August 30th, 2020

Book 12 - 2019

Book 12: Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly - 440 pages

Description from
From the NASA astronaut who spent a record-breaking year aboard the International Space Station - what it's like out there and what it's like now, back here. Enter Scott Kelly's fascinating world and dare to think of your own a little differently.

As soon as you realize you aren't going to die, space is the most fun you'll ever have...

The veteran of four space flights and the American record holder for most consecutive days spent in space, Scott Kelly has experienced things very few of us ever have and very few of us ever will.

Kelly's humanity, compassion, humour, and passion shine as he describes navigating the extreme challenge of long-term spaceflight, both existential and banal. He touches on what's happened to his body, the sadness of being isolated from everyone he loves; the pressures of constant close cohabitation; the catastrophic risks of colliding with space junk, and the still more haunting threat of being absent should tragedy strike at home.

From a natural storyteller Endurance is one of the finest examples the triumph of the human imagination, the strength of the human will, and the boundless wonder of the galaxy.

Last year, after completing my Masters degree, I made an agreement with my mother that I wouldn't start my PHD until 2025, at which point I intended to write about the intersection of politics and space exploration. In order to prevent myself accidentally enrolling early (I work in a University so this is a very real risk!), I decided to try and occupy myself by reading as much literature on space as I could. I have started with astronaut memoirs, of which Kelly's book is my third. This is a very 'readable' memoir. That's not to say I think Kelly is my favourite of all the astronauts I've read about (I've read Chris Hadfield and Mike Massimino's memoirs too). In fact, at points in this book I actually wasn't sure I liked Kelly at all. Why? At times Kelly comes across as either disinterested in what he's doing (though I don't think he is), at other times he appears selfish or self-indulgent, still others I felt he did not deserve the success he's had (as a total teacher's pet, work my ass off type student, I can't deny I get a little pissy when I read about people who've been very successful despite not trying at school or somehow circumventing the system - it feels like cheating to me!). Still Kelly's writing style flows really well and I enjoyed the alternating chapters - one about his year in space, followed by one about his life pre-year in space. I was uncomfortable reading about his marriage (and its subsequent breakdown) and about his prostate cancer (even though I understood the whole lifetime radiation levels issue, the idea of getting an entire, very important sex organ removed so one could get back to space seemed rather extreme and ignorant to his partner's needs, though I'm sure he must have discussed the issue with her). And maybe its that brutal honesty, despite its uncomfortableness, that makes this such a page turner. Either way, I would highly recommend this book for any space enthusiasts. Kelly calmly and reasonably outlines some of the more psychological challenges of space exploration and in doing so also just maybe reveals that you have to be a very particular type of person to be an astronaut (and maybe not one I aspire to!).

12 / 50 books. 24% done!

2699 / 15000 pages. 18% done!

Currently reading:
Journey to the West
by Cheng-En Wu - 673 pages
Security Studies: An Introduction
edited by Paul D. Williams - 620 pages
Saga: Volume 7
by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples - 152 pages

And coming up:
The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder
by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
The Odyssey
by Homer – 324 pages
A Thousand Splendid Suns
by Khaled Hosseini - 367 pages
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