An astronaut's guide to life on earth

by Chris Hadfield

Paper Book, 2013


Toronto [Ontario] : Random House Canada, 2013.


Hadfield takes readers into his years of training and space exploration to show how to make the impossible possible. He developed an unconventional philosophy at NASA: Prepare for the worst-- and enjoy every moment of it. By thinking like an astronaut, you can change the way you view life on Earth-- especially your own.


User reviews

LibraryThing member jnwelch
Here's a book cover that really invites you in - it shows an astronaut high above the earth, riding a skateboard. In the cover's corner, the author is playing the guitar in the International Space Station. Astronaut Chris Hadfield is stunningly accomplished, and this could have been one long self-congratulation. But he has a sense of fun and humility that makes An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth a pleasure to read. He's dedicated to bettering the space program, and adept at describing the challenges that astronauts face in simple, relatable terms:

"Spacewalking is like rock climbing, weightlifting, repairing a small engine and performing an intricate pas de deux - simultaneously, while encased in a bulky suit that's scraping your knuckles, fingertips and collarbone raw. In zero gravity, many easy tasks become incredibly difficult. Just turning a wrench to loosen a bolt can be like trying to change a tire while wearing ice skates and goalie mitts."

In some ways astronauts have to be a combination of Olympic decathlon athletes and practical polymaths. Now that the Shuttle is retired, the only way to get to the International Space Station is via the Russian Soyuz, a much smaller vehicle. (Hadfield notes this eliminated from future flights a whole group of astronauts who were simply too tall).

"The Russian rocket ship only carries three people, and between them they need to cover a huge matrix of skills. Some are obvious: piloting the rocket, spacewalking, operating the robotic elements of the ISS like Canadarm2 {a huge robotic arm}, being able to repair things that break on the station, conducting and monitoring the many scientific experiments on board. But since the crew is going to be away from civilization for many months, they also need to be able to do things like perform basic surgery and dentistry, program a computer and rewire an electrical panel, take professional quality photographs and conduct a press conference - and get along harmoniously with colleagues, 24/7, in a confined space."

NASA screens and winnows for these qualities from the thousands of candidates who hope to participate in a space flight. As Hadfield says, such people are necessarily competitive, but they also have to learn to put the team first, for a number of reasons, including most importantly that their lives depend on it. A constant mantra as they train and learn and simulate and, eventually, travel in space, is, "What is the next thing that could kill me." Death can come from the smallest details, like a foggy visor on a space walk. In explaining how he prepares, mentally and physically, he shares some life lessons that can be helpful to those of us who only wander the Earth.

Hadfield is an engaging storyteller with an aware sense of humor. He tells us that his kids like to play a game where they dramatically exchange his life sayings to them, like "No one was ever victorious sitting down" (that's also a little ironic coming from an astronaut). They regularly let him know he's too "earnest". His strong family ties are apparent, and he talks about the difficulties caused by his profession, which requires so much time away from them. His story is remarkable - a Canadian who knew he wanted to be an astronaut when there was no such thing in his country, who aced the USA training program, and became the Commander of the International Space Station, among many other accomplishments. He has seen our planet from far away, and is enraptured by it. At the same time, he's a guy you could see as a pal or neighbor. He plays guitar in a band, and has scads of outside interests. At his son's urging, he records himself playing guitar and singing Bowie's "Space Oddity" aboard the ISS, and when he returns home from his final space flight, he finds it has become an international sensation on Youtube.

This is a fascinating look behind the scenes of the space program, with the tour given by one of our best, an accomplished guy who you'd be happy to have a beer with. That's a rare combination, and I recommend the experience of reading it.
… (more)
LibraryThing member mountie9
The Good Stuff

Learned so much about the reality of how much it takes to become an astronaut and about their day to day work life
Fabulous advice that pertains not only to those wanting to be astronauts but also to those wanting to love and succeed at just about everything
Surprised that in general most astronauts aren't the thrill seeking type
Charming, likeable and dryly funny writer
Realistic about how hard the life of an astronaut can be on their families
Self-deprecating (you guys know by now that I love that)
Speaks highly of his wife and he knows and appreciates the sacrifices she made
Likes Great Big Sea and Stan Rogers - how can you not like a guy with that taste
Extremely wise
Won't lie, never had any interest in going to space - but after reading Chris's description of his space walk I now wish I was younger and had the chance - but hey I will settle with one day being able to see the Northern Lights
Inspired me
And from the bottom of my heart - thank you. After reading I showed my 12yr old some of the video's and he was fascinated. (Also showed him video's of David Bowie - so maybe he will develop some better music appreciation LOL) We spent a couple of hours discussing and watching video's together. It was a wonderful evening. He also asked to borrow the book which totally warmed this Librarian's heart.
Never comes across as cocky or better than anyone else - truly a humble man

The Not So Good Stuff

Confession Time: Sorry Chris on many occasions while reading it I was thinking your wife was a fricken saint and you were selfish. I know, I know, that is a horrible thing to think. But you have to understand I am a mom. I understand how hard (and lonely) it is to raise children. She let you realize your dream while she did all the dirty work -- that is love man and I wish I could have been as selfless as her. You better spoil her & if I ever get to meet her I am giving her a big hug and even though I make shit money I will treat her to a girls day out at the spa. That being said I still respect and admire you and sorta wish I had parents like you, so much drive and passion.
The day after I finished it I went in to work and was about to put it as my "Staff Pick" - but damn you Heather Reisman you chose it as your Heather's Pick. That is three times you stole a pick from me ROFL!

Favorite Quotes/Passages

"Success is feeling good about the work you do throughout the long, unheralded journey that may or may not wind up at the launch pad."

"We're a nation of door-holders and thank you-sayers, but we joke about it, too. How do you get 30 drunk Canadians out of a pool? You say, "Please get out of the pool."

"So we did the true space-age thing: we broke into Mir using a Swiss Army knife. Never leave the planet without one."

"I also got bonus containers of Canadian treats like smoked salmon, buffalo jerky, a tube of maple syrup - even Tim Horton's coffee, the preferred caffeinated beverage on board (Roman took to calling everything else "deputy coffee" - second best."

5 Dewey's

I received this from Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review
… (more)
LibraryThing member ASKelmore
I got this from my sister for Christmas last year. The only profession I can recall really wanting (as much as little kid wants anything) was astronaut. Of course I didn’t actually do the things one would need to do, like join the military, to do that (and my vision would have disqualified me before anything else did). But I still talk about going to space someday.

This book is different from Mary Roach’s “Packing for Mars” in a good way: it’s told from the perspective of an astronaut from Canada who has been to space three times, including as commander of the International Space Station. The book is a memoir of his time preparing for, supporting, and traveling to space, and is framed as a way to be successful in life on Earth.

He makes some great observations, including a chapter on sweating the small stuff (you should) and treating the things that lead up to the big events (going to space) as just as important as those big events. It makes sense – if everything is focused on these large events that may or may not happen, and that’s all that is seen as worthwhile, everything else (the vast majority of life) will seem like a waste, or sad. And while it might not be this dire for all of us, his advice of being as prepared as possible and thinking about the ‘next thing that will kill me’ can be helpful too.

I also really liked his discussion of being a minus one, a zero, or a plus one. His idea is that we are all one of those things in each role we fill, and those who come in aiming to be a plus one when they are new on the scene tend to end up as a minus one. He suggest we all aim to be a zero (someone who doesn’t screw things up, but isn’t the champion), and by doing that, as we develop expertise in the area, we eventually will end up being a plus one.

I think that with many of his suggestions you could argue that there is a downside (if you’re focused on the small stuff, how do you look at the bigger picture), but I also think it depends on perspective. In that example, you look at the big picture but then break it down into much smaller steps to complete to get there, and care about each of those steps. Which actually seems to match most of the advice people give with things like goals and resolutions. My goal might be to buy a house, but I can’t just say that and then it happens. There are a lot of smaller steps involved, and each of those involves smaller steps, and it makes sense to lay them out and work at doing those steps well.

I’d recommend this book for sure – it was a pretty quick read for 300 pages, and his writing is interesting and vivid. If you aren’t going to get a chance to read it, though, please check out the video the author put together while on the ISS. You may have seen it before. It’s pretty great.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Meggo
The story of an astronaut's life as told my Chris Hadfield, veteran of two Shuttle launches and a several months' stay on the International Space Station. I literally could not put this book down. Full of fascinating anecdotes and useful learnings, I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in space, science, or exploration.… (more)
LibraryThing member bragan
Retired astronaut Chris Hadfield is undoubtedly best known for the video of him playing guitar and singing David Bowie's "Space Oddity, " while actually in space. He's also made a bunch of other videos and maintains a fantastically popular Twitter feed, and is just generally terrific at putting a likeable, human face on the space program for the public at large, while stirring up some of that good old-fashioned sense of excitement and wonder.

In this book he talks about how he achieved his ambition to become an astronaut, his accomplishments in space, the fascinating details of life on the International Space Station, and the often-overlooked realities of the 95% of the astronaut job that takes place on the ground. He also talks a lot about the attitudes and philosophies that got him where he is, and the principles and strategies he believes are essential to success in an environment that can all too easily kill you. (In very brief summary, these more or less boil down to being crazy-prepared and highly detail-oriented, and not letting your ego get in your way.)

This can be read as a sort of self-help book, and I can see its key insights potentially being of real use to those who are open to them, especially to people who work in, or have ambitions towards high-pressure, high-stakes careers. At the very least, Hadfield is clearly an infinitely better role model than your average motivational speaker. It can also be enjoyed just as an interesting memoir, and as a thoughtful, intelligent look at what constitutes "the right stuff" in the modern space program.
… (more)
LibraryThing member LynnB
Inspirational for everyone from aspiring astronauts to retired bookworms (i.e., me!) Often funny, with fascinating insight into the life of an astronaut, both on earth and in space. Col. Hadfield is a great Canadian, and a good writer.
LibraryThing member melissarochelle
Read from January 02 to 05, 2014

A fascinating look at the life of an astronaut. Commander Hadfield offers great advice as he shares his journey from little boy with a dream to Commander of the International Space Station. But I am left with one does one shave in space and keep up with that impressive moustache?… (more)
LibraryThing member Polilla-Lynn
This well-written book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, is full of “AMAZING”, not to mention how I feel about Chris Hadfield – the Canadian astronaut who was commander of the International Space Station.

When Chris was nine years old he watched – on a neighbour’s TV on July 20, 1969 – the Apollo moon landing, and knew right then what he wanted to be when he grew up. From that point onward everything he did was to obtain his goal to be an astronaut, even though here in Canada there was not yet a space agency.

In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth Chris Hadfield tells about his journey. After the Introduction appetizer, he has divided the book into three sections: Part 1 – Pre-Launch; Part 2 – Liftoff; Part 3 – Coming Down to Earth.
Part 1 – Pre-Launch

The Trip Takes a Lifetime
Have an Attitude
The Power of Negative Thinking
Sweat the Small Stuff
The Last People in the World
What’s the Next Thing That Could Kill Me?

Part 2 – Liftoff
7. Tranquility Base, Kazakhstan
8. How to Get Blasted (and Feel Good the Next Day)
9. Aim to Be a Zero
10. Life off Earth
11. Square Astronaut, Round Hole

Part 3 – Coming Down to Earth
12. Soft Landings
13. Climbing Down the Ladder

This is an exciting, interesting, incredible adventure told in an easy-to-read way. Chris Hadfield‘s humility and humour shine through as he shares what he has learned and accomplished both on and off Earth. What he had to do to realize his dream is daunting. What he shares about life is sound and inspiring.

The paragraph that spoke to my heart is as follows:
If you start thinking that only your biggest and shiniest moments count, you’re setting yourself up to feel like a failure most of the time. Personally, I’d rather feel good most of the time, so to me everything counts: the small moments, the medium ones, the successes that make the papers and also the ones that no one knows about but me. The challenge is avoiding being derailed by the big, shiny moments that turn other people’s heads. You have to figure out for yourself how to enjoy and celebrate them, and then move on. – Page 267, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

This book is thoroughly enjoyable. It is not only about travelling and living in Space, but also about his work as a fighter jet pilot when he lost several friends in flying accidents. In flowing conversational language he takes us all through the difficult journey that opened his way into NASA and eventually to commanding the space station where he conducted a record-setting number of scientific experiments. He also handled emergencies while in Space and became well-known for his activity on Twitter and his incredible photographs taken during his five-month stay on the space station he had helped build.

If you enjoy non-fiction, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield is such a good book to spend time absorbing. The information he provides is riveting. Even if you aren’t sure about the genre I recommend you give this book a try. It is so worth it.
… (more)
LibraryThing member JamesBanzer
I was not an avid space fan before reading Col. Chris Hadfield's account of space travel. This book changed that. This man truly won the lottery by being selected to fly in space. It's tough enough for a citizen of the United States to be accorded such an honor. To make the cut as a Canadian takes a degree of luck, to be sure. More importantly it takes an incredible work ethic and a real zest for life, both of which Hadfield has aplenty.

From when he was just 16, Hadfield has been a pilot. He became the ultimate pilot when he was selected to fly into space. It is apparent from his own words that being an astronaut is not merely a job. It takes deep commitment and determination. It also requires endurance. Astronauts are survivors who must be ready to become sick, and extraordinarily weak, when they return home. Periods of weightlessness are not something to which the human body is accustomed. They must recuperate and regain muscular strength after space flight.

You have no doubt heard of the power of positive thinking. One interesting life lesson acquired by Hadfield because of flying in space is that much can be gained from negative thinking. Focusing on all conceivable things that could go wrong during flight is key to survival. Those who run the space program also gain immense knowledge by close examination of things that have already gone wrong, from minor to major mishaps.

Wow, what an interesting read this was! This reader gives it a strong recommendation.
… (more)
LibraryThing member yukon92
Great book about the personal journey of the famous Canadian astronaut. I only wish there would have been more pictures! I am looking forward to getting his photo-book!
LibraryThing member savageknight
Inspirational and very thought-provoking. An amazing story about drive and passion and unbelievable commitment to a dream. Chris is not the first astronaut I've met (Marc Garneau holds that distinction) but because of this book I understand their lives and what makes them who they are a heck of a lot more. This book and Chris' stories definitely stayed with me long after I closed the covers.… (more)
LibraryThing member jjmcgaffey
A fun read, and very uplifting - in the way that self-help books try and usually fail to be. Fun to see all the details of astronaut training and experience - the little things and odd events that make up normal life in this rather abnormal job. Also interesting to see the varied trajectories that took Chris Hadfield from pup pilot through three trips into space. That's where the uplift comes from - Chris describing how his attitude (partly natural, partly learned, and partly firmly trained into him) helps not just when he's in space but throughout life (and it will help you, too - the unspoken part of that discussion). Enjoying all the parts of your life, not just the occasional triumph; spending time considering all the possible outcomes, and having plans for dealing with - well, not _all_ of them (or you'd spend your life planning, and never doing) but at least all the likely ones and a few of the unlikely. Considering how to make it worth people's time to help you out - planning for family time, and if something else is going to intrude, planning to compensate (I'm going to be away on training on Valentine's Day - buy a card now and arrange for it to be delivered...). Lots of things like that - hints that helped him manage his life well. It's not a self-help book, mostly because he (thankfully) misses the step of "And if you do exactly what I say, your life will be better too!" - that kind of attitude tends to drive me nuts. He's merely saying, "This helped me, it might be useful for you, too" - which is actually one of the tools/attitudes astronauts are trained for, to suggest methods (rather than insisting on everyone doing it the way they say). Like most people, I became aware of Chris Hadfield with his tweets and videos from his last trip to the ISS; I enjoyed seeing the inside view (as much as one can, from Earth), and this book offers more. It's well-written, and actually lives up to its promise (as so many non-fiction books I've read recently just don't). I enjoyed it very much. I'll probably reread it, though not soon - the stories and events presented are vivid enough I think I'll remember them for quite a while, and not need to reread.… (more)
LibraryThing member jessibud2
I bought this book when it first came out, some months ago. Hadfield is a true Canadian hero and I had loved all the educational videos he made from space, showing life aboard the ISS, in weightlessness. Not to mention his music videos!

However, when I saw this book, unabridged, in audiobook format at the library, read by Hadfield himself, I grabbed it. It was great to listen to him *read* his story to me, sounding less like reading and much more as if he were simply in conversation. He is such a great inspiration, a role model and, believe it or not, a regular guy! The anecdotes he tells from his years of training, his adventures aboard the space station, his EVAs (extra-vehicular activities), and the gruelling physical maneuvers and changes he goes through, before, during and after his 5 months there - you can't make this stuff up! Hadfield's positive attitude, good humour and work ethic, though, are the really impressive part of his story; I don't think a person could accomplish what he has without that type of personality.

I highly recommend this book, especially the audio version
… (more)
LibraryThing member VivienneR
A truly nice guy, Hadfield answered all the questions about how to get where you want to be. The story is inspirational without intending to be. It would make a perfect manual for anyone interested in topics such as team-building or disaster-avoidance among others. In a number of fascinating stories he was able to recreate for the reader the excitement of the moment, such as his first space walk. And, for a high flying astronaut, he's surprisingly down-to-earth. An excellent, captivating book.… (more)
LibraryThing member andycyca
Exactly what it says on the tin. Chris Hadfield guides us through one of the most demanding jobs ever and how the lessons learned for space are, ultimately, a guide for living in this our pale blue dot
LibraryThing member Mitchell_Bergeson_Jr
This book was a treat to read. The author is about as unpretentious as one gets given what he has accomplished. One can really tell he cares about his profession, and he has a passion for educating the public.

Of course, Mr. Hadfield relates to the reader his experiences in space. The launch, the descent, the excitement of living on the International Space Station for months are all covered here. Yet, Mr. Hadfield keeps the reader grounded, and he admirably distills the lessons he learned along the way. He usually follows that up by applying those lessons to everyday life.

Mr. Hadfield's rendition of David Bowie's Space Oddity, filmed on the ISS, and discussed in the book, is amazing. If one is looking for something light, but inspirational, one will not go wrong here.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Skybalon
The biography part is good, but maybe a little light on details. The self-help part is good, but not much more than platitudes. Yet somehow the combination is fine, not great but fine. You learn a little and maybe get inspired just a little.
LibraryThing member obtusata
Very interesting and clearly written by a man who's humble, driven, and delightful.
LibraryThing member mnorfolk49
Hadfield's recommended keys: humility, hard work and let everything be part of making you happy. I like that.
LibraryThing member Iambookish
Capitalizing on his success as an internet sensation, Astronaut Hadfield has written an insiders view of space travel and his journey to fulfill a childhood dream of traveling in space. His natural charm, good nature and humor come through in the telling.
LibraryThing member silentq
Lots of good advice, some of it counter intuitive. I liked "strive to be a zero, not a -1 or a +1": don't make things worse, learn first how you can make things better, don't force people to acknowledge you as a +1. He's super smart and an overachiever, and I liked how much credit he gave his wife for keeping the family running as he was dedicated to lots of time away. Super engaging and I learned a lot about life in space, and the process of getting there, as he drew back the curtain.… (more)
LibraryThing member trile1000
When I was little, I always wanted to be an astronaut. I always wondered what it would take, what was necessary to become one. I never followed through with my dream, but this book was a good glimpse of what it takes to chase such a dream. Col. Chris Hadfield wrote a thoughtful book about what it meant to be not only an astronaut, but a human. He speaks of the lessons he learns in leadership and humility, of not forgetting the ones you love and always being prepared. Definitely a recommended read.… (more)
LibraryThing member TheCrow2
Hadfield the famous Canadian astronaut writes about his trips to space and his adventures there, but mostly about the road to fulfill his childhood dream. A great read.
LibraryThing member PIER50
Very interesting and detailed account of Hadfield's role as an Astronaut. The book breaks it down into training and preparation, take off, life on the shuttle and the ISS, landing and post flight. Snippets of the author's life philosophy give an insight into what it takes to be an astronaut, and life in genetal

Original publication date





Page: 0.3678 seconds