There was a lot of good stuff in here,
from stories of spaceflight, training for spaceflight, anticipation of
becoming an astronaut, drudgery in between flights, and so on. At times,
especially near the beginning of the book, Hadfield seems to try too
hard to convince the reader that his reasons for doing certain things
were sound and justified. I think a little less earnestness in the tone
would have better suited the book.
This book does not
progress chronologically, which gives it a different flavor. Instead,
the author goes with themes, such as details ("Sweat the Small Stuff")
and observing before
acting ("Aim to Be a Zero").
In each theme, he weaves his experiences on the ground and in space, in
a fighter jet, with his family, and many more. It’s interesting, but can
also be frustrating and even confusing. Unfortunately, especially in the
first third of the book, he doesn’t always succeed.
It’s interesting to
note that his entire life was dedicated to the space program, taking
lessons learned from the American program and applying them in Canada.
And when the first group of astronauts was chosen, he started to get
worried, because he became a fighter pilot, not a scientist –as
he modeled his career after
the Americans, who
chose fighter pilots as their early astronauts.
is easy to note that Hadfield is an engineer, and a mechanical one at
that. His writing style, especially at the beginning of the book, leaves
a lot of the emotion out of his tones. It is only when he starts to talk
about his family, and the way they were impacted by his career choice,
how they were forced to endure socializing when they were at their most
worried or stressed, that the emotion starts to show.
A lot of the early
book is written in a way that looks like he is trying too hard to get
people to see his point of view. Engineers are like that –they think
things through, even the tiny little details, and work to make our lives
easier by improving the efficiency of those tiny details –because lots
of tiny details become large details eventually. But most people don’t
think like that. They live with the little annoyances, until they become
larger and then they explode angrily, until things are changed or things
seem better only because they have lashed out. But people like Hadfield
look at the little things and try to make them better. So it’s natural
that he would say things like “…not because I thought I was better than
other people, but…”. I just think he says it too often.
The best parts of
the book are the sequences that describe his training and especially his
last mission, which is interspersed with the other missions he enjoyed
on the space shuttle. He unfortunately does not go too much into detail
of his shuttle missions, but being so short compared with what he did on
the space station, I guess that’s natural. I also wished he went into
more detail on his ground training as CAPCOM, not just talking with the
other astronauts, but if he went to troubleshoot problems for them.
His experiences in
Russia were enthralling, as he prepared to get to the launch pad. There
are so many things I don’t know about the Russian space program, that it
made for a very interesting read. And then there was the launch, and the
trip to the space station, not to mention the months spent on board.
With his obsession to detail, it’s no wonder that NASA loved him. He had
an amazing work ethic, and an eye to the beauty of space. He was the
ultimate PR person, and still is.
I met him a couple of times
before he went to the space station; he seemed like a really neat guy
and very reasonable.
I remember when he
was on board the space station, using social media to communicate,
sending pictures down from space. It was a really proud moment to be
It was his
son's idea, especially the rendition of Major Tom.
The aftermath of a
spaceflight must be very difficult, especially for an astronaut who
knows he will no longer be going into space (Hadfield announced his
retirement privately during this mission, publicly afterwards). But it
follows what is known from other movies and documentaries, between the
endless tests, the potential for depression, and reintegration into
family and Earth-locked society.
I wouldn’t say this
is the best book on space travel that I’ve read, nor the most fun, but
it was informative, especially since I haven’t read much about the
International Space Station missions. Having this personal account is
very much appreciated.