An astronaut’s memoir from “a small-town boy from Nebraska—nothing special, just an ordinary American.”
Retired astronaut Anderson spent more than 38 hours spacewalking and five months on the International Space Station (“ISS”—acronyms proliferate at NASA and in his book). The athletic former Boy Scout from Nebraska, previously employed as an engineer at the Johnson Space Center, finally landed the coveted job as astronaut after 15 years of annual applications. After his acceptance, Anderson underwent rigorous preparation in jets, on mountainside treks, and in prolonged periods underwater. He learned Russian and trained in Star City, located outside Moscow, in order to work on the ISS. The stressful, rigid toil paid off, and the author delivers graphic descriptions of the sensations experienced during liftoff into space and life in orbit, including annoyances that were expressed perhaps a bit too freely to colleagues on Earth. He was not listed for future long-duration flights. Better were conversations in space with his wife and children who, throughout the book, receive heartfelt expressions of his enduring love. The author also frequently registers his Christian faith. Some NASA arcana, like mission commemorative patches, will interest true space buffs, and Anderson seems eager to answer predictable questions regarding bodily functions in space. He announces, more than once, his pride in the “incredible opportunities” to “poop in four different spacecraft!” He goes into considerable detail about that opportunity and natural human bowel movements in general. Indeed, the author is prideful in several areas, including his modesty and humanity in the face of stresses and dangers. Throughout, Anderson seeks to maintain an upbeat tone. However, underneath the brave bonhomie, there is occasional snarky, artificial gravitas, and the geniality sours just a bit.
A spaceman delivers an overlong chronicle of his adventures that may prove engaging to ardent space fans.