An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything starts with the author’s watching the first landing on the moon on a black-and-white TV, and deciding that he would become an astronaut, as many of us did on that July day in 1969. But, unlike the rest of us, he did become an astronaut and went to space three times, if not to the moon. The book tells his adventures, including the long and uncertain road to becoming an astronaut (and since he was born in Canada, extra effort and luck was required).
The weakest part of the book is the subtitle, since applying lessons learnt from space is not always the best way to live in real life. Over-preparing may be just the ticket to the space station, but it can quickly turn to craziness in real life, as the author humbly admits that his children remind him… Still, the anecdotes he tells are funny and told without ego, whether they involve cutting one’s nails in the space station or a crying jag during a space walk (it turns out that it’s not a fantastic idea to be blind while outside the station!) and he maintains the wonder of his nine-year old self about being in space.
Hadfield became famous because of his YouTube videos taped from space, and that’s the puzzle of the story. How could an over-prepared organization like NASA miss out on the PR opportunity and be preempted by Hadfield’s son who uploaded his dad’s first video without much planning and certainly without administrative approval? And yet, putting a very human face on the space program has been a fantastic PR success.