An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth, by Chris Hadfield

Lovers of the space program, individuals who fantasize about becoming an astronaut, or non-fiction readers who enjoy a well written tale of someone’s unique life experience will enjoy this well written book.

My wife heard Mr. Hadfield speak on NPR and bought me the book as a Christmas gift. I finished the book in just a couple of sittings, showing me how well my wife knows me.

Mr. Hadfield takes the reader on the journey of becoming an astronaut, his preparation for three journeys into space over a twenty-one year career ending with being the commander of the International Space Station, and how his training affected his life on earth. If I had a problem with the story, it was the first part of the title was misleading. Mr. Hadfield does show how the training and mental outlook needed to fly into space safely altered his thinking; there is not a lot of references to how this changed his earthbound existence outside the space program. It would be easy to come to the conclusions the reflection on his life in the course of writing the book made him realize how his life had been altered through his career as an astronaut.

He becomes preachy at times pointing out that hard work and determination got him into space. Several times I began skimming over paragraphs when he began another anecdote about how much he studied, and disciplined himself to succeed as an astronaut.

It is easy to overlook these difficulties I had with the book when Mr. Hadfield described the fascinating details of training and his journeys into space. It amazed me how difficult an astronaut’s life is on their families. Astronauts travel extensively for training and are seldom home. It is a wonder more aren’t divorced. The fact that Hadfield, who admits he’s an over-achiever, came through the program with an intact marriage, and three children who still speak to him is amazing. Mr. Hadfield shows the steps he took to include his family in his life leaving this reviewer with no doubt he was a loving husband and father, and possible now regrets the toll his life took on his family. The fact Mr. Hadfield didn’t gloss over this aspect influenced this reviewer what I was reading was a truthful account.

I really enjoyed how Mr. Hadfield humanized his fellow astronauts. It seems there are some who exhibit the swagger and arrogance of this elite group. Luckily, those seem a small minority. The majority is humble individuals who strive to play well with others, and prop each other up for group success. Numerous times Mr. Hadfield references his success was a result of thousands of individual working behind the scenes of the space program is a testament to that thinking.

The book renewed my above average interest in the space program and I highly recommend it.

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