Astronaut Scott Kelly holds the record for the longest ISS stay for his 340-day mission. Now, the former fighter pilot has released a book revealing what life in space is really like.
Released on Tuesday, October 17th, Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery covers Kelly’s four space flights, aiming to provide an honest, balanced take on life in space. “[So many other NASA astronauts’ memoirs] focus on the good stuff and not necessarily the personal things that happened in their lives, things they might not be proud of, things that we all have that makes us normal, relatable people,” he told Associated Press reporters. “So I felt like sharing is good, but … the bad stuff, too, makes the story more believable.”
So while Kelly writes about the marvels of living in deep space, he also speaks candidly about the everyday frustrations. His book documents the cramped living areas, the health costs of living in a CO2-heavy environment, the lack of fresh food, and the legendary ISS smell, a combination of “antiseptic, garbage, and body odor.” When asked about his experience in a 2016 press conference, he said, “It seemed like I lived there forever. Maybe occasionally you do go bananas.”
Kelly also touches on more harrowing experiences, like how they almost lost a Russian cosmonaut on his 2010 mission. In his AP interview, he recounts the experience, which he didn’t learn about until five years later. During his first spacewalk, cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka became untethered from the ISS and started floating away. Luckily, Skripochka accidentally hit an antenna that bounced him back towards the station, saving his life.
In his book, he wonders what might have happened if Skripochka hadn’t hit the antenna. “It probably would have been possible to tie his family into the comm system in his spacesuit so they could say goodbye before the rising CO2 or oxygen deprivation caused him to lose consciousness – not something I wanted to spend a lot of time thinking about as my own spacewalk was approaching.”
But Kelly’s memoir isn’t untethered from life on Earth. He documents his youth, and how reading Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff” inspired an interest in space. He writes candidly about his marital difficulties and frustrations, and his initial reluctance to go on an ISS mission. And he writes about the difficulty of consoling his family from space when his sister-in-law, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in 2011.
Although he writes about the difficulties of life in space, Scott doesn’t intend to discourage hopeful spacegoers—indeed, he hopes that his book will inspire others as Wolfe’s book did to him. “Flying in space is a special privilege,” he told CBS News, “whether it’s the first time or the fourth time.”
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