REVIEWED: Endurance

endurance

Endurance by Scott Kelly (and Margaret Lazarus Dean) (Memoir, 2017).

In this book, veteran astronaut Scott Kelly tells his life story, with particular focus on his final space mission—-in which he and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko spent a record 340 days on the International Space Station. This was designed as a test of how such an extended stay in zero gravity would effect travelers on very long missions (such as ones to Mars). His calm yet heartfelt account makes for both interesting and compelling reading.

Chapters alternate between details of that mission and his overall life story. His evolution from a somewhat aimless youth to a dedicated military fighter test and test pilot, a Naval officer and then an astronaut is a one-of-a-kind story. Like his twin brother (and fellow astronaut) Mark Kelly, he’s led a most unusual life, which is detailed crisply. He doesn’t go into excessive detail about his personal life, but also doesn’t avoid family troubles (conflict with an alcoholic father and his own failed marriage, among other things).

There are plenty of interesting photos in the book, as well–putting faces to many of the people whose experiences, triumphs and tragedies Kelly has shared in. His inside look at attitudes within the space program, as well as insights into Russian culture in general and how that nation’s space agency contrasts (but in other ways resembles) with NASA were things I found especially fascinating.

What emerges is one man’s personal history of the space program in the past couple decades. It’s a good story, very capably told. But as Kelly himself notes in the back-of-the-book Acknowledgements, this is his first book and he isn’t a professional writer. Therefore there’s no reason to fault him for joining forces with Ms. Dean, who has written about the space program in the past. He gives her due credit there and she’s also mentioned (if you look close) on the copyright page and on an ‘about the authors’ page.

So I’m sure it isn’t his fault that his co-author’s name is nowhere to be seen on the book’s cover. It’s merely an extreme example of a frequently seen matter in modern publishing–a famous person writing his or her story with help that the publisher decides to minimize. This probably shouldn’t irritate me, yet there it is.

Oh, well.

The book is well worth picking up and reading for an account of a highly interesting and important life (which is far from over, of course), and the things he’s seen, done and felt.

 

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