What’s it like to travel at more than 850 MPH, riding in a supersonic T-38 twin turbojet engine airplane? What happens when the space station toilet breaks? How do astronauts “take out the trash” on a spacewalk, tightly encapsulated in a space suit with just a few layers of fabric and Kevlar between them and the unforgiving vacuum of outer space?
The Ordinary Spaceman puts you in the flight suit of U.S. astronaut Clayton C. Anderson and takes you on the journey of this small-town boy from Nebraska who spent 167 days living and working on the International Space Station, including nearly forty hours of space walks. Having applied to NASA fifteen times over fifteen years to become an astronaut before his ultimate selection, Anderson offers a unique perspective on his life as a veteran space flier, one characterized by humility and perseverance.
From the application process to launch aboard the space shuttle Atlantis, from serving as a family escort for the ill-fated Columbia crew in 2003 to his own daily struggles—family separation, competitive battles to win coveted flight assignments, the stress of a highly visible job, and the ever-present risk of having to make the ultimate sacrifice—Anderson shares the full range of his experiences. With a mix of levity and gravitas, Anderson gives an authentic view of the highs and the lows, the triumphs and the tragedies of life as a NASA astronaut.
Born in rural Nebraska, Anderson fell in love with outer space as a boy and applied to NASA to become an astronaut in 15 consecutive years before hitting the jackpot in 1998. He lived and worked on the International Space Station (ISS) for five-months in 2007, as well as for two weeks in 2010, before retiring in 2013. A debut author, Anderson is at his best when describing his professional life; he covers the interminable training with aplomb, and his section on how to apply to be an astronaut is particularly fascinating. Few will fault the long account of his 167 days in space. He shows less skill in matters involving personal feelings; readers may find it difficult to engage with his tales of courtship, family, friends, admirers, and personal tragedies. It also would have been interesting to hear more about conflicts with superiors. For a more expansive view of recent space exploration efforts, readers should consult Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Space Chronicles, but Anderson provides a focused picture of how a fiercely dedicated individual became a spaceman.