Monday, July 30, 2018

Endurance


I love the idea of exploring space. Perhaps it doesn't have a lot of practical here and now benefits, but the idea of 'going beyond' feels right to me; something we ought to do as a species to push the boundaries of what's known, and to explore and inspire.  This is the story of one astronaut.

The book is structured as alternating chapters describing Scott Kelly's 11 months in space, as well as the long road to that point in his life, from a kid who didn't do well in school, to fighter pilot, and finally, astronaut.

I found the story of his rise interesting, perhaps a bit more so because he wasn't a 'model student', but not terribly different from many other stories of success.  He found something that motivated him to pursue a dream and stuck with it.

Scott's time on the space station, on the other hand, including the launch from the earth from the Kazakhstan launch site, really held my interest. I sort of had this idea of 'space stuff' as this gleaming, hi-tech world where everything is wonderfully built and engineered; the best that humanity can build. It seems that the reality doesn't always live up to this ideal, though, and there are a lot of stories of various pieces of equipment that need regular, difficult maintenance. And then the stories of "ordinary", day to day living in a zero-gravity environment make you realize what an amazing feat it all is - people able to survive in a tiny shell so far away from the rest of humanity.  Utilizing tortillas to eat a lot of food with because it's easy to wrap stuff up and keep it floating away!  The contrast of the big with the small makes it all the more something we can relate to.

I mentioned the launch earlier - it's one of the funnier bits, with some of the odd superstitions that the Russians have prior to getting in the rocket that takes them to the space station.  Getting out of the vehicle take them there and peeing on the rear tire, for instance.

Lots of other interesting tidbits about what it's like to be there in person make the book worthwhile for anyone interested in the challenges of 'boldly going where noone has gone before'.