Sunday, January 26, 2014
Chris Hadfield, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Book Review by Stan Taylor, author of Taylor’s Pneumatic Toys Chris Hadfield is the consummate story-teller. From his well-placed metaphors and similies in his opening paragraph to the plain language of the concluding paragraph, Chris has drawn you into his world and into his life. The sounds he experienced and the sensations he felt as the spacecraft leaves the launch pad resounded in my head as I read his account. It was as if I was sitting in the seat beside him, feeling what he felt and hearing the sounds he was hearing. His writing style is mesmerizing. He’s telling a story of a folk hero. I experienced the hootnanies of the 60s and the folk music of the 70s. Chris was speaking my language. Yet, as I learned later in the book, Chris never thought of himself as a hero. His folk songs aren`t about him: They`re about us. The middle of the book is concerned with the Sims; simulated training scenarios of anything and everything that could possibly go wrong from leaving the launch pad to his mission aboard the ISS. He made me realize the seriousness of doing the sims over and over, never looking at each as the ‘same old’ but with a refreshing new perspective. He was trained so thoroughly that should an emergency arise, and knowing he had only seconds to react, he would react with a calm reserve and determination. Chris states, “The life of an astronaut is one of simulating, practicing and anticipating, trying to build the necessary skills and create the correct mind-set.” (p. 172). It is this ‘mind-set’ that served him well in his training, spending two years in Russia to learn the language, and to making the most of his final mission to the ISS. Chris Hadfield is an ordinary man who has accomplished extraordinary feats. Upon reading his book, I felt privileged to be sharing his training and raw determination from his first mission to his last. An Astronaut`s Guide to Life on Earth is a subtle guide for us all and should be in everyone`s home.