Opening sentence: ‘The windows of a spaceship casually frame miracles.’
With this evocative opening sentence, Chris Hadfield begins his unique story. He was an astronaut for 21 years and has been into space three times; the final time for five months aboard the International Space Station, starting in December 2012.
Space travel is something that simultaneously fascinates and terrifies me. Reading some of the stories in this book gave me lurches of terror, for example: during a spacewalk, just hanging around in the middle of the universe, Chris goes temporarily blind. (I mean, no!!!! Even the thought of this gives me palpitations.) There are wonderful details about life in space, such as sleeping in zero gravity, “a dormant astronaut is an interesting sight, with both arms floating in front Frankenstein-style, hair fanned out like a mane and a facial expression of utter contentment.” I also gained a much better insight into the career of an astronaut – being in space is just a minor part. Being prepared to work exceptionally hard, continually learn and dedicate your life to the team effort of advancing space exploration is the majority of the role.
Chris first caught my eye in a YouTube video, singing Space Oddity by David Bowie. Floating around the International Space Station, he not only gave the most literal rendition of this song there has ever been, but he can carry a tune and give the camera some great Blue Steel. Chris reveals it was his son’s idea to re-write some of the lyrics to better fit Chris’ situation and create the video. The ultimate aim of it was to make space travel more relatable to the masses and raise awareness for the work the space agencies and astronauts are doing.
I (as we’ve established) have no desire to be an astronaut, but I have so much admiration for Chris Hadfield, for his dedication, passion and what he has achieved. His unwaveringly positive attitude means he imparts knowledge you can take on board, even if you have every intention on staying Earth-bound. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth made me reassess some things and think about my own attitude and reactions. It turns out, as well as being a wonderful insight into the unique world of an astronaut, it’s a great little self-help book too. And what better person to take tips from than someone who has been so focused their entire life – is so exceptional – that they’ve actually been into space?
/ Published by Pan Macmillan 2015
/ 320 pages
/ Rating: 5/5