In Sky Walking, Thomas D. Jones picks up where Mullane leaves off, telling the story of an apparently mature, post-Challenger shuttle program that still managed to ignore warnings that could have prevented the loss of the shuttle Columbia in 2003. Jones is also ex-Air Force, but a more businesslike bomber pilot and engineer. His memoir is less edgy, more sanitized and focuses on the scientific more than the scatological. Still, even straight prose can't mask the excitement of a countdown, liftoff and entry into Earth's orbit. Jones takes the reader along four times as he recounts his shuttle missions, the last of which was to the International Space Station where he logged more than 19 hours of spacewalking. Jones presents an in-depth view of the life of a modern astronaut. Whether boning up on system operations manuals, jetting around the world in their personal fleet of supersonic jets, or spending hour after hour in the giant swimming-pool space-walk training facility, it is a very busy and often hazardous existence. It also puts tremendous strains on astronaut families, whose attendance at shuttle launches is mandatory (NASA publicity doesn't allow no-shows). Jones' wife had to watch each time her husband was shot into orbit strapped to rockets that can either deliver a million pounds of barely controlled thrust or an explosion that would vaporize the ship and crew instantly. Jones expresses deep gratitude for his wife's tolerance of this torture, and for the encouragement that she gave while he pursued his dream of space flight.
Ultimately, both Riding Rockets and Sky Walking are testaments to human- kind's fierce desire to explore and are timely reminders that space flight remains a dangerous, but worthy adventure. Chris Scott fondly remembers watching the Apollo 11 moon landing on his grandparents' color TV.