Wednesday, August 7, 2019

On the Coffee Table: Scott Kelly

Title: Endurance: My Year in Space and How I Got There, Young Readers Edition
Author: Scott Kelly
Image result for Endurance, Young Readers Edition
via Amazon
Ever wonder what it's like to live on the International Space Station (ISS) for a year?  This book is for you.  Astronaut Scott Kelly provides a compelling account of his career up to and including his year on the ISS.  His book, the Young Readers Edition in particular, is the summer reading selection for our seventh and eighth graders so I got a copy gratis.

Kelly's history is the sort that is highly appealing to educators: he struggled in school but turned things around in college, eventually graduating from SUNY Maritime and becoming a Navy test pilot.  Kelly provides another interesting twist in that he has an identical twin brother, Mark, who is also an astronaut.

In an interesting personal coincidence, our 15-year-old daughter has recently expressed interest in becoming an astronaut.  I will encourage her to read this now as it will give her a realistic picture of the life.  The military route is the most obvious - tough road for anyone and especially a woman.  But there are other paths.  Mind you, this is not a career idea I will actively encourage.  Frankly, the idea terrifies me and Kelly did nothing to ease my concerns.  Spacewalks in particular: clearly for crazy people.

I would not say the book is especially artfully written, though I suppose the blame for that goes to the ghost writer (Margaret Lazarus Dean) and/or young reader adapter (Emily Easton).  Kelly is also rather blasé about the shortcomings of his emotional life - understandable given his profession but it detracted from my own engagement.  That said, I did enjoy the read and it sparked my interest in the history of space exploration.  Kelly's initial inspiration was The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe.  I've never read the book but the movie was one of my favorites as a kid.  I think it's time for my daughter to see it.  If only I could put it on the wrap-around screen at DC's Uptown theater for her.  That's where I first saw it.  I suppose I should read the book, too.

While on the ISS, Kelly read (and clearly drew title inspiration from) Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing.  I will admit that I never thought of the parallels between space exploration and polar exploration before.  Now I'm intrigued.


  1. I suppose I've given up on the idea of space exploration. When I was younger, it was an idea I was really interested in, but the shutting down of the shuttle program and the general de-funding of NASA have made me shrug it off as something that's past its time.
    Having said that, I do hold out some hope that Musk will revive it, but I'm not holding my breath.

    1. I don't know how I feel about the space program myself. The question of why is highly relevant in light of the monetary cost and the significant life risk. I believe in science for its own sake but maybe there are better uses for the resources.

      Obviously Kelly's position is very much in favor. I remain unconvinced.

  2. My Father worked on Kitt Peak National Observatory when it was first started.
    Nasa Missions, Kepler and TESS. I wanted to always study the stars. In my heart still do. So your daughter who is or could be interested in Space can have her pick of Space Related jobs.

    1. I do hope she'll find a way to pursue the interest one way or another.

  3. Astronaut is my dream career when I was kid.....
    Thank you for your well written review. I should the book