Reading through Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth has sparked some interest in the concepts being discussed in the novel. Here are five passages that I have enjoyed the most so far.
“I also knew, as did every kid in Canada, that it was impossible. Astronauts were American. NASA only accepted applications from U.S. citizens, and Canada didn’t even have a space agency. But … just the day before, it had been impossible to walk on the Moon.” (3)
At some point when everyone was young, they probably had the dream of becoming an astronaut. The thing that is interesting about this quote however, is that Chris Hadfield’s dream did come true, despite everything working against his favor. As someone who has had an intense interest in space exploration as well as becoming an astronaut, I find it inspiring how Chris managed to overcome not only the odds, such as NASA only hiring Canadians, but additionally, pursuing the dream that most people drop due to the seemingly impossible odds. Furthermore, seeing how much astronaut hiring has evolved over the years from an exclusive job for the lucky to a more widespread job requiring training, hard work and determination is inspiring, and has likely caused more youth nowadays to understand the value of persistence.
This quote shows us that around the time of the moon landing up until recently, Canada has simply been seen as a lesser version of America. The fact that Canada and America were seen as almost the same thing, except that Americans had more opportunity, is seen evidently, when Chris Hadfield as a child knows that he cannot reach his dream of becoming an astronaut since he is a Canadian. This reveals that Canadians valued being ‘American’, wanting the same things, but knowing that they could never have them. Recently, Canada has been trying to come out from America’s shadow, and the values have shifted towards being ‘not American’, meaning that Canada is trying to establish themselves as an independent nation.
“An astronaut is someone who’s able to make good decisions quickly, with incomplete information, when the consequences really matter. I didn’t miraculously become one either, after eight days in space.” (28)
As mentioned earlier, I had the dream to become an astronaut as a child, so reading this quote reveals to me a lot about the kind of skills needed to become an astronaut. I personally identify with this quote as well, since I am trying to learn how to make good decisions through experiential learning. On the recent kayaking trip, I believe I improved my decision making skills, as well as had the determination to keep going in the face of a problem when the wind and weather prevented us from going to our camping spot safely. In addition, I found that I have a strong point in determination, and seeing how far Chris Hadfield was able to go with a willingness to learn and some perseverance is extremely motivating to me.
To me, a core value that defines Canadians has been determination to meet goals and show growth. Chris Hadfield had that determination to follow his goals no matter what, even though the odds seemed impossible. By doing everything that Chris thought an astronaut would do, he was able to prepare himself to step up and become the person he is today. This showed growth, just as Canada has shown throughout it’s history. When Canada was a collection of separated colonies, they all had the same goal; to survive against the newly independent American colonists. To move towards that goal, the colonies decided to confederate and grow to rise up to the challenge, similarly to Hadfield and his challenge.
“Helping to install Canadarm2 and playing a part in building this permanent human habitat off our planet – which is all the more remarkable because it has required the participation and cooperation of 15 nations – made me feel like a contributing, competent astronaut.” (33)
I found this quote relevant and interesting, since it gave some more insight into how it feels to be an astronaut. As a kid, I had always wondered what being in space physically felt like, but never considered the emotions that would come with being an astronaut, especially one that would have to stay in a space station for months on end. Reading this book, I have gained much more insight into what emotions and thoughts would be floating around inside the head of an astronaut. In addition, chapter the quote is in is about how astronauts think differently than everyone else, and seeing how I could change my own thinking to become more constructive is inspiring.
This quote reveals that even back when this space mission was taking place, Canada wanted to be known as a collaborative and helpful nation. This is proven by the existence of the Canadarm and Canadarm2, which are physical evidence of the hard work and dedication to international space missions that Canada has. It also shows how Canadians, though multicultural, still have a shared patriotic value, shown when Chris is picked to install the Canadarm2 as a Canadian astronaut. In recent events, Canada has been trying to prove itself even more in international projects such as the Lunar Gateway Program, which is a NASA led project to send a station to orbit the moon.
“No one wants to go to space with a jerk. But at some point, you just have to accept the people in your crew […]” (102)
Personally, this quote reminded me of entering the TALONS program, but more so entering MACC for my first ever ‘gifted class’. When going into MACC, I knew few people, and tried to stick to the people that I knew from my elementary. However, I realized after a while that it would be better for me to get to know more people, and come out of my shell a bit more. When entering TALONS, I knew that I had to consider this again, but foolishly, still stuck with the people I knew from MACC. Reading this quote, I realize that I could have had more of the positive interactions I have with my peers now earlier in the two years I have spent in TALONS.
This quote also reflects a main part of Canadian identity. Canada is known to be a multicultural nation, and embraces the fact that it is a welcoming place. Drawing parallels between going to space and living in Canada is quite easy. In Canada, we have all learned to accept one another, and share a common value in having a lot of diverse ethnic groups. As an immigrant country, we have no choice in the people that live here with us, but understand and accept that our diversity makes us unique. Similarly, going to space requires that the astronauts understand and accept one another, and be open to working cooperatively with people that they do not know.
“The life of an astronaut is one of simulating, practicing and anticipating, trying to build the necessary skills and create the correct mind-set. But ultimately, it’s all pretend.” (172)
I found this quote very insightful into the lifestyle of astronauts, as before reading this, I thought that while they were not in space, they were down on the ground relaxing. In reality, they constantly need to keep training, and only now have I realized how hard it must be. With this in mind, I now see where many people might give up while trying to become an astronaut. In addition, I now understand why the testing process to become an astronaut is so difficult and refined; space agencies need people who will not slack off, are physically and mentally fit, and are good problem solvers.
As a child, Chris Hadfield had to make smart decisions to start to guide himself on the path to becoming an astronaut, even though there was almost no way he could at the time. Now, Canada has their own space agency (CSA), and have shown that they are wanting to be more active in space exploration. Even though Canada could not give chances to go to space, the value instilled in the youth still caused them to want to try, thus leading to being serious about training and practice. This shows us that the people of Canada have wanted Canada to be it’s own nation, rather than ‘a lesser America’, and would be determined to try and act upon their goals.
Early success can often lead to failure in tough situations.
As stated again and again in this book, Chris Hadfield had to work to get to where he is. In his youth, he did not experience much success, but rather learned how to learn. When he crashed a tractor into a metal bar, his father made him learn how to weld it back together to make it known that “things are never as bad or as good as they seem at the time” (10). By teaching Chris that he needed to learn from his failures, Chris was ready to face challenges in astronaut training, where “even the most gifted person in the world will, at some point during astronaut training, cross a threshold where it’s no longer possible to wing it” (100). In conclusion, early success is “essentially being rewarded for a lack of preparation” (100).