Mem­oir pro­vides take on year in space

As­tro­naut’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy de­tails life on space sta­tion

Woonsocket Call - - Arts/Entertainment -

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — In his new au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, re­tired as­tro­naut Scott Kelly gives an un­flinch­ingly blunt take on his U.S. record­break­ing year in space and the chal­leng­ing life events that got him there.

This isn't your usual as­tro­naut's mem­oir.

Kelly re­counts dump­ster div­ing on the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion for dis­carded meals af­ter a sup­ply cap­sule was de­stroyed and end­ing up with "some dude's used un­der­wear" in his hands. He writes about the con­ges­tion, headaches and burn­ing eyes he en­dured from high car­bon diox­ide lev­els and the feel­ing no one cared at Mis­sion Con­trol in Hous­ton.

In his book, Kelly tells how prostate can­cer surgery al­most got him banned from space sta­tion duty, and how his vi­sion prob­lem dur­ing an ear­lier space­flight al­most cost him the one-year mis­sion, which spanned from March 2015 to March 2016.

He tells how he vis­ited a tat­too par­lor be­fore launch and got black dots all over his body to make it eas­ier to take ul­tra­sound tests in or­bit, and how he fash­ioned ex­tra puke bags for a nau­seous crew­mate.

Kelly said his goal in writ­ing ‘En­durance: A Year in Space, A Life­time of Dis­cov­ery,’ was to tell the whole story.

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 The Associated Press. "So I felt like shar­ing is good, but ... the bad stuff, too, makes the story more be­liev­able."

In the book, he writes about a lit­tle-known in­ci­dent that he says oc­curred dur­ing his first space sta­tion stint in 2010, when a Russian cos­mo­naut came un­teth­ered dur­ing a space­walk and be­gan float­ing away. Luck­ily, Oleg Skripochka hap­pened to hit an an­tenna that bounced him back to­ward the space sta­tion, en­abling him to grab on and save his life, ac­cord­ing to Kelly.

Even though he was aboard the space sta­tion at the time, Kelly said he didn't learn about it un­til his year­long mis­sion five years later, when it ca­su­ally came up in con­ver­sa­tion with other cos­mo­nauts. "I was like re­ally? Holy crap. Crazy," Kelly re­called in an AP in­ter­view.

He re­mem­bered Skripochka had looked shaken, but thought it was be­cause he had been out on his first space­walk.

On Wed­nes­day, the Russian Space Agency's press de­part­ment said it con­tacted Skripochka, who did not con­firm Kelly's ac­count. No other com­ment was pro­vided.

"I've of­ten pon­dered what we would have done if we'd known he was drift­ing ir­re­triev­ably away from the sta­tion," Kelly writes. "It prob­a­bly would have been pos­si­ble to tie his fam­ily into the comm sys­tem in his space­suit so they could say good-bye 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."

Pub­lished by Knopf, "En­durance" comes out Tues­day. So does a ver­sion for chil­dren, "My Jour­ney to the Stars," put out by Pen­guin Ran­dom House.

The 53-year-old Kelly said he didn't dis­cover his pas­sion for avi­a­tion and space un­til read­ing Tom Wolfe's 1979 book "The Right Stuff" in col­lege. Kelly writes that he was a ter­ri­ble stu­dent and likely suf­fered from at­ten­tion deficit dis­or­der.

The for­mer space­man also tells how he re­al­ized right be­fore his wed­ding that he didn't want to go through with it, but did any­way, lead­ing to a trou­bled mar­riage and even­tu­ally di­vorce, and how he ini­tially didn't want "that space sta­tion stink" on him — get­ting space sta­tion as­sign­ments — for fear it would limit his shut­tle-fly­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. He flew twice on space shut- tles and had two ex­tended stays at the space sta­tion, shar­ing the en­tire 340-day mis­sion, his last, with Russian Mikhail Kornienko.

When asked if it was dif­fi­cult ex­pos­ing his weak­nesses when as­tro­nauts are sup­posed to be per­fect or close to it, Kelly replied, "Naw, I feel like I'm like a be­low-av­er­age guy do­ing slightly above-av­er­age stuff."

Kelly fig­ured he might write a book, given it was NASA's long­est sin­gle space­flight ever. So he kept a jour­nal in or­bit and took notes about how the place looked, smelled and felt.

"to make some­one feel like they were on the space sta­tion."

"The book hasn't come out yet," Kelly said, "and as I get closer to it com­ing out, I'm think­ing, 'Man, I've got to live with this for the rest of my life.' "

Photo cour­tesy of nasa.gov

As­tro­naut Scott Kelly’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy de­tails his record-break­ing time aboard the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion.

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