Tuesday, January 28, 2014

“An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” by Chris Hadfield – Thinking Like an Astronaut

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield – Book Cover
For those who aren’t familiar with him, Chris Hadfield is probably the most famous Canadian astronaut out there, having logged more than 4000 hours in outer space and being the first man of his nationality to set foot abroad Earth’s gravity. Those of us down here on the ground, staring like Lilliputs at those men who undertake perilous voyages into uncharted territories, often wonder how such trips affect a person, and what kind of mindset one actually needs to do what astronauts do.

Perhaps this was the main driving force being Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, in which he details how his training and experiences have affected him as a human being, how his travels into the vast beyond have influenced his outlook on and understanding of life.

So what exactly does he discuss in this book? Well, he starts off during his training, taking us very deep into his memories and detailing exactly how he was conditioned, not only physically but also, perhaps more importantly, mentally. He mixes in various stories from his years spent as an engineer and even as a pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Some of the stories are a bit comical in their nature, others are more grave and troublesome. Naturally, Hadfield doesn’t simply tell us stories; rather, he uses them as examples to illustrate the many truths he has come to learn about life, at least the ones pertaining to his reality.

As the book goes on and on, these rather concrete and specific examples drive to vaguer and more general conclusions, some of which actually go against the grain. For instance, Hadfield insists that success should not be visualized and that we do, in fact, need to care about what others think of us.

From what I gathered after reading this book, the whole point of it for Hadfield is to share his rather remarkable story all while giving us the wisdom he picked up along the way. I do agree that many of his ideas are interesting and pertinent to his experiences, but I would warn you against taking them as gospel; the truths he discovered are related to his personal life and perception of it, meaning that some of his suggestions and philosophies may appear illogical or useless. Nevertheless, he does have many interesting things to say, words that will make you think about your own life on Earth.

In the end, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth certainly won’t teach you how to pilot a spacecraft, but it will take you deep into the mind of one of the world’s most renowned astronauts, showing you his thought process and take on life at the same time. Those of you interested in learning more about space exploration and how astronauts approach life from a realistic point of view, this book is definitely one you should consider reading.

Chris Austin Hadfield (29 August, 1959)

Chris Austin Hadfield

Personal site

Chris Hadfield is a now-retired professional Canadian astronaut who had the honor of being the first Canadian to set foot in space.

He is also an engineer as well as a former Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, having flown two space shuttle missions and commandeered the International Space Station. He wrote about the culmination of his space travel experiences, titled An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.

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