Book review–Rockstar astronaut shares the ultimate lifehacks in An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

Review by C.J. Bunce

Like many of us, astronaut Chris Hadfield sees his life, both on Earth and off-planet, as a series of worst-case scenarios waiting to happen.  In his book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, he not only shares his autobiography and pathway to space and afterward, he uses his life to provide a self-help plan for accomplishing your dreams and reaching whatever success you’re after.  Originally issued in hardcover but now available in a paperback edition, Hadfield’s Guide is just what you need to read if you’re in a slump, if you have a goal and can’t figure how to get yourself to attain it, or if you just need a pep talk.

“Most people, including me, tend to applaud the wrong things: the showy, dramatic record-setting sprint rather than the years of dogged preparation or the unwavering grace displayed during a string of losses,” Hadfield says in his book.  And Hadfield takes his errors and his stumbles and displays them for everyone to see so they can use them to learn how to adapt and overcome their own obstacles.  “Sweat the small stuff,” is his mantra, and it’s that attention to detail that he says allowed humans to get to visit outer space in the first place–the required discipline that allows the two other astronauts in your capsule to fully trust you will do your job, and vice versa.  As with astronaut Leland Melvin’s account of his pathway to space (reviewed last month here at, this meant years of brain work and physical preparation, monotony, and several false defeats and false triumphs before the final ride on that rocket to the stars.  “Since the odds of becoming an astronaut were nonexistent, I knew it would be pretty silly to hang my sense of self-worth on it.  My attitude was more, ‘It’s probably not going to happen, but I should do things that keep me moving in the right direction, just in case — and I should be sure those things interest me, so that whatever happens, I’m happy.'”

Chris Hadfield floating above Earth during a spacewalk.

Colonel Hadfield–who is afraid of heights–always wanted to be an astronaut, at least since he saw Apollo 11 make the first moon shot on television when he was nine years old.  But his path wasn’t easy, especially since Canadians weren’t yet astronauts when he was a kid.  “I wasn’t destined to be an astronaut,” says Hadfield, “I had to turn myself into one.”  He not only had to turn himself into an astronaut, he had to change the perception and rules of those around him as he climbed the ladder to fulfilling his dream.  Along the way that meant diligence, determination, study, practice, repetition, volunteering, and over-achieving to make himself stand out, and sacrificing all his waking hours and much of his family time.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth is also a detailed and fascinating account of space travel–what it’s like to be in space and to encounter troubles, like blindness, while spacewalking and attempting to install the giant Canadarm2 during STS-100.  One of Hadfield’s best descriptions is the approach of the Soyuz space capsule he travelled in with two other men as it approached the ISS–a bright star that soon turned into a “small town.”  “Which is in fact what it is: an outpost that humans have built, far from Earth,” Hadfield writes.  “The International Space Station.  It’s every science fiction book come true, every little kid’s dream realized: a large, capable, fully human creation orbiting up in the universe.”

Hadfield also discusses how his famous performance in space of David Bowie’s song “Space Oddity” was developed, and the events, like his photography and regular Tweets from space, that ultimately made him a social media sensation.

Colonel Chris Hadfield with your editor in November 2014.

An account of Hadfield’s missions aboard space shuttle Atlantis for STS-74 docking with the Mir in 1995, on space shuttle Endeavour for STS-100 installing Canadarm2 on the International Space Station in 2001, and on Soyuz TMA-07M during Expedition 34/35 in 2012 and 2013, and also a real guide for everyone for living a humble, smart, and reflective life, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth is available at Amazon in hardcover here and paperback here.  I’ve read it twice and it’s a great book everyone should read.




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