Saturday, 30 August 2014

'An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth'


Disclaimer: I admit that I'm extremely late jumping on the bandwagon by reading this book, but space exploration is something I've only recently become interested in, thanks to all the amazing astrophysicists I follow on Twitter. So thanks, spacey people. I applaud you. 

Probably one of the best books I have ever read, 'An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth' is a self-help guide as much as it is a fabulous tale about Chris Hadfields experiences both on Earth and in space. I had to stop myself from reading it all in one day just so I could savour how good it is and I can't recommend it enough, especially to those people like me who at times don't have a lot of faith in themselves when it comes to achieving their dreams. It's truly inspiring and I just can't praise it enough.

Chris has faced so many knock-backs and unfortunate circumstances, some of which he couldn't control, like being Canadian! He knew there was a slim chance of NASA ever wanting to send a Canadian into space when there were so many Americans wanting to fulfil the role. Yet, he never let this stop him. Instead, he persevered and worked hard, becoming a fighter pilot, working weekends and completing extra training exercises in the hope of taking a step closer to becoming an astronaut. He says at the beginning of the book that he has wanted to be an astronaut since he was nine years old and first saw the moon-landing. Since that day he has taken every measure possible in order to achieving that and it's amazing that someone can be so dedicated to a particular goal.

Chris Hadfield

Whilst not everyone wants to be an astronaut, Hadfield provides valuable advice for people pursuing any career. He talks about the power of negative thinking and truly being ready for anything that may stand in your way of achieving your goals. Possibly the best thing I took away from the book is the quote coined by NASA- 'Working the Problem'. It's a methos NASA use of approaching a problem by 'descending a tree' and working through the problem in a logical and methodical way, covering all possibilities. The problem could be anything from a fire on-board the ISS or a complex maths problem, yet the process is still the same. I've tried to incorporate this quote into my way of thinking when I encounter a tough question that must be solved. It gives you a lot of faith that you actually can succeed if you in overcoming an obstacle that requires 'out of the box thinking'. There is always a solution.

The book is full of amazing career advice and tips, particularly to never measure your success by whether you achieve your goals the way you wanted to. Working hard and enjoying the journey is just as important as the final destination, because we might not always end up where we originally planned and if we measure our success on our journey's-end then we will always feel disappointed. This has filled me with optimism about returning to University to work hard, prepare and enjoy myself.

It's not all deep life-lessons though.  Before reading this book, I knew nothing about life in space, simply because I've never been and as I said earlier, it's only just become an interest of mine. I was really happy to discover it's exactly as I imagined it. Reading about the physical effects on the astronauts bodies both in space and when they return to Earth is amazing. By the sounds of it though, it all seems very worthwhile. The stories of races under zero gravity through the ISS to gather bubble wrap, preparing breakfast and carrying out scientific experiments by having to stick test tubes to the walls via Velcro. It's all fascinating. I can only imagine what it's like to look out of the window and see the Earth. It must be incredibly beautiful. If you haven't read 'An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth', please do. I can't stress how brilliant it is.

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