Life on high starts way down below

Just completed ‘An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth’ by Chris Hadfield (Pan Books 2015).

This is an enthralling account of Hadfield’s professional life from his early days training with Canadian Forces flying jet fighters, through some 300 pages of fascinating facts on his journey to becoming an astronaut aboard the Space Shuttle and finally station commander on the ISS. The latter illustrates perfectly his journey from a cramped launch capsule, to a busy schedule on the Space Station, ending with a crash back to earth in a hot box on the end of a parachute canopy.

If anyone has the notion that it’s all about posing in NASA coveralls and being feted by the media, forget it. In fact forget anything you might assume about training for space – no wonder so few make the grade. While space travel may sound glamorous, it’s only a small part of an astronauts life, the rest is graft.

The book is extremely readable and, having seen him running the BBC TV series ‘Astronauts: Have you got what it takes?’, it comes as no surprise just how incredibly difficult it is to qualify. Hadfield wins with his down-to-earth (!) descriptions and his endeavours to impress upon every reader that it really is tough up there.

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