An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth Book Review

Posted: July 7, 2017 by Mike Hubbartt in Book Reviews, Space Exploration
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By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.Product Details

Title: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
(print versions in English, Spanish, German)
Author: Col. Chris Hadfield
ISBN: 978-0-316-25301-7
Published: October, 2013 by Little, Brown and Company (www.littlebrown.com)
Price: $28.00 for hardback/$11.99 for Kindle (7/2017)
Length: 284 pages

Chris Hadfield is a Canadian that decided to become an astronaut when he was young, when Canada did not have a space program.  Chris decided to make education and career decisions that would affect his chances if he could become an astronaut, but would also be rewarding if he failed to achieve that goal.  He devoted himself to learning in school and became a glider pilot at 15 and then a licensed private pilot at 16.

When Chris was young, the path to NASA was open to people in the military (being a jet pilot was/is very important to NASA), so Chris decided to go to military college and he earned a degree in mechanical engineering and then went the jet pilot route awhile before becoming a test pilot.  Like other test pilots, he applied to NASA, and yes he was accepted.  I’m not going to go into more detail as he does a fine job covering his education and military experiences in the first chapter of this book.

This book covers Chris’ experiences on getting accepted to NASA, on riding in the space shuttle, and on riding in a Soyuz. While those mission descriptions were very interesting, I found Chris’ work experience at NASA and in Russia fascinating.  I knew astronauts are always training for missions, but I wasn’t aware how many other roles they have at NASA.  Chris was heavily involved with so many aspects of the space program, that he is one of those people you hope to find that will share his experiences with you.  This book does that, but I’d still love to meet this person and hear from him about his adventures as an astronaut.

Book Chapters

Introduction (do NOT skip this part)
Ch 1 – The Trip Takes a Lifetime
Ch 2 – Have an Attitude
Ch 3 – The Power of Negative Thinking
Ch 4 – Sweat the Small Stuff
Ch 5 – The Last People in the World
Ch 6 – What’s the Next Thing that Can Kill Me?
Ch 7 – Tranquility Base, Kazakhstan
Ch 8 – How to Get Blasted (and Feel Good the Next Day)
Ch 9 – Aim to Be a Zero
Ch 10 – Life on Earth
Ch 11 – Square Astronaut, Round Hole
Ch 12 – Soft Landings
Ch 13 – Climbing Down the Ladder

Every chapter is worth reading – don’t be tempted to skip ahead.  My favorite chapter was Ch 7, about Chris’ experience working with the Russians.  This was fascinating, as we see so little of what goes on in Russia on NASA TV.  The main information I’d seen before was on the ceremonies that the Russians follow before and after a flight.  Very elaborate, and proof that space flight means a great deal to them.  Chris talks about his time there, and it helped me see how much our space program has been helped by cooperating with Russia.  They have helped us build and run the ISS, as well as ferry many people there.  I would hope they are part of our missions establishing outposts on the moon and on Mars.  Both of our countries would benefit from the joint effort.

The chapter that surprised me was Ch 9 Aim to Be a Zero.  I guess I assumed that, once people made it into the space program, they knew they needed to get along with others in all aspects of missions.  How could anyone not understand that human dynamics is extremely important when you have multiple people crammed together in a small space for a dangerous assignment in space?  Apparently Chris encountered some people that failed to understand that being exceptionally good doesn’t mean being exceptionally self-centered.  Chris offers great advice for future astronauts: don’t try to be difficult or cause issues, and learn how to get along with others if you want to work in space.

Conclusion

Great book, and a fast and easy read.  I’ve started re-reading it as it enjoyed it so much the first time, and this is the first time I’ve re-read a bio. There wasn’t great detail about being in the Canadian military, but that was due to the fact that this book concentrates on Chris’ life experiences that lead him to NASA, and helped him over his career.

If I had any complaint about this book, it was that it was too short at 284 pages.  I hope Chris does a followup book and provides more about specific details about his three trips to space, as well as about the daily experiences of working at NASA.  That might seem boring to people working at NASA, but not to us space flight fans that follow the space program.

I didn’t want to forget to mention that Chris was into photography when he was on the ISS, and he published another book called: “You are Here: Around the World in 92 minutes: Photographs from the International Space Station” – I haven’t seen this one yet, but I will.  To see actual pictures from the ISS would be really wild – kind of make you feel like you were there for a short visit.

Recommendation: Buy this book for yourself, and buy another copy for any space fan (young or old) in your family.  It will make a great gift this holiday season.  I give it 5 stars out of a possible 5.

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