An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth – Chris Hadfield (2013)

Chris Hadfield - An Astronaut's Guide to Life on earthThe greatest Canadian contribution to space science is not the space shuttle’s robotic arm system affectionately named Canadarm. Opulently displaying the name “Canada” and our flag every time the shuttle was doing payload manipulations, it was what defined the Canadian presence in space for years. But the Canadarm has been surpassed with our contribution of Chris Hadfield to the astronaut roster. His first two short term flights on shuttle missions were fairly routine (although that too is a misnomer as every flight has some irregularity or crisis to deal with). But his third flight was historic from many aspects. Just being a foreign commander of the ISS for six months comprising ISS mission 35, was commendable on its own. But when he started tweeting, making YouTube videos, and even singing in space, his notoriety, and more importantly the visibility of space exploration, exploded, making him one of the greatest space ambassadors of the modern age, an a Canadian icon.

I picked up a signed copy of his book “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” at this years Yuri’s Night (an annual commemoration of Yuri Gagarin’s inaugural human space flight) Ottawa event from the Canadian Space Society’s booth.

The book describes Hadfield’s adventures in space and all it took to get there from his earliest days as a cadet, submitting his candidacy for the Canadian astronaut program, being selected and then working until he reached the ultimate goal of getting into space. We get to read about the mundane and monotonous aspects (and there is a lot more of that on the journey than you would think) as well as the more exciting training preparation aspects.

One difference about this book that differs it from other astronaut and space biographies is that, true to the title, this is really a book as much about Hadfield extorting how one should live their lives in general, and is not only about his space exploration. He goes in great detail about how his positive attitude was a large contributing factor to his success and how he advocates his lifestyle of hard work and dedication, all supplemented by a positive attitude. He makes strong arguments how his attitude was the prime reason behind his success and gives examples of how the wrong attitude has shortened the careers of others.

Which brings us to the main fault of the book. The recurring theme regarding positive attitude is drilled with abundance bordering on being preachy. It becomes a distraction that we have to read over and over when, lets face it, we want to get to the good stuff. It’s not something that will have me not recommending the read, just something that could have been tamed a bit to make the read more pleasant and interesting.

The best part of the book is of course his month long ISS stint and being teamed with two cosmonauts we also learn a lot about Russian culture and how they really do some things so differently from others while at the same time being just as proficient and technologically advanced. He also goes in great detail how he came about using the social networking sites to make the most of his trip and what made his mission there so memorable to so many people enjoying his antics.

I did have one minor quibble, but this was not related to the contents or even the book itself. I bought what was presented to me as a ‘signed book’. But it was one of those books not signed directly, but where a sticker with his signature was applied inside. So technically I have a signed sticker, not a signed book. I just hate it when authors do that. It’s a cheap shortcut and essentially means that they never have to actually handle the book itself and can just sign a bunch of stickers that are later applied to the book. This is really not what a signed book is supposed to represent.

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