Real Space Cowboys



Real Space Cowboys
Ed Buckbee
Wernher von Braun
50 Years of Rockets
Space Camp
Book Reviews
Previous Appearances
Turtle Club


The REAL Space Cowboys 


Written by:  Ed Buckbee with Wally Schirra

In 1959, seven U.S. military fighter pilots were selected to train as America's first astronauts. Alan Shepard, Gordon Cooper, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra and Deke Slayton accepted the country's call to service and would become known as the Mercury Seven (M7). These men, who had jockeyed for the best flying jobs in the military, began competing for rides on rockets. Most would eventually vie for the ultimate ride to the moon. This was the dream--a chance to ascend to the top of the pyramid--a lion-hearted pilot's deepest desire.

The author Ed Buckbee, who has enjoyed a 40+ year association with the U.S. manned space flight program, follows these brave men, the last true American heroes, who pioneered the U.S. space program. Through time and personal friendships, he captures dreams of flying higher, faster and farther than anyone in the known universe. Readers are invited behind the scenes to witness the competition between chimpanzees and astronauts, and the conflict between NASA engineers designing capsules and those who would pilot them.  Through this book, readers feel the collective will of a nation to defeat the Russians in an all-out space race via an American team of 400,000 engineers, technicians, astronauts and support personnel who performed as if the country were at war.

The eras of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo-- these were times of nobility and humility, but also times of arrogance, tension, and from time-to-time, humor. "Gotcha's" were commonplace astronaut pranks and a dubious answer to the question; "Are you a turtle?" resulted in a healthy bar tab.

In Wernher von Braun, discover a man who was committed to living in a new frontier. His words, "late to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise," are a testament to multi-tasking. Von Braun, the German-born rocket scientist and visionary of space flight, convinced presidents and congressmen to spend millions exploring space for peaceful purposes. "Space flight did not happen because somebody thought that it would be an intriguing thing to do, but because it is part of our human destiny, and because its time had come. Let us continue to accept the challenge and to respond with our best ability," he said in 1970.

But what of our first space heroes after the Apollo program was completed?  Accepting the call of Project Mercury meant a lifetime commitment. Their work continued with motivational programs for youth through the U.S. Space Camp programs, public programs at institutions such as the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, and others. The author himself shared the task of motivating the next generation through creation of U.S. Space Camp and the Astronaut Hall of Fame. 

Shepard is a prominent figure in the book. Together, he and the author prepared anniversary presentations, articles and TV interviews. They traveled to seven countries and more than twenty-five states marketing and opening Space Camps. They designed, developed and built the U. S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.  As Shepard proclaimed upon Buckbee’s retirement from the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, "He’s a space relic. We need to keep him and put him on exhibit in that space museum and when he dies, bury him next to that damn monkey."

Seven brave men volunteered to be the first. They would lead a world into space and change it forever. Together they would make the first high risk flights, take a generation of spacecraft into the unknown and point the way for generations to follow. They were our first astronauts. They were star voyagers. The path they blazed now shines for others; on a voyage that is a measure of the best in us all and the Mercury 7 were first. They are The Real Space Cowboys.


200 pages, 8 color pages, 24 black & white glossy pages

Includes Bonus DVD-10 with rare film footage - 1972 Interview with Wernher von Braun, 30th Anniversary Documentary on Skylab, "Gotcha" film about Alan Shepard, Astronaut Hall of Fame Film - Reach for the Stars, 1997 Panel Discussion at Pensacola with Armstrong, Shepard, Lovell, Aldrin & Cernan, 2002 Panel Discussion at Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum with the Mercury Astronauts, "Gotcha" Documentary - The Lighthouse Never Fails, Wernher von Braun Documentary - From the Valley to the Moon, Documentary - The Flight of Freedom 7, Mercury Astronauts Documentary - The First, "Gotcha" film of Apollo 12.



In the book The Real Space Cowboys, from the bottom of page 163 to the top of page 164 part of Al Shepard's speech was omitted by the printer, it
should read "I want to thank you personally for two great rides,  As you saw this evening, it was very exciting in 1961 when I made the first
Redstone flight."


The above photo of Ed and Wally was provided by Kulik Photographic, Falls Church, VA


e The Real Space Cowboys.  



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Copyright © 2011 Ed Buckbee & Associates, Inc.
Last modified: May 01, 2014