03 October 2021 Reviews

Back to Earth

Of the 550 or so individuals that have ventured into Earth orbit, or even to the Moon, it is fair to say that the great majority have been moved in some way by the experience. Quite a few have been sufficiently moved, or otherwise motivated, to write a book on their experience… and ROOM contributor Nicole Stott is one of them.

Stott’s take on her more than 100 days on the International Space Station is a fairly common one for astronauts, in that it brings her focus (as the book’s title has it) ‘Back to Earth’. The subtitle – ‘What Life in Space Taught Me About Our Home Planet - And Our Mission to Protect It’ – spells it out further. Referring to the inspiration she gained from the famous ‘Earthrise’ photo from Apollo 8, the author hopes to “inspire an ‘Earthrise moment’ in each of us”, because there is “no backup plan” should the Earth become uninhabitable.

This review is based on ‘uncorrected page proofs’ so it is not possible to comment on presentation quality, but it is clear that Stott has a passion not only for spaceflight but also for environmental issues. As an artist, she is also particularly receptive to the human element as her story about an eight-year-old on chemotherapy reveals. Stott was “startled” by the girl’s comparison of her experience to that of an astronaut: “You don’t get to see your mommy and daddy and friends in the same way, you don’t get to go outside anytime you want [and] they do all kinds of tests on you…” As Stott says: “Holy moly!”

Books with what one might term ‘literary’ chapter titles often come across as clichéd, forced or twee, but the selection here is better – including ‘Respect the thin blue line’, ‘Live like crew, not like a passenger’ and ‘Whatever you do, make life better’. Unusually for a non-academic book, it includes a section of chapter notes. One hopes that the final production is also blessed with an index to allow better access to the author’s impressions.

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