbia into a living laboratory about the effects of uncontrolled hypersonic reentry.

Mike Griffin at Leinbach-Ward talk - Steve Torres photo
Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin talks about the return to flight effort. Partially obscured behind Griffin is astronaut Jim Wetherbee, who led the search for Columbia’s crew.

Throughout the presentation, Jonathan and Mike invited audience members to share their experiences. Astronaut Jim Wetherbee discussed his challenges in leading the daunting task of recovering the crew’s remains. Administrator Griffin spoke about correcting the issues and flaws uncovered by the Investigation Board and returning the shuttle to flight.

Mike Leinbach Hugh Harris - Steve Torres photo
Former KSC Public Affairs Director Hugh Harris expresses his thoughts after reading an advance copy of “Bringing Columbia Home.”

The ASF provided a Facebook Live stream of the talk, which can be found here. (If this link does not work, please visit the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation page on Facebook, scroll down to “videos,” and look for the untitled video dated November 3.)

Charlotte Leinbach Mike Leinbach Carol Tyler Jonathan Ward ASF Banquet - Steve Torres photo
Charlotte Leinbach (left), Mike, and Jonathan share a relaxing moment with ASF Board Member Carol Tyler on November 4.

 

The Book Is Going to Press December 8!

This is just a quick note to let everyone know that “Bringing Columbia Home” is going to press tomorrow!

Mike and I began collaborating on this book in April 2015. On one hand, it feels like ages since we started this project. On the other hand, the time has flown by. We’ve met so many amazing folks along the way and heard so many incredible stories about how Columbia touched people’s lives. I can’t express enough how profoundly rewarding it has been to help bring the story of Columbia’s heroes to the attention of the broader public.

Our publisher tells us that the book will be shipped to stores in late December. Despite the official release date of January 23, the book should start appearing on shelves in early January.

Please be sure to check the Upcoming Events page of this website, where Mike and I will maintain our schedule of talks, book signings, and other public appearances.

Thank you again for your interest and support along the way — and stay tuned!