Book 151: An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth by Chris Hadfield

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

Finished reading on September 15th, 2014

Rating: 8/10

Why would someone want to prepare for all possible worst-case scenarios and why would someone aim to be a zero?

Those are some of the questions the reader gets an answer to in this one-of-a kind book.

I went into this book with a sort of prejudice knowing that it’s not exactly a biography – it didn’t make me too excited about it although I’m a big fan of just about anything to do with space exploration and science and astronautics.

However I should have known better from all the Youtube videos of Chris Hadfield I’ve seen – it couldn’t possibly have been as boring as I thought it might be. It’s probably the “Guide to Life on Earth” part that made me unsure of whether or not I should read it thinking that there must be something better to read….

But my fears weren’t justified. The book is good – entertaining, logical and exciting and it shows how some of the ways that astronauts train or live would in fact make a lot of sense even on Earth and maybe shouldn’t be only reserved for very expensive space travel…

It was curious as it showed astronauts’ life from a different angle than biographies would, and it seemed more intimate and a more in-depth look into the astronaut mind-set even.

Although in the first place I disliked the idea of it being “a guide”, I think in the end I took a liking to it, as the advice seems relevant – for example aiming to be a zero, rather than a plus one and certainly not minus one – plus one meaning you’re a person who’d make a situation better and would be of help in case it’s necessary, minus one being someone who’d make the situation worse and zero being neutral – not making anything worse nor better. I found it interesting as I’d never thought of that option, I guess for me it seems more as if in a given situation I’m either making the situation worse or better, but couldn’t possibly not affect it.

So in general – quite excellent and well thought out, I’d especially recommend reading it to people who are normally not into space-y stuff, but this book might help them get interested in it. 😉

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Book 87: The Martian by Andy Weir

cover35512-mediumThe Martian by Andy Weir

Finished reading on November 19th, 2013

Rating: 10/10

“The Martian” is about a poor astronaut called Mark Watney who gets accidentally left on Mars after the rest of the crew evacuates back to Earth.

So the story goes like this – it’s some time in the future, when there have been two Ares missions to Mars, both with a crew of six astronauts. The story starts with the evacuation of the third crew with the Ares 3 mission, as the wind speed is getting too dangerous for the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), which is the only way back to Earth. While hurrying towards MAV one of the astronauts gets hit with an antenna from a flying communications system and is lost in the dust storm. Although the crew searches for him for a while, it seems as if he’s lost and dead.

But fortunately he is not, and after gaining consciousness he realizes that he has been left behind. And now starts his survival story – the lonely man’s struggle to stay alive on a lifeless red planet.

He has a lot of challenges on the way – he has no method of communications with the Earth for starters, only about after he’s been alone for two months do the satellites reveal that he might possibly be alive.

It’s a really action packed book, and would be great reading for anyone interested in space exploration.

In the beginning I was a little disturbed by the astronaut’s strong language, but as you get to know more about his situation, you can forgive him.

It seems that the author has done a lot of research for this book which made it so excellent.

I liked it because it showed the situation from the perspectives of many people – Mark’s to start off, and then Mission Control’s and from the perspective of the rest of the Ares 3 crew as well. Also I found it interesting how the author had put together so many accidents (which of-course all might occur if you have to stay on Mars for one and a half Earth years all alone) and it still ended happily. Well of-course it would have been sad if he’d just missed one necessary component of something or just didn’t know what to do or didn’t have enough food to last so long…. but as most of the book is in a log- book format, then naturally it couldn’t very well exist if he hadn’t survived for that long.

I hope this book will be made into a movie. It’s got excitement, romance, comedy, adventure and space exploration, so you can’t get much better than that! (plus there are no aliens here, and the only food that the astronaut is able to grow is potatoes, so not too far-fetched).

Read it!

Book 33: Falling to Earth by Al Worden

 

PIMG_7727Falling to Earth by Al Worden with Francis French

Finished reading 5.02.2013

Rating 9/10

Falling to Earth must be one of the latest books about an Apollo mission, this one about Apollo 15’s command module pilot Al Worden.

As far as astronauts go, there wasn’t much of a variety in their education, so West Point and Air Force was it for Worden too. And then a foreign exchange program in UK, from which he was pulled out and into NASA’s astronaut corps.

That’s the part where the fun starts… Well sort of… The descriptions of training and preparing for the mission are some of the best parts of the book together with the moon-flight itself.

I especially liked the part, where Al’s crew-mates have just docked with the command module in lunar orbit and are getting ready to head back to Earth, and he mentions that he’d rather want to be orbiting the moon solo even longer, instead of getting back home.

I got thinking that had it been me, then without a sufficient supply of books I’d not really find the desolation around the Moon all that satisfying, even if i’d get to operate the scientific instruments that they had on the command module.

I wonder whether it was more difficult for all the Apollo moonwalkers to go back to earth than it was for those astronauts, who didn’t get to go down to the surface… after all the command module pilots got to do a lot of orbits around the Moon, have a nice view… but the guys who went down – they did it once and then got back up after some time and could never go back…

Well, the book continues after Apollo 15, but for Worden it was almost only down the hill from there, giving something more to think about – profiting from space missions, tensions in NASA astronaut’s corps (that’s an issue in Mike Mullane’s “Riding Rockets” too), or the once an astronaut – always an astronaut issue.

As any great book, this book makes you dream, maybe not of a brighter tomorrow, but a dustier lonelier place where you can enjoy an Earth-rise….

 

Book 15: Riding Rockets by Mike Mullane

Riding Rockets by Mike Mullane (Scribner, 2007)

Finished reading November 13, 2012

Rating 9/10

I started reading it in bouts in the end of last week while watching several sci-fi movies. I took this book up because in Mary Roach’s “Packing for Mars”, she writes that if you only ever read one astronaut’s biography, then this one should be it.

I’m not sure yet, whether this would be the definitive astronaut’s biography, but I’ll know that when I read something by other astronauts. However I think it is a truly great book. And it might be the characteristic space shuttle astronaut’s story. I just loved it. It’s funny and serious and exciting from the beginning to the end.

Plus it gives a good idea of what the astronauts have had to suffer to get into space. It covers the astronauts selection process from the candidates’ point of view, there’s Mullane’s childhood and how he became an astronaut. He flew on three shuttle flights. The most exciting part for me was the description of the first launch of Discovery… or well tries to launch Discovery – they aborted a few times.

You can also read about the Challenger’s last flight.

In general I think it might have a bad effect on some people – they’d want to become astronauts themselves.

While I’m not yet in that kind of danger – I’d rather wait until they start the space elevator business, I really found Mullane’s description of the shuttle’s descent a bit worrying and I don’t think that coming back down in a capsule sounds any better… so spend my whole life in orbit or wait? I’ll have to settle for the last one for now. Especially since there aren’t  space shuttle flights anymore. 😦

It was a bit like reading Robert Scott’s diary or about Amundsen going to the South Pole – it’s something that puts everything in a human to an extreme test – the motivation, strength, skill, health. I used to be obsessed about expeditions to the South Pole,  space expeditions are just one (small) step further.

And a talk by Mike Mullane :