by Scott Kelly
Alfred A. Knopf, 2017, 387 pages, Autobiography
The veteran of four space flights and the American record holder for consecutive days spent in space, Scott Kelly has experienced things very few have. Now, he describes navigating the extreme challenges of long-term spaceflight, both existential and banal: the devastating effects on the body; the isolation from everyone he loves and the comforts of Earth; the pressures of constant close cohabitation; the catastrophic risks of depressurization or colliding with space junk, and the still more haunting threat of being unable to help should tragedy strike at home.
Scott Kelly’s autobiography is half an account of daily life during his year aboard the International Space Station, and half an account of the different turns his life has taken in order to give him the opportunity to be an astronaut. This combines to create a book that was really compelling to me. Although Kelly’s life is very different from my own, he still deals with the disappointments, setbacks and struggles we all face. I also appreciated Kelly’s positivity about his experience in space, while not being afraid to discuss the negatives: things like the effects living in space can have on you, and the problems that arise from living away from the ones you love.
Kelly makes a number of parallels between being one of the first to spend a year in space, and Ernest Shackleton, the explorer who famously spent a year stranded in Antarctica. In fact, the title of Kelly’s book is based on both the ship Shackleton used in his voyages, and on the well-known book about Ernest Shackleton by Alfred Lansing.