March 27, 2013

On being an astronaut

Packing For Mars
by Mary Roach

Many people are obsessed about living on Mars, but do they really know what they're getting themselves into? In Mary Roach's wildly entertaining and fascinating book, you'll learn everything you ever wanted to know about space travel, and some things you'll wish you hadn't. From toilet training to space sickness, crash simulations to astrochimps, and from sandwich cubes to zero-gravity sex, space travel is surreal, alarming and not for the faint-of-heart. But at the same time, it could be an amazing experience. 

Highly recommended.

Flying To The Moon
by Michael Collins

Michael Collins was the astronaut in the command module while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were walking on the moon. Collins goes into great detail about the history of space exploration, his astronaut training, and his space flights. However, for a book meant for young readers, he's not very expressive as a writer. His explanations tend to be long and overly scientific, turning what should be an interesting read into a rather tedious one. His writing only perks up when he talks about his spacewalk, which was made challenging by his long umbilical tether.

Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut
by Mike Mullane

Mike Mullane was among the first astronauts chosen to fly in NASA's space shuttle program. He completed three space missions as a payload specialist aboard Discovery and Atlantis. He begins his story while lying naked on a table, giving himself an enema. It's just one example of the great lengths he went to in order to become an astronaut. He was so determined to fly in space, he was willing to do anything to make it happen. His tales of arrested development military pilots working with feminist pioneers like Sally Ride and Judy Resnik, are hilarious, entertaining, and sexually explicit. He vividly describes the various indignities astronauts suffer before and during space travel, the overwhelming fear of space shuttle launches, and the emotional toll on astronaut wives and families. He's also brutally honest in his criticism of NASA's ineffective leadership, which led to the Challenger and Columbia disasters. But what really stands out are his descriptions of earth from space and the thrill of fulfilling a lifelong dream.

An excellent book that really tells you what it's like to be an astronaut. Highly recommended, this is a book for mature teens and adults.

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