10 awesome things from astronaut Chris Hadfield’s new book

When astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded videos from the International Space Station showing how to brush your teeth in space -- and make a sandwich and wring out a washcloth -- they were successful. But the response was nothing like the 18 million views his farewell to the space station, a rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” has gotten.

Back on Earth, Hadfield quickly completed a memoir, “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything,” which was published by Little, Brown last week. In it, the eminently likable Hadfield writes about his many years of training and his remarkable life experiences.

Here are 10 amazing things from Col. Chris Hadfield’s books.

1. Hadfield is afraid of heights. “When I stand near the edge of a cliff or look over the railing of a balcony in a high-rise, my stomach starts tumbling, my palms sweat and my legs don’t want to move even though the rising panic in my body insists that I get back to safety. Right now.”

2. It was extremely unlikely he’d ever be an astronaut: When he was born in 1959 in Ontario, Canada, there were no Canadian astronauts. “I never felt I’d be a failure in life if I didn’t get to space,” he writes. “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.’”

3. During his last stay in the International Space Station, he was awoken one night by a blaring fire alarm -- and remained chill. “In my first year as an astronaut, I think my response to hearing that alarm would have been to grab an extinguisher and start fighting for my life, but over the past 21 years that instinct had been trained out of me,” he writes. "...the response was one of focused curiosity, as though we were dealing with an abstract puzzle rather than an imminent threat to our survival.” (Turns out, the alarm was faulty).


4. Even as an adult, he was always studying. “My kids used to make fun of me for having more homework than they did and for taking it a lot more seriously, too.”

5. He was temporarily blinded on his first spacewalk when something got into his eyes and he teared up -- in space, tears don’t fall. The ground crew’s solution was for him to open a valve and release oxygen from his suit. “This goes against my survival instincts, but, okay....So now I’m blind, listening to a hissing noise as my oxygen merrily bubbles into the universe.”

6. The day his second shuttle flight launched was his son’s 16th birthday. To try to make up for missing it, as Hadfield crawled into the shuttle Endeavour, he held up a handwritten sign that read, “Happy Birthday, Evan!”

7. He got David Bowie’s permission before making his “Space Oddity” video.

8. Hadfield knew all seven astronauts who died during the 2003 Columbia disaster -- but he never considered leaving NASA. “Highly talented, hard-working, genuinely nice people had been killed doing their jobs, through no fault of their own. It was a terrible, needless waste,” he writes. But, he continues, “I’ve never known an astronaut who doesn’t believe that the work we do is far more important than we are as individuals.”

9. Hadfield began taking photographs of Earth from space and sending them out on Twitter. When he started, he had about 20,000 followers; he’s now got just shy of 1 million.

10. For Hadfield, being in zero gravity “is like being on the best ride at the fair.” He writes, “You can flip and tumble and float things across the spaceship, and it never gets old.”

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