A few minutes into reading Colin Stuart‘s Smithsonian Books title “How to Live in Space”, I realized that I didn’t have the right stuff to be an astronaut. First of all, I’m probably a skosh too tall; secondly, I like to think I could pass the swimming requirement but I probably couldn’t; and finally, the mere thought of being trapped in an enclosed space without any means of easy escape already has me feeling claustrophobic. (I guess I”m the “put me into hypersleep and wake me when we get there” kind of space traveler.) But just because I, and the many hopefuls who apply for astronaut training but are ultimately rejected, may never be a space-faring pioneer, it’s thanks to those brave men and women that space tourism is becoming a viable business and means of entertainment. And it’s thanks to Stuart’s book that anyone can learn “Everything You Need to Know for the Not-So-Distant Future.”
“How to Live in Space”, available now through Smithsonian Books or your favorite retailer, can be yours at a steal of a deal, especially since the knowledge contained within the tome’s nearly 200 pages of trivia, history, survival tips, and technical factoids, along with gorgeous archival images and easy-to-understand illustrations might just save your life in space. If you’ve already done a few spacewalks–or extravehicular activities (EVA) as they’re officially known–whether tethered or untethered, you probably know everything there is to know in this book. For the other 99.99% of us, “How to Live in Space” is a wealth of otherworldly information.
Stuart, a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and a presenter at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, has a very approachable writing style that’s both informative and entertaining, humorous enough to talk frankly about space toilets but serious enough to discuss the inherent dangers of space travel. In other words, don’t expect this to read like an instruction manual or encyclopedia entry; “How to Live in Space” feels like a living document, a book that’s destined to be but the first installment of more to come as we continue to push the boundaries of space exploration and reach out to new worlds. It might just be the closest most of us get to space travel, and it will either ignite your curiosity and imagination, or make you thankful that we live a relatively protected life here under Earth’s atmosphere.
The book is split up into easy-to-binge-read sections: a brief introduction, followed by Training, Living in Space, and The Future, with that latter section being the biggest chunk by just a few pages. The introductory section lays down some basic facts about space and the metrics we use to define it, as well as a brief history of space exploration itself. This book is absolutely packed with more facts that even the most dedicated space aficionado will find astounding. The Training section walks readers through the process to become an astronaut, including requirements from NASA, the Russian system, and the European Space Agency. As is the case in the rest of the book, fantastic images are used throughout this section to drive the descriptions home.
Once you’re trained up, you’re ready to live in space … until you get an idea of just what that means. The modern International Space Station looks like the Ritz compared to previous space capsules and modules, but this section covers every aspect of day-to-day life in the decades spanning manned spaceflight. So if you want to know what sunrise and sunset look like from orbit, what kind of food you can expect to eat, and how to exercise, sleep, and use the toilet, this nuts-and-bolts section is your bread and space-butter. But if you’re less of a contemporary practical space-traveler and more of a future-oriented astronaut, the final section is for you, dreamer!
From space elevators and hotels (governed by space law, of course), to lunar and Martian bases, this section is the most futuristic and the most “sci-fi”, for now. Give it a few decades and this part of the how-to guide could become science-fact. But there are more far-out ideas explored here, still: Generation Ships, interstellar travel, and wormhole time-traveling are covered, as are the maybe not-so-far-fetched aspects of asteroid mining. This is the section that will inspire the bright minds of the future who are currently dreaming up possibilities and will one day put them into action far above the surface of our known world.
“How to Live in Space” is the perfect book for anyone and everyone who’s even remotely interested in how life will persist beyond our home planet. It’s an easy-to-read treasure trove of trivia and a gorgeous visual guide that makes you want to linger on each page a bit before consuming the next perfectly packaged bite of space survival tips. In short, it’s out of this world.