An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

I first heard of Commander Chris Hadfield on Twitter, when he replied to William Shatner, aka Captain Kirk.  Shatner asked if he was tweeting from space.  Hadfield replied “Yes, standard orbit, Captain, and we’re detecting signs of life on the surface.”

I was amazed.  This man was tweeting from outer space, and doing it with a sense of humor! When I looked at his other tweets, I was hooked.  Not only was he regularly posting pictures taken from space, he was making videos to answer students’ questions about what life was like on the space station, such as, “What happens when you cry in space?”  (The tears don’t fall; they just hover in front of your eyes). What a wonderful resource and a great way to get children interested in space travel!

Hadfield’s book tells his story of how he became an astronaut, and what he learned along the way. He first decided what he wanted to be when he saw the men walk on the moon.  As a young boy, he didn’t realize how much the odds were against him.  There were no Canadian astronauts at that time.  Later, when he learned how difficult it would be, it only made him work harder.

Hadfield discovered many things while he was training, some of which went against what is considered common sense.  For example, as an astronaut you have to sweat the small stuff. A very small error can have big consequences in space.   Also, helping a coworker perform better will help you in the long run, even if you are competing for the same job.  In space, having the best possible team is crucial to your survival.

The most important thing he learned, however, was that one must enjoy the journey.  It would be ridiculous to work so hard for so long with the goal of getting into space if you hated science, piloting, or any of things you must learn before your flight.  It is quite possible to spend a lifetime learning all of these things and never make it into space, just by accident or bad timing.  Would you feel your entire life was a waste if this happened?

I found Hadfield’s book and attitude to be very inspiring.  It is a great reminder not to focus so much on the future that you forget to enjoy the present.  And all his stories of daily life in outer space are fascinating.  I think we have become so accustomed to seeing men and women in space that we forget what an amazing achievement it is.

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