I was in two minds when I received a mail from Flipkart asking if I would like to read and review An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield. I felt it was not my piece of cake, reading a book with astronauts and spaceships. I hesitated but then thought, why not give it a try and replied in affirmative. Believe me, I do not regret my decision. Thank you, Vivek, from flipkart for the book. He is the first Canadian to complete a spacewalk. This book is his autobiography, his experiences as an astronaut, and how this changed his perception of life.
The introduction gives a background of Mr Hadfield’s life and career:
On 20th July 1969, at the age of 9 years, he watched Neil Armstrong step on the surface of the Moon, on the television in their neighbour’s house at Stag Island, Ontario, Canada and wanted to be an astronaut. He knew it was impossible because NASA accepted only American citizens and Canada did not have a space agency. The only option he had was to imagine what an astronaut might do if he were nine and do the same thing. He loved airplanes, learned to fly a plane by age 15 and knew that the route to NASA was via the military and applied to military college. He majored in mechanical engineering thinking that if he did not make a military pilot, he could be an engineer.
Six months before graduation, he got married to his girlfriend and mentions that it was because of her he could achieve. When he wanted to quit being a fighter pilot and join Air Canada, she asked him not to give up. He was selected to go to the US Test Pilot School and topped the class. To cap it all off, he was named the US Navy test pilot of the year. And then the Canadian Space Agency took out an ad in the newspaper. Wanted: Astronauts. He talks about the process from application to selection.
The book has been aptly divided into three parts: Pre-launch; Liftoff and Coming down to Earth. In these parts, he talks about his experiences of his space missions.
He talks about his first launch, on Space Shuttle Atlantis on November 12, 1995: the thoughts that went through his head while getting ready; breakfast; just before the takeoff; during the ascent and his eight day mission. He talks about the impression people have about astronauts and what astronauts are and what they do. He talks about his different roles from sitting on committees to serving as the Chief of the International Space Station Operations in Houston and his job as the Capsule Communicator at Mission Centre. He talks about spacing walking and also about the long training before the actual process. He talks about his other space missions. He says on the way to space, he learnt how to live better and more happily on Earth.
He mentions that there are some astronauts never make it to space; how the qualifications to get assigned to a mission change; and how not having the right temperament can disqualify someone. About attitude: he talks both of the person’s and that of the space vehicle (here it means the orientation). He says that he never stopped getting ready. Just in case. He talks about how negative thinking helps; and how rehearsing for a catastrophe has made him positive.
He talks about his fear of heights and also about being taught about every conceivable situation that could happen between launch and landing. He says that in his experience that fear comes from not knowing what to expect and not feeling you have any control over what is about to happen. He talks about debrief; the general training; the mixed crews that comprise of the space teams; the extremely competitive natures of the astronauts and what he what he went through when he was not well just before selections for a launch.
He talks about his relationship with his family and how his kids used to make fun of him by saying that he had more homework than them. He talks about his relationship with his fellow crewmates and their families; about how they are there for one another. He talks about the pre-flight quarantine and personal belongings they carry into space.
A dedicated husband, he has a very cooperative wife who single-handedly raised their three kids and encouraged him to go on with his job. She even moved house with him whenever required. No doubt, they say that “Behind every successful man, is his wife”. And he has rightly dedicated the book to her. His kids parrot his sayings and joke about creating a ‘Colonel Says’ app.
The book is easy to read and understand. At the beginning, it took me some time to get a feel of the book but once I was into the book, I just could not keep it down and was reading it whenever I could. Sometimes, I felt that it is a book filled with his experiences and sometimes it was a self help book. The book has photographs of the International Space Station and from the Space and also some of his personal photographs.
I feel it is a must read for everyone because every line of the book is an experience in itself.
Book Source: This book was received as a part of the Flipkart Affiliate Blogger’s programme
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