The foundation for Borman’s diverse roles was laid early: He had loving, supportive parents who also taught him strict self-discipline, and he learned to fly when only fifteen years old. After being graduated from West Point, he served as an Air Force fighter pilot and test pilot until he joined the NASA space program in 1962.

As an astronaut, Borman flew two of NASA’s riskiest missions. In Gemini 6 he executed the first manned-spacecraft rendezvous in history. Apollo 8, the first manned voyage around the Moon, took him and his two-member crew a half-million miles through space. For Borman, the view of Earth coming over the lunar horizon was “the most beautiful, heart-catching sight of my life.”

After Apollo, Borman went on to other challenges, becoming president of Eastern Airlines in 1975. He led the company from a billion-dollar deficit to the most profitable four years in its history. Then came airline-industry deregulation, bringing intense labor strife and an ultimately futile struggle to keep Eastern alive and independent. Rather than file bankruptcy, the company’s directors sold it to Texas Air in 1986. “For the first time in my life,” writes Borman, “I hadn’t accomplished a mission.”

Not an antiunion tract, COUNTDOWN nevertheless expounds Borman’s view of how one particular union’s demands led to the airline’s downfall--even after the sale. If he has not fully achieved detachment from this event, Borman makes the reader see the reasons for his bitterness and disappointment.

This scrupulously detailed, sometimes painfully honest life story should appeal to space-exploration fans, students of contemporary business, and anyone curious about the personal costs of super-achievement.