Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery
by Scott Kelly
Scott Kelly makes a fitting heir to Ernest Shackleton, said Nilanjana Roy in the Financial Times. In a memoir that ranks instantly as “a small classic of exploration literature,” the recently retired astronaut recalls bringing a biography of the polar explorer with him when he journeyed to the International Space Station in 2015. Like Shackleton, Kelly was venturing into the unknown: He was about to spend a record 340 days aboard the spacecraft to help NASA gauge the effects of long-term exposure to zero gravity. His account of the experience is so candid and detailed, it’s “as close as most readers will come to making that voyage themselves.”
The author, who is now 53, didn’t always display the focus and mental fortitude to undertake such a challenge, said Jacqueline Cutler in the New York Daily News. Growing up in West Orange, N.J., he and his twin brother, Mark, were daredevils— “the kind of kids known well in emergency rooms.” Scott, an aimless student until he reached college, found his calling when he picked up a copy of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, and he joined the Navy at 23 to become a test pilot. Twelve years later, he made his first Space Shuttle journey and discovered that the air in space smelled vaguely metallic, and that the bathrooms we know on Earth should not be taken for granted. During his full year aboard the Space Station, he started to see Earth in a whole new way—as an intricately textured borderless sphere that somehow sustained everyone he’d ever known.
Kelly, to his credit, “abandons the PR talk of many astronauts,” said Alessandra Potenza in TheVerge.com. He criticizes certain NASA policies, and he makes clear that the mission and the experience of readjusting to Earth were grueling. Still, he remains thrilled that his yearlong trip could help pave the way for a manned mission to Mars. “It will be very, very difficult, it will cost a great deal of money, and it may cost human lives,” he writes. “But I know now that if we decide to do it, we can.”