Prepare for Launch: The Astronaut Training Process, Erik Seedhouse, Springer-Praxis, 2010, 246pp, £31.99/$34.95, ISBN 978-1-4419-1349-4 [softback]
Mention astronaut training to most space aficionados and they are likely to think “right stuff” and “vomit comet” (though not necessarily in that order!)…and both are mentioned in this book. Although several others have been published on the subject, the author describes the objective of this book as being “to describe the nuts and bolts of astronaut training, starting with the
application process and finishing with the climactic ride into space”. Indeed, he makes it clear in several places that he has always wanted to be an astronaut himself and has steered his career
towards that goal.
The book has three main sections – on astronaut selection, preparation for life in space and preparation for launch. The extended contents list provides a good idea of how the book has been put together and it is clear that the author is keen to present a comprehensive account, including the training regimes of various space agencies around the world. The chapters each include a reference list and there is a decent index.
Following a brief history, the author gets down to the nitty-gritty, which may be more down to earth than most readers expect. “Most astronauts are civil servants”, he says. “As civil servants, they have to attend meetings, go to training sessions, and write reports, just like any other office worker”. However, he soon returns to the “qualifying criteria” and special qualities that make an astronaut…which have very little to do with form-filling.
There is a lot of “data” in this book, in the form of tables, charts and text panels, which cover specific aspects judged to require more detail than the main text allows. It is illustrated throughout with black-and-white photos and includes a 16-page colour insert. For some reason, the colour photos are ‘repeats’ of illustrations already in the text; surely it would have been
better to take the opportunity to include additional material?
That small criticism aside, this book is a worthy addition to space aficionados’ shelves and should interest anyone who has even thought about becoming an astronaut, whether or not they have the ‘right stuff’ themselves.