in 1992, and over 20 years was on two shuttle flights. On his last flight, Hadfield was
in space for 146 days. That meant he was
able to finish An Astronaut’s Guide, in the
works for almost two years, from the perspective of a veteran rocket man.
“I tried to lay it out to be a useful document, something that people really enjoy
reading, [and] learn from reading and finding some things in there that are useful to
themselves as well,” says Hadfield, 54.
In the book Hadfield offers readers a
welcome tour of his universe, in three parts:
“Pre-Launch,” “Lift Off” and “Coming Back
Down to Earth.” He has always been interested in the human stories behind the missions. “That is the inherently
interesting side of it.
It’s the part that’s important,” he says. “The
difference [on my third space flight] is that if
I had a transient but interesting experience I
could share it quickly through social media,
to let people see what it’s like, and in a way
that made them feel they were a part of it.”
Hadfield grabbed the world’s attention
with his social media work, and with this
book he is holding on to it. He believes that,
using these two ways of communicating, he
can satisfy a large human curiosity and give
people a real understanding of not only
what’s possible, but why.
But before he could tell his story,
Hadfield had to consider how best to explain
things in a way that’s not rocket
science. “I had to make things
clear to myself,” he says. He did
that by taking any system—say,
an aircraft, or even the space
station—and writing on one
page everything he truly needed to know.
“What is going to keep you alive, what is
going to kill you, what are the inherent pitfalls of the design? In going through that
process, of course you become a better operator, a better astronaut, a better pilot,” he
says. “But it’s also a technique you can apply
to anything in your own life: taking something with a bottomless pit of complexity
and boiling it down to the simplest of terms.”
An Astronaut’s Guide concludes with
“Life on Mars.” “It’s a conceptual idea of
where do we go next,” says Hadfield, “and
how far do you pursue the things that are
right on the very edge of possible?” C
Ivan Hansen is an aerospace journalist based
in Hamilton, Ontario, writing about the
human stories behind the flying machines
for national and international magazines.
Left: Hadfield walks in space outside the space shuttle.
Endeavor. Above: Juggling tomatoes on the space station.
The space shuttle Atlantis launches in
1995—Hadfield’s first space flight.
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