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And now for something distinctly different, to mangle the Monty Python quote... How to Astronaut (An Insider's Guide to Leaving Planet Earth) is a non-fiction book. Yes, I occasionally read these, too!
The author, Terry Virts, is a former jet pilot, test pilot, Space Shuttle pilot, and ISS Commander, who retired from his Astronaut career at NASA in 2016.


Like many former astronauts he has capitalised on his experiences by publishing books – in his case this is (so far) a coffee table book with spaceflight and Earth view pictures, a luxury replica of the Apollo 11 flight plan, and now this book, which circles around memories and lessons learned as part of his career in aeronautics and astronautics.

The book consists of an Introduction, 51 chapters split into 6 sections, an Afterword (written a bit later than the rest – it deals with Coronavirus, and the respective virtues of isolating in space vs on Earth), and Acknowledgments, Index, Credits.

The sections for the main part, the 'meat' of the book, are roughly grouped chronologically – Training, Launch, Orbit, Spacewalking, Deep Space (a bit of a more theoretical departure there), and Re-Entry.
It covers all the usual topics, of course, including a fairly detailed description of the always-present topic of going to the toiled in space (no, it's done quite tastefully, no need to worry).

 


The individual chapters are centred on a specific topic each – either a crucial theme in spaceflight terms (Learning to Float: How to Cope with Zero G), more theoretical excursions on topics known to recur (Marooned: What to Do If You're Stranded Up There), and more personal recollections and events (Chez Terry: Styling the Hair of a Superstar Crewmate – this refers to Samantha Cristoforetti who was part of his ISS Expedition).
Every chapter ends on some bonmot, or funny quip based on the topic – some of these are funny indeed, whilst others came across forced and not all that great for me.

Overall the book is written in an easily to understand level of English, with very little technical jargon (if you overlook his recurring pokes at NASA's tendency towards awkward acronyms), and should be suitable for the lay reader without much knowledge of spaceflight. From that perspective I can recommend this to all readers interested in the topic of spaceflight as it currently is practiced (this excludes the new SpaceX and Boeing ventures, Virts' career pre-dates these)

Personally I picked up the odd titbit myself which I was not aware of – the biggest one, by a distance, was to learn about Range Safety arrangements for Space Shuttle launches – it makes sense when you think about it, I just never had. And yes – Gulp. Not a joyful topic, that.
The biggest disappointment for me was when he, after keeping references to his religious views fairly minor for most of the book, comes out as essentially an unreconstructed creationist in the final parts, which definitely left a bit of a sour taste for me.

Besides this I had issues with the layout and overall performance of the ePub ARC I was given to read – I hope that this will have improved for the final version, as what I faces was distinctly a pain to deal with!

More Terry Virts

Title: How to Astronaut
Author: Terry Virts
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Publisher: Workman Publishing
Publisher URL: http://www.workman.com
Publication Date: 2020
Review Date: 210109
ISBN: 978-1-5235-0961-4
Pages: 303
Format: ePub
Topic: Spaceflight
Topic: Memoir

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

 

 

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