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How to Astronaut

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Some things I already knew from Chris Hadfield's "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth", but I still had a lot more to find out about what it’s like to be an astronaut and especially what it takes (and how hard it is) to become one. 

There were two things that prevented me from giving this book 5 stars: the last chapters, where he tries very hard to enforce his convinctions that "science proves the existence of God", and the self-importance that sometimes seeps from some turns of phrase. I totally get that he worked very very hard, and knows tons of things, and I realize that he's way, way more trained and intelligent and fit and knowing than the average person, but still, I don't like it when someone sounds haughty..
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I loved reading this first person account of an astronaut! So few people have this opportunity, its always interesting to read the perspective of someone from this elite group, and Terry Virts does a great job at telling a personal story.
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I enjoyed learning the answers to many questions I have about living in space! Some of the topics were things I had never considered before.
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Terry Virts – How to Astronaut

And now for something distinctly different, to mangle the Monty Python quote... How to Astronaut (An Insider's Guide to Leaving Planet Earth) is a non-fiction book. Yes, I occasionally read these, too! 
The author, Terry Virts, is a former jet pilot, test pilot, Space Shuttle pilot, and ISS Commander, who retired from his Astronaut career at NASA in 2016.
Like many former astronauts he has capitalised on his experiences by publishing books – in his case this is (so far) a coffee table book with spaceflight and Earth view pictures, a luxury replica of the Apollo 11 flight plan, and now this book, which circles around memories and lessons learned as part of his career in aeronautics and astronautics.

The book consists of an Introduction, 51 chapters split into 6 sections, an Afterword (written a bit later than the rest – it deals with Coronavirus, and the respective virtues of isolating in space vs on Earth), and Acknowledgments, Index, Credits.

The sections for the main part, the 'meat' of the book, are roughly grouped chronologically – Training, Launch, Orbit, Spacewalking, Deep Space (a bit of a more theoretical departure there), and Re-Entry.
It covers all the usual topics, of course, including a fairly detailed description of the always-present topic of going to the toiled in space (no, it's done quite tastefully, no need to worry).
The individual chapters are centred on a specific topic each – either a crucial theme in spaceflight terms (Learning to Float: How to Cope with Zero G), more theoretical excursions on topics known to recur (Marooned: What to Do If You're Stranded Up There), and more personal recollections and events (Chez Terry: Styling the Hair of a Superstar Crewmate – this refers to Samantha Cristoforetti who was part of his ISS Expedition).
Every chapter ends on some bonmot, or funny quip based on the topic – some of these are funny indeed, whilst others came across forced and not all that great for me.

Overall the book is written in an easily to understand level of English, with very little technical jargon (if you overlook his recurring pokes at NASA's tendency towards awkward acronyms), and should be suitable for the lay reader without much knowledge of spaceflight. From that perspective I can recommend this to all readers interested in the topic of spaceflight as it currently  is practiced (this excludes the new SpaceX and Boeing ventures, Virts' career pre-dates these)

Personally I picked up the odd titbit myself which I was not aware of – the biggest one, by a distance, was to learn about Range Safety arrangements for Space Shuttle launches – it makes sense when you think about it, I just never had. And yes – Gulp. Not a joyful topic, that.
The biggest disappointment for me was when he, after keeping references to his religious views fairly minor for most of the book, comes out as essentially an unreconstructed creationist in the final parts, which definitely left a bit of a sour taste for me.

Besides this I had issues with the layout and overall performance of the ePub ARC I was given to read – I hope that this will have improved for the final version, as what I faces was distinctly a pain to deal with!

More Terry Virts

Title: How to Astronaut
Author: Terry Virts
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL:
Publisher:  Workman Publishing
Publisher URL:
Publication Date: 2020
Review Date: 210109
ISBN: 978-1-5235-0961-4 
Pages: 303
Format: ePub
Topic: Spaceflight
Topic: Memoir

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.
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What an absolutely smashing book! I loved this. I dreamed I was in space every night that I was reading it, so vivid are Terry's descriptions of life in the ISS. I liked his personable tone and approach, and his obvious intelligence despite the "aw shucks, fighter pilot" humbleness. I appreciated the answers to all the questions everyone is secretly wondering about what it's like to be in space. I am so glad Terry shared his story and his voice with the world. I'm following this read up with a viewing of the IMAX documentary he helped film on the ISS.
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I loved everything about this book. The author is very relatable and writes honestly and in great detail about everything one could want to know about training and life in space. The short chapters make it easy to pick up and put down.

Perfect for fans of Mary Roach's Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void and Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery . Also recommended for teens, especially if they have an interest in space travel.

Thanks to the publisher for the advance digital reading copy.
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This is a great gift book for any teen interested in space exploration and science.  Former Astronaut Terry Virts has 50 chapters that basically take a question and answers it.  Mr. Virts gives his history of becoming an astronaut and his experiences in flying, schools and life aboard the International Space Station.  I learned a lot and this is perfect for any reader.  I wish there had been a few more illustrations but the writing is very concise and clear. The writer injects humor with his science facts.  I'm thinking if students were interested in the new Space Force this should be a must read. Workman's is an excellent publisher for non fiction reads.I received a copy of this ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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I loved the format of this book.  It was so cleverly done so that it didn’t need to be read from front to back but could be read by subject or interest.  I thought the author had a spectacular sense of humor that came through so well.  It’s such a cool book, makes science exciting and perfect for every age.
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4.5 stars. A fun series of short essays on the personal experiences of an astronaut. Naturally, most focus on his time in space, but he also explains a lot about training, and also some of the political and scientific context of what he does. 

I really enjoyed getting the super personal and in-depth view of some really specific kinds of astronaut experiences. If you're looking for context for these moments, or just prefer an overview kind of approach, Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery might be more what you're looking for. Personally, I preferred Terry Virts style here over Scott Kelly's in Endurance. 

There are a few 'adult' topics referenced in this book, though generally veiled and with as little detail as possible for the discussion at hand. Death is also discussed, both in general risks and specific tragedies in space travel. And, of course, some blunt, but not overly detailed references to ejection of bodily fluids, both planned and unplanned. Mid-teens and up would definitely be able to enjoy this book, and many of the individual chapters would be great for even very young children with an interest in astronauts and space, especially if read aloud.
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Terry Virts' guide to being an astronaut is probably one of the best books on space travel/life that I have read so far. Although he says the book can be read out of order, basically coffee table style, everything is still organized from pre-flight to after-flight. He lays out the intricacies of being an astronaut and everything that it entails, while providing us with a few laughs in between. I think this would be a great intro book for anyone who is curious about the process of becoming and being an astronaut.
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"How to Astronaut" contains a series of essays written by the author. They address different aspects of his life, training, and career. Photos are included. The essays are written for the general public readership, rather than a scientific audience. They are both interesting and informative. Readers who are intrigued by learning about astronauts and what they do will enjoy this look into the life of an astronaut, and a vicarious "ride" into space.

I received this book from the publisher and from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions included here are entirely my own.
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I’ve read a lot of astronaut biographies and consider myself a bit of space nerd. How to Astronaut was a slightly different tact on the topic. In a series of essays Virts covers a plethora of topics related to his life before, during and after his time as an astronaut.

He covers lots of technical nuts and bolts, some of these chapters were a bit of overkill for me, but for a space novice, it’s a thorough introduction. Other of these chapters covered fun topics that are the usual wonderings of us earthbound folks (sleeping, bathroom habits, food etc). There are personal stories of his education leading to NASA and experiences with various missions and experiments in space. I was also really impressed with a poignant chapter on the Columbia disaster through an astronaut’s eyes and one about God and the potential existence of other life in the universe.

I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut but this book really underlined the amazing amount of work it is, not just to train but also while in space. Virts served as a pilot, medical officer, dentist, laboratory scientist and even a hairdresser (!) while in space. The endless scheduled hours on project after project made a long stay on the space station sound very daunting!
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I haven’t had this much fun reading a non-fiction book since…well, I’m really not sure. Author Terry Virtz touches all the bases as he teaches us “How to Astronaut.” The book is packed with stories and anecdotes, all neatly wrapped in layers of facts.

It may seem that this book is more about Terry Virtz than being an astronaut. Actually, this is most assuredly a “How To…” book and what better way to explain what something is and how it works than to draw from personal experiences. Readers will not be able to find a better person to do this than Mr. Virtz. He is a fighter pilot and an astronaut, and can explain the demeanor necessary to be successful in either of these professions. He has also flown on a space shuttle and spent months on the International Space Station, excellent qualifications to write a book on this subject.

Don’t worry that “How to Astronaut” will be filled with endless terms and paragraph-long definitions. While the author does provide enough explanations to satisfy those who are looking to expand their knowledge, he does so without losing anyone in a pile of jargon and he constantly pokes fun at the endless acronyms that are part of NASA (and no, he doesn’t bother to explain each one, he just tells us what it means).

In the end, I learned a lot and enjoyed the read even more. Five stars.

My thanks to NetGalley and Workman Publishing Company for a complimentary electronic copy of this title.
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How to Astronaut is non-fiction about being an astronaut told by Terry Virts. He answers common questions astronauts hear and gives his unique experience working at NASA. This book is an entertaining and informative birds-eye view of what it's like to be an astronaut. I learned a lot from this book, and it was enjoyable. Virts is funny and completely honest throughout the book.
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Terry Virts' How to Astronaut is a book where you absolutely have to take the title at face value. I love reading books about astronauts and our space programs and most of them are focused on the biographical elements - individual struggles and triumphs - so you might expect this book to follow a similar route. It does not. 

This book is 100% about how to astronaut. It offers comprehensive coverage of every detail from training to preparation to taking off to what to eat and how to use the bathroom. If you want to know what it's like in the average day of an astronaut, this is the book for you.

Overall I think Terry Virts does an excellent job translating highly technical information into explanations that a layman can understand and find interesting. However, I think the book might have benefited from slightly fewer chapters - you do feel like you're slogging through at some point. And, while it doesn't need to be highly biographical, it would have been nice to hear a bit more about what Virts thought and felt. I think his final chapter on "What does it all mean," where he shares more of his through and beliefs, is the best in the book.
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This was a fun and informative look at training and life of a astronaut, with many facts and ideas that are not often explored.  Terry Virts, who traveled to the international space station, provides insights into day to day life on the station as well as small things that no one thinks about, like only have certain sizes of space suits, the difficulty of closing airlocks, and how many motion sickness bags cost.  This book has a wide appeal and is a great book for people looking for interesting non fiction.
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This would be very enjoyable for anyone who likes following NASA and space travel.  Astronauts give you a peek into daily life.  Some of the interesting things touched upon are haircuts - particularly a famous Italian female astronaut that needed regular trims in space, wardrobe essentials (including underwear!), working out in space, getting used to using a diaper, what it feels like to be in space, eating, shooting a movie in space, It tells how astronauts shower in space - hint - they don't!  Did you know astronauts have a checklist for using the bathroom?  Read about when one guy forgot to read the checklist.
Wasn't sure what this book would be about, but I am adding to our collection.  Hoping it will also be in audio.  I think it would be fun to listen to!
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Absolutely loved this book. As a kid I really wanted to be a astrophysicist, didn't go that road, but lots of fun reading about astronauts instead. Great book for "space nerds"!
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Terry Virts provides a detailed description of what it’s like to be an astronaut—the challenging training and the time in space. He addresses not only the standard questions people ask relating to bathrooms and sex, but also the experiments, the camaraderie, and seeing the beauty of the earth. The last chapters deal with more philosophical issues. When he is looking down at earth, he realizes that “there was no reason for the conflicts we have—in the Middle East or anywhere else. We are all crew members on this spaceship, and we may as well get along and work together.” Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC.
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If it wasn't for the fact that Terry Virts is a colonel and was a NASA astronaut, you might consider him a funny man, the guy who lives in the house next door, an old friend. Because that's how he tells the story of how he became an F-16 pilot and then an astronaut.

He tells you about everything from his training, to his retirement, to the hardships his family and those close to him experienced during the Columbia mission.

Thanks to him, you will discover everything you ever wanted to know about the life of astronauts in space, from the need to pee to walking in space, not to mention their daily lives (e.g., calling family or other people, watching movies, sleeping, cutting hair, etc.).

You'll learn how astronauts feel about the possibility of never returning to Earth, having to bury a colleague on Mars, and the future of space exploration.

You will learn why it is sometimes so difficult to get funding to continue this adventure where no one has ever been before.

You will understand what the true hardships are and what the real risks are for astronauts (e.g. cancer).

Terry Virts was in space in ISS when Leonard Nimoy passed away. Here is how he honoured him :
<Picture of Terry Virts doing the Vulcan salute on ISS' window>

I give 4½ stars to this memoir. I recommend this book to anyone who has had even a little interest in space exploration and astronauts' work. I thank Terry Virts, the publisher and NetGalley for an ecopy of this excellent book.
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