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An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About… (2013)

by Chris Hadfield

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1,897537,546 (4.09)101
Hadfield takes readers into his years of training and space exploration to show how to make the impossible possible. He developed an unconventional philosophy at NASA: Prepare for the worst-- and enjoy every moment of it. By thinking like an astronaut, you can change the way you view life on Earth-- especially your own.… (more)
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Usually, I’m not really into space and astronaut stuff but this is a highly enjoyable book. It’s as interesting and funny as Colonel Hadfield’s Twitter and Facebook updates, and YouTube videos. It is also very personal. After all, we follow his life from him watching the first men (Buzz Aldrin is the name of the second one, please remember that) step on the Moon to his retirement after being commander of the International Space Station. However, at times it seemed to be a bit repetitive. Maybe that is why I couldn’t read more than one chapter at a time, despite all the interesting stories being told.

He described launch so vividly, I actually felt like I experienced it myself. Which makes me think about the repetitions. Maybe it was deliberate, to show the reader how uninteresting (and repetitive) the mundane reality of being an astronaut is. We are told, over and over again that an astronaut spends most of his time on Earth, and it is good, and important. Maybe he never leaves the planet which is okay. Of course, going to space is what everyone wishes for but even that is not heroic, and life after it is not boring at all. They are preparing for years, practicing every movement they will be making, they plan for the worst, study long and hard, and are humble servants of a greater purpose only. Towards the end, I started to wonder who he was trying to convince. Me or himself? For most of the book, I believed him but by the last chapter, I felt he was really labouring the point.

Anyway, I think this is a wonderful path; from watching the first Moon landing on TV as a kid, through highly conscious career choices and hard work, taking part in the installation of a robotic arm that helped build the International Space Station (ISS) which he becomes the commander of in the end.

It is full of great life lessons (they would make superb memes) and really interesting details, all told with a brilliant sense of humour. I was especially fascinated by the effects of being in space on the human body. From the fact they are wearing diapers at launch because it may take much longer than expected, through the nausea everyone experiences at first, to the results of living in zero gravity for months. Without the pull of gravitational force, their muscles weaken, of course. But also their hearts! Their hearts even shrink. Their spines, on the other hand, elongate. Coming back to Earth, then, after spending months floating in a peaceful, quiet environment with only a couple of other humans is like being a newborn, he says. After a rather tough ride, they are faced with all the noise, the people, the rush, and merciless gravity. “No wonder babies cry in protest when they’re born.” – says Hadfield.

Oh, and he’s afraid of heights. The ex-commander of the ISS. Would you believe that? ( )
  blueisthenewpink | Jul 2, 2022 |
A biography that (sadly) demystifies the life of an astronaut. Hadfield comes across as the same type of career-minded go-getter one meets at corporate events of all types. I sort of wish I hadn't read it, and could keep my image of astronaut-as-modern-Magellan. ( )
  poirotketchup | Mar 18, 2021 |
For the most part I enjoyed this biography/encouragment book. Hadfield's writing is engaging and his stories are fascinating. I did, however, find that a few of those stories were told too many times - it was like the chapters were meant to be read independently. For those interested in life as an astronaut, the book is generally a good read. For someone not particularly interested in spacelife, I did enjoy his proverb-like maxims. ( )
  ColourfulThreads | Feb 18, 2021 |
It's just ok. It should just be renamed to 'Chris Hadfield: I Got Lucky' or something like that since the book seems to follow a timeline of the life of Chris. It does talk about his life when he's not in space, it's not that entertaining for the reader.

If someone asked me if they should buy the book and read it I would say 'NO, the book isn't worth your time.' ( )
  Authentico | Feb 3, 2021 |
It's December 2011, and it's Christmas at my dad's house. Actually it's Christmas everywhere, my point is that I am at my dad's house, and it's Christmas. My little sister hands me my present and I receive it with thanks. Except as I try to take it from her she doesn't let go. Instead she says something. And it's not “Merry Christmas!” Nor is it “I'm so blessed for having such an awesome big brother!” It's not even “If I ever spontaneously change sex like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park then I hope my beard is as magnificent as yours!” No, what she says is “I'm sorry.” She's not apologising for some past transgression, though. She continues: “I don't know why I bought this for you, I just saw it in the shop and… oh God, I'm sorry.” And with that she finally lets go of the present.

It's fair to say I'm a little put out by this stage. There are certain scripted things one says when handing over a Christmas present. Usually “This one's for you” or “I hope you like it.” At worst someone might say “I've still got the receipt,” but rambling apologies aren't supposed to be on the script.

I open the present gingerly, and find myself the proud owner of a particularly fine looking trouser expander. For those who aren't as lucky as me and don't know what a trouser expander is: it's a smallish sausage shaped plastic pouch with an attached hand pump. When deflated the pouch fits snugly into one's underpants, but should the need to arise arise then one can surreptitiously give the pump a few swift squeezes through your pocket and hey presto, your trousers expand.

Alas! It turned out that there was a little hole in the pouch and so it would quickly deflate unless you were willing to do some rather furious pocket-pumping. And let me tell you, you only try that in public once.

In 2012 my sister was a bit more conventional in her choice of Christmas present. And then, this past Christmas, she handed me another small oblong shaped gift with the ominous words “I don't know if you'll like this or not.” It wasn't visions of sugar-plums that danced through my head upon hearing that so much as a battery of sex toys. I unwrapped the gift, half expecting an inflatable yet anatomically accurate pterodactyl to fall out. Instead what dropped into my lap was Chris Hadfield's An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth.

I, along with most people with the internet, had been following Chris Hadfield on Facebook for many months and am a great admirer of what he's achieved both scientifically and in that oh-so-difficult area of engaging the broader public. Basically, I'm a big fan of his. So when my sister added “I got it signed, by the way” then I suddenly came over all fanboyish and instantly forgave her for buying me a broken trouser expander. I mean for buying me a trouser expander.

I assumed the book would be Chris Hadfield's memoirs. Now he's retired from the Canadian Space Agency it seemed a reasonable guess. Instead the first chapter gives a breakneck summary of his life up to heading up to the ISS. After that it becomes a kind of anecdote-filled self-help book.

I have the kind of scorn for self-help books that comes from never having read one. In my mind they're filled with useless clichéd tat like “Before you can love others you have to love yourself” and “Dance like no one is listening” and “Don't mix whites and colours in the same wash”. Chris Hadfield's advice here is much more pragmatic. It's odd reading advice from someone who has commanded humanity's only space station. There's a danger that in explaining how he got where he is and scattering in anecdotes he'd make the reader feel like an unaccomplished cretin. But he doesn't. Instead I left the book feeling positive about myself and the world we live in – a world that can come together and build something as marvellous as the International Space Station and find people as magnificent as Chris Hadfield to put on it.


Edited P.S. I originally linked to Chris Hadfield's amazing cover of David Bowie's Space Oddity here, but Bowie only gave his permission for that version to stay online for one year and that time has passed. Of course, the intrepid explorer might still find it somehow. ( )
  imlee | Jul 7, 2020 |
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To Helene, with love. Your confidence, impetus and endless help made these dreams come true.
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The windows of a spaceship casually frame miracles.
Early success is a terrible teacher. You're essentially being rewarded for a lack of preparation, so when you find yourself in a situation where you must prepare, you can't do it. You don't know how.
Over the years, I've realized that in any new situation, whether it involves an elevator or a rocket ship, you will almost certainly be viewed in one of three ways. As a minus one: actively harmful, someone who creates problems. Or as a zero: your impact is neutral and doesn't tip the balance one way or the other. Or you'll be seen as a plus one: someone who actively adds value.
If you start thinking that only your biggest and shiniest moments count, you're setting yourself up to feel like a failure most of the time.
[Astronauts] run the gamut from devout to atheist, but whatever the personal belief system, space flight tends to reinforce it.
There is no situation so bad that you can't make it worse.
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Hadfield takes readers into his years of training and space exploration to show how to make the impossible possible. He developed an unconventional philosophy at NASA: Prepare for the worst-- and enjoy every moment of it. By thinking like an astronaut, you can change the way you view life on Earth-- especially your own.

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