3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"Really great book, babe!",
This review is from: Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys (Paperback)
I don't think I've ever had much interest in reading an autobiography before, but this book I really, really enjoyed. I found myself constantly telling my friends things I'd learnt from this book like "Did you know that astronauts get very dehydrated in space.. it's because.." or "did you know that when in space, they make their ship rotate very slowly so that neither side gets too hot in the sun?.. yep, just like a spit roast!". I think I will definitely read another astronaut autobiography, but I doubt anyone's will match this.
If you're interested in NASA's early days and space exploration in general, you should definitely read this book, because Collins makes it very clear how the space program worked, and how it was planned-out. He gives lots of technical detail on space flight in general: enough to keep a physicist happy (myself) but not too much to alienate a layman.
The book starts off describing his air force career, and how he tries very hard to become a test pilot. He then explains his career as a test pilot. He then explains his reactions to NASA announcing that they are hiring, and describes the application process (and his second). When he finally becomes an astronaut, he begins talking in more detail about technical and personal things. He talks mainly about the two flights which he flew: Gemini 10 (jam-packed with experiments, but mainly concluded that the Van Allen belt wasn't as radioactive as once thought) and Apollo 11 (the flight to land on the moon).
After coming away from this book, I feel like I understand and admire Collins. I was quite surprised by how little Collins talks of his wife and children, and how little he talks of politics (he says he was kind of oblivious to what was going on in the real world).. but it seems that at the time, he just very focussed on his work, and he says that when he was preparing for Apollo 11 he knew it would be his final flight whether they landed on the moon or not, simply because he'd burnt himself out and he felt like it was only downhill from here. Whilst Collins will come across as a bit sexist (the astronauts seem to like pin-up girls), he also comes across as a very reasonable person: he always tries to see a dispute from both sides, and there are very few things he complains about without saying that he realised why the person was acting like that (with the exception of medics). He says he hated being hounded by journalists and autograph-seekers, but confesses that american citizens pay his salary, so they have a right. I also really admire that after Apollo 11, the three astronauts refused to make a lot of money by selling-out, and switched to other career paths instead.
I like Collins' philosophy that the human is a machine, and if machines aren't regularly fired-up, used and maintained, they rust and people forget how to drive them properly. It makes me remember when I've been more active (mentally and physically) that I felt much more 'alive' than I do now. I realise I've been running at 5% capacity, when I could be running at 15%.