Did you know what you wanted to be at 9 years old? Without a shadow of a doubt? I didn’t. However, Commander Chris Hadfield did. He knew the instant he watched Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969. And everything Commander Hadfield did from that moment on was in pursuit of a single goal: To become an astronaut.
Later, walking back to our cottage, I looked up at the Moon. It was no longer a distant, unknowable orb but a place where people walked, talked, worked and even slept. At that moment, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I was going to follow in the footsteps so boldly imprinted just moments before. Roaring around in a rocket, exploring space, pushing the boundaries of knowledge and human capability — I knew, with absolute clarity, that I wanted to be an astronaut.
I loved reading An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth because Commander Hadfield gives an once-in-a-lifetime glimpse into the making of an astronaut. Taking you on a journey that spans his entire professional career, including his three missions. He recalls his experiences so vividly that you feel like you were right there with him.
Intellectually, I’d known I was venturing out into space yet still the sight of it shocked me, profoundly. In a spacesuit, you’re not aware of taste, smell, touch. The only sounds you hear are your own breathing and, through the headset, disembodied voices. You’re in a self-contained bubble, cut off, then you look up from your task and the universe rudely slaps you in the face. It’s overpowering, visually, and no other senses warn you that you’re about to be attacked by raw beauty.
Throughout reading An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, I stopped to make notes because I found Commander Hadfield’s hard-won lessons deeply inspirational. They shaped who he became both as an astronaut and as a person. And I came to see those lessons as principles on how all of us should live our lives.
There’s really just one thing I can control: my attitude during the journey, which is what keeps me feeling steady and stable, and what keeps me in the right direction. So I consciously monitor and correct, if necessary, because losing attitude would be far worse than not achieving my goal.
As Canadians, we saw Commander Hadfield as a superhero because of what he was able to spark in us through his music, photographs and videos while aboard the International Space Station. But after reading his memoir he’ll also become an ambassador and a teacher.
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth is the prefect combination of autobiographical, educational and inspirational. But, what makes it a must read is that it’s written with honesty, humour and optimism for the future of not only space exploration but also life on Earth. Commander Hadfield constantly reinforces that nothing is impossible so it’s best to be prepared, just in case. And, more importantly, why not dream big?
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Copyright © 2014 Chris Hadfield. Published by Random House Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved.