I was on a train a few weeks ago listening to a couple discuss the recent entry into space of British astronaut Tim Peake and subsequent discussion of how the Russians currently own the space program. Having heard Chris Hadfield speak a few months ago I chimed in with a few things I had learnt about space to them and then they told me how Chris had a book An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth*. I had been so spellbound by his speech but for some reason it hadn’t occurred to me to see if he had any other literature out there, although I do remember looking him up on Instagram. Don’t bother it doesn’t get updated!
His book for me was an extension of the speech with more in depth detail on his career and how he became an astronaut. Interestingly you don’t just train at NASA for ten or so years to become an astronaut, most specialise in a field of expertise, fighter jets for Chris and then apply to get on the space program. The current Russian sputnik only takes three astronauts at a time so the ability to learn an astonishing amount of varied skills to a high degree is critical.
Chris’s story jumps around showing insight into his personal mental conversations, what is going on in the wider NASA program and the impact on his family throughout the years as he reached his goal of being an astronaut. His descriptions of earth will make you fall in love with the planet again and his message of environmental preservation is clear. There are plenty of notes on how the applications to the space program works (over 5,000 applicants when he tried), the attention to detail all participants have to do to survive (he has a mishap with some cleaning chemical on his helmets visor) and the story of how that cover of Bowie’s space oddity came about (watch here).
My favourite part was reading about what happens after an astronaut returns. Chris writes of how journalists speak to him as if his life is now over, I am guilty of thinking the same thing, but the way NASA is structured he is back in the day to day contributing to the next astronauts life quite seamlessly. Plus Chris has made it his mission get people talking about the space program again so his retirement is not sitting in a rocking on a veranda looking at the moon!
A true autobiography, even if you aren’t interested in space I would recommend you read Chris’s book for it’s ability to inspire and his funny one liners throughout.
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