A memoir from an astronaut whom Homer Hickam calls “a wonder, a fellow who has packed in more exploits in his lifetime than most of us can imagine.”
The son of a peripatetic salesman for Boeing, Parazynski is a cosmopolitan space traveler who spent his formative years in far-flung global locales like Athens, Dakar, Beirut, and Tehran. He is a tall, good-looking physician at ease with several languages, and he is also an experienced luge competitor, avid trekker and scuba diver, inventor, and a member of the Explorers Club. While in medical school, he decided he wanted to become an astronaut, enduring the rigorous preparation described by fellow space jocks in similar autobiographies. Parazynski reports on flight training, hours spent underwater in NASA’s space simulator, a stay in Star City, Russia, and—a topic popular in space travelers’ reports—weightless toilet experiences. During his career, the author flew five space shuttle missions and took seven spacewalks. In space, he installed a robotic arm and repaired the International Space Station’s solar array. Aloft, he served as John Glenn’s personal physician. Still up for adventure after retirement, Parazynski climbed Mount Everest, a feat yet unmatched by any other astronaut. Along with some mountaineering jargon (“the terrain is quite technical, with upwards traverses on featureless, snow-dusted slabby rock while under tension from my ascender”), the author offers some NASA nomenclature—e.g., EVAs (extravehicular activity), MAGs (maximum absorbency garments—i.e., diapers), the ISS (International Space Station), and PGT (pistol grip tool). Plenty of former astronauts have written about their careers in books that tend to sound alike with references to family values in the face of profound risk, a hint of philosophy, boisterous camaraderie, natural bravado, true pride, and true or false humility. Among the proliferation of these, Parazynski’s is presented with a bit more panache.
A genial, readable account of mountain climbing, spaceship travel, and other adventures.